Rose Dance



31 December 2009 - 1 January 2010, Le Bez, Ardèche, France
Click here to play music. Click here for commentary. Click here for itinerary. Click here for Robert Burns @ Bauzon Cross. Click here for slideshow synopsis.

The Mashed Potato

Come down Sister
Papa’s in the swing
He ain’t too hip
‘bout that new breed thing
He ain’t no drag
Papa’s got a brand new bag

Come down Mama
And dig this crazy scene
He’s not too fancy
But his line is pretty clean
He ain’t no drag
Papa’s got a brand new bag

Come down Daughter
Papa’s in the swing
He ain’t too hip now
But I can dig the new breed thing
He ain’t no drag
He’s got a brand new bag

The Twist

He does the jerk
He’s doing the fly
Don’t play him cheap
‘cause you know he ain’t shy
He’s doing the monkey the mashed potato
Jump back Jack see you later alligator

Oh Papa he’s doing the jerk
Papa he’s doing the jerk
He’s doing the twist
Just like this
He’s doing the fight
Every day and every night
The thing
Like the boomerang

James Brown (1965)

Hey come on
Hey hey come on
Hey hey he says he’s uptight
You’re out of sight
Come on see what you know
Come on see what you know

The twelve-second intro studio banter, exhortation: "This is a hit," & two-stroke drum roll of the long version is cut in order to open on a sudden blast of horn noise, as if to trumpet the shift from the three to the one beat. The incipit, as noted below, struggles in the first verse to match words to music. Simplifying a bit, we obtain a rhyme scheme of ABACC (verse) ABCBDD (bridge, expanded to ABBCCDD in the reprise) and ABBC (outro), prolonged by two additional C rhymes at 2:24 in the long version: "I just want you to blow / Maceo [Parker: tenor & baritone sax]." The meter fluctuates, weaving together prose, verse & interjection, but a pattern emerges (particularly in verse 1) of alternating trochees & iambs (consistent with the syncopated rhythm of the music) which may be represented thus:

A: - u / - u / - x
B: u - / u -
A: - u / - u / - x
C: u - / u -
C: - u / - u / - u / - x (bass line, refrain
& guitar hook)

where - is a stressed syllable, u is a slack syllable, x is a syncopated syllable & / is a foot break.

The bridge & the outro are mostly iambic, almost prose, but semantically poetic, teetering on the brink of meaningless abstraction. While the jerk, the monkey, the mashed potato & the twist are all indeed song & dances of the early sixties, the rest of the lexical items serve only phonetic purposes, as evinced by the metamorphosis of fly / fight to accommodate the homophony, and the rather daring triple rhyme of potato / later / alligator, an allusion to another contemporary song of nonsense doggerel & ditty. Speculative interpretations of recreational drug usage read far too much into the text, which is simply the snapshot of an aging man who likes to dance, trying to adapt to the radically changing times in black America. Brown was over thirty when he wrote the song, ten years into a successful career as a professional recording artist & concert performance musician. Saxophonist Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis gives an insightful glimpse into the patchwork composition process & synthetic recording technique of a similar song that another lineup of the same orchestra created a couple of years later. Although the resulting aural impact is enormous, the tape was only sped up from 2:12 to 2:06, an acceleration of less than 5%.

As innovative as the tune may have sounded in 1965, its structure is that of a traditional song format, which may be represented thus:

A: verse 1 (bass riff, refrain & guitar hook)
A: verse 2 (bass riff, refrain & guitar hook)
B: bridge
verse 3 (bass riff, refrain & guitar hook)
B: bridge reprise (bass riff, refrain melody & guitar hook)
C: outro

Scores are available arranged in E major at 120 beats per minute and in F major at 132 beats per minute.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 20 January 2010

Subject: 3 Songs 4 8 Friends | 9

I still remember the day (about ten years ago) when laurent told me that the pipe [|] was a "logical or", as he made the petit-robot for my room in LambdaMOO. I still have no idea what he meant. I think it's, um, Boolean.

