We’ve been wondering a lot about The Blues as we form our practice and performance and there is an essence of the music that to speaks to us on a deeper level than any other sort of music.
Music is mathematical. Form relies on function. Time and rhythm are tethered.
Yet, even with those restrictive mandates, there is still some free energy of choice left in The Blues that we don’t find in Classical or Folk or Rock music and that niche of expressed life lives in the “Blue Note” or the Tritone or “The Devil’s Note.”
The Blue Note — the “Flatted Fifth” — separates real Blues music from every other form and it is in that disconnected, disdainful, dissonance that gives Blues its righteous place in the American musical mindset.
The Devil’s Tone is found three notes from the root.
That sound was thought to call up demons and that’s why The Blues has such a strange history in the provenance of music.
American Blues grew out of the African Gospel movement — so playing the Blue Note to invoke the devil might appear to be at odds with the intention of the music — but if we think of that Tritone as a tempting of the dark side, a recalling of the demon to be defeated in a 12-bar turnaround, then we begin to see the divine beauty in the essence of The Blues as a living battle between ethereal good and ongoing underworld and the hapless station of the lowly human caught beguiled in the middle… singing for immortality to the skies while begging for a mortal end below.
Well writ, David. I sometimes wondered, as I perused Blue Note record releases, if there were a blue note — thought it was just an expression!
There is definitely a “Blue Note,” Gordon, but for those who don’t know, they don’t make the specific musical connection. Heavy Metal also relies that “demon note” and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath is generally thought of the father of the Heavy Metal sound because he alone brought the Tritone to metal.