Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Chet Atkins' "Yankee Doodle Dixie"

Now that I've learned Xodo, it's time for another "crowd pleaser" piece I've been meaning to learn for a while: The late, great Chet Atkins' brilliant Yankee Doodle Dixie.

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Chet recorded this piece way back in 1958, and it is a rare and fantastic example of counterpoint in popular music (Country and Western Jazz, actually). The "A" sections have the melody for Dixie in the lead, while the Yankee Doodle melody provides the bass line. Contrapuntally, it's actually quite a feat: Chet basically took two melodies, cantus prius factus, and made them work contrapuntally together. I wonder how he noticed that they would combine like they do? Very interesting.

Quite apart from the nifty contrapuntal parlor trick are the antagonistic tensions inherent in the two pieces vis-a-vis their history as the rallying songs for the Union and Confederate Armies during the American Civil War. So, there is an added social dimension of reconciliation - perhaps even forced - to the piece, which is quite profound, despite the humorous reactions that it elicits (If you are not a US citizen, this is probably lost on you, but the American Civil War continues to send reverberations through our society nearly a century and a half later).

I heard Chet perform this back in the late 80's with the San Antonio Symphony at a Pops concert, and he has the orchestra (or band) play accompaniment while he solos, but I cut all of that out. It was the intro and coda, which he plays unaccompanied, that I wanted. The resulting piece is so short (Less than a minute with a quarter note at 200 BPM, which is about where he played it) that I'll play through the entire form twice: It actually sounds quite righteous that way.

Here's the single page arrangement:



I put the PDF and an MP3 of the piece on my .Mac Downloads Page for those interested.

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DeCelle was subconsciously thinking about being a confectioner: This would be the perfect decoration for a cake.

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I love C&W.

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