I have finally found the song Rose sings that her elder sister Sarah taught her, in which I've taught her to s/bitch/witch and will now teach her to s/fuck you/duck you [suckers]. Well, it doesn't look like I'll be needing the word "duck", since the baker James (& the Giant Peach)'s son was wrong. It's not Pink's "Fuck you" (which would have at least created a pleasing homonymy [synonymy] with the name Rose), but "Hot 'n' Cold" by Katy Perry, whose uninspiring lyrics I won't bother to burden you with. Well, OK, I bet C the G hates it when Rose sings Shnirele Perele, which her mother can't even understand. Shiiit, I tried to teach Rose "Cuando el Rey Nimrod", but she doesn't seem to like that song, perhaps because I can only sing the chorus, but her tone-deaf, Spanish-speaking mother could at least try to sing the whole song. C the G was born into a trilingual family, where everyone spoke French (Belgian), Spanish (Galician), & Italian (Sicilian). She raised two monolingual daughters. Rose is learning the world's songs, music, poetry, languages, & mathematics in what French fathers call: 1-3-5+1/2, which means one quarter of her time.

We've moved on to Tony "the B(a)roque" Vivaldi, so the "Live @ the Latin Casino" version of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" has gone sadly overlooked, but I'd still like to say this (while regretting the many unsaid words about the rhythm, meter, & base part): James Brown could rightfully speak of his voice as an instrument. For the last four & a half minutes of the song (after the baritone sax solo that I foolishly thought was a tuba) he is soloing on the vocal chords. There is no other way to explain this properly. He is not singing. He is not speaking. It ain't scat. It is an abstract use of the vocal organs, as Gertrude Stein made abstract use of written language in the 3 Lives & the 4 Saints in 3 Acts (with Virgil Thompson).

Vanessa's song is elaborate bawdy word play (French lyrics hereunder) set to a vaudeville jazz tune. Quite elaborate. It's called "Les Nuits d'une demoiselle". There are two words I can't figure out: "mottelette" & "rigondin" (which is mistranscribed & misrhymed as "rigondonne" in the following link), so please don't blame BabelFish.

Vanessa: Dans le même style, il y a cette chanson de Colette Renard

From: laurent

Date: 11 January 2010

Subject: Re: Scores

Harmony-wise this is a straight 12 bar blues, the voice is in E minor pentatonic. The blue note is the G natural, which the voice hits on 'hip' and 'drag' in the first verse. The only diminished fifth is on top of the horn line in the B part but this is just a passing note mimicking the cliche half step slide of the blues guitar on the horns. This is no be-bop.

You should buy yourself a guitar. Those are really easy to play. You would make a nice 21st century gainsbourg.

do you know this song?


From: SAGReiss

Date: 12 January 2010

Subject: Inceste Redux

Heh, heh. Not only do I know it, but I already knew it when you first sent it to me on 2 September 2007. Thanks again, laurent. Inceste redux is twice as nice. I had the bright idea of checking YouTube in SeaMonkey, and it works fine, so this is but another stupid Micro$oft trick. Ubuntu here I come. I was thus finally able to check Murder's link, which I was a little worried about, although the beat looks & sounds exactly right. Well, it's yet another version of this song, a splice of the two, but the rhythm is indeed right at 129bpm, just about in the middle of our two scores. Murder's version has the intro cut, but includes the horn solos after the outro. However the tape is also speeded up at a rate of 2:12 to 2:06. I'll post one more version before I'm done, a frantic cut that's nine minutes long with the bass line completely rewritten from the album Live at the Garden, which was apparently recorded in 1967 at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Because of fascist geographical zone copyright restrictions, I actually had to buy the whole physical double CD, which I wouldn't mind so much if James Brown's children were actually getting a good chunk of my change, but I doubt they'll ever see an Italian lira of my twenty-five euros.

