Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Chappie Willet and popular music arranging in Swing Era New York
by Wriggle, John D., Ph.D., City University of New York, 2011, 355; 3477515
Abstract (Summary)

American popular music of the 1930s and ’40s, commonly referred to as the Swing Era, saw established traditions of Broadway stage scoring and commercial dance band arranging intersect with the jazz tradition and the continued expansion of New York City’s music publishing and recording industries. Music arrangers held an integral role within each of these fields, and the corresponding emergence of the large dance orchestra or “big band” as the primary vehicle for popular music resulted in significant visibility of their work. The music of these arrangers reflected and influenced popular culture through stage productions presented at the theater and nightclub venues of New York’s Times Square district, where segregated black entertainment formerly offered in Harlem was now presented to largely white audiences on Broadway.

This study demonstrates the central position music arrangers held in New York’s Swing Era music industry. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 examine the historical role of popular music arrangers, the technical education required of the profession, and historical practices in the context of live stage entertainment. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 analyze orchestration techniques and characteristics of different Swing arranging genres—including classics, concertos, novelty songs, vocal ballads, dance specials, and exotic numbers—that comprised Swing’s cross-cultural aesthetic. The career and music of African-American freelance arranger Francis “Chappie” Willet (1907–1976) is examined to explore relationships between musical style and the contemporary entertainment industry. Additional technical and social context is provided through the author’s interviews with primary participants, analyses of archival manuscripts, and citations from contemporary press and trade publications.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Taylor, Jeffrey, Blum, Stephen
Commitee: Bierman, Benjamin, Graziano, John, Howland, John, Washington, Salim
School: City University of New York
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Music, Theater History
Keywords: Arranger, Big band, Jazz, New York City, Popular music, Swing Era, Theater, Willet, Chappie
Publication Number: 3477515
ISBN: 978-1-124-94178-3
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