This is good commentary of a good obituary (at least the first paragraph: "The song's lyrics were little more than a laundry list of dance crazes, but the music was eerie and unusual—a jittery blues vamp, with oddly accented beats and horns darting and honking in the vast, empty spaces between whip-crack snare hits [...] Brown flubbed a couple of lyrics during the recording..." after which it goes bad, and the blogger becomes meaner):

OK, so "whip-crack snare hits" is a bit much, but how exactly does one know he "flubbed a couple of lyrics", when the words themselves are so meaningless & basically irrelevant? Regardless of the author's understanding of the term vamp, ostinato or improvisation, the qualification seems a little harsh for what is (despite famously being recorded in one take) an extremely tight, well-rehearsed number.

In 1971 or 1972 I saw James Brown perform at the Arena in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, USA. I do not remember if the band played "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", but it seems likely.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 6 January 2010

Subject: Strange Song

I was tempted to sub the original recording, which I've put here and is seven minutes long. But James Brown was an artist, and this is the song he gave us, as I think you shall soon understand. Now this song is often cited as one of the best of what we'll call second half of the twentieth century popular music, and the first instance of funk, because of the the rhythmic shift, and you can hear he's working on that by the accent on the second syllable of the intro words "Come down, sisTER." That is not black English. That is a man trying to fit words to music. You can see (well, hear) he finally gets the intonation right (after hesitating slightly on: "Come down, mama,") the second time. It is often noted that the band recorded this song in one take, so Brown must have heard something he liked, but the tune is in no way an accident. You rightly point out that the live versions are faster. But the original is much slower. He simply sped up the tape. Given how primitive the analog recording equipment must have been, I can't believe there isn't more distortion, but that is the sound he was looking for. Somewhere between the pompadour & the purple tuxedos (I've still got yours, by the way. I think I'll wear it to Rose's formal occasions in honor of you & James Brown.), the wife-beatings & drug abuse, this man's mind was working. He heard something in that out-take that wasn't right, but could be made right by cutting the horn solos (which aren't bad, especially near the end at 5:00, where he rhymes "horn" & "baritone", as what sounds like the tuba plays so low in the register that the notes begin to disintegrate, as our friend Pierre is fond of demonstrating) and especially by allegroing up the tempo.

From: Murder

Date: 5 January 2010

Subject: Re: Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

Gabe, I used the following audio track (which I assume is the original '63 recording) to ascertain the tempo:

I get an average quarter-note pulse of 129 bpm. So the half-note pulse would be 64.5 bpm, which works out to 930.23 milliseconds.

Does this seem right?

(On the live versions of this song, the tempo is noticeably faster.)


From: SAGReiss

Date: 3 January 2010

Subject: Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

Murder, once again I need the help of your Korg spurt counter. In James Brown's 1963 studio version of Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, I'm hearing a rhythm of a little over 1000 milliseconds, counting what sounds to me like the one & three beats, those he swapped, calling them the downbeat & the upbeat, which I think you are calling a half-note pulse. Anyway, please let me know what you think. It's probably best to use the half-tone pulse, even if I've got it all wrong, since that's what we used for Here Comes the Sun & La Vie en Rose, so if anyone is paying attention (highly unlikely) they will see & hear the difference. Thanks.

From: SAGReiss

Date: 3 January 2010

Subject: Room 4

Day 1 [31 December 2009]: The Vomiting. Just as W.B. Yeats intoned what sounds like: "nine bean rose" (I'm offline so I can't check Lake Innisfree.) (We were already lost, but I didn't know that yet.) four hunters' jeeps swerved past us at high speed on the winding mountain road. I heard an unhealthy sound behind me, glanced back in the rear view mirror, and saw Rose begin to throw up. Turning my head, I saw a primeval vomiting, food, phlegm & stomach acid gushing out of mouth & both nostrils. My mind tried to stay in the curves before me, while my heart leapt into the back seat. Finally able to stop, I tried to comfort her, clean up some of the phenomenal mess, and convince her to get back into the car seat, despite the foul smell & wetness for the fifteen minute ride ahead of us, since I didn't know yet we had taken a huge detour and had another three quarters of an hour to go. Anyway I managed to get directions, while Rose fell mercifully asleep. The inn is beautiful, (The mountains are beautiful too, but we couldn't really enjoy them on the ride.), the food is great, the service good, not friendly. (I hate friendly service. These aren't my friends. They are working.) The waitress told me there's a village New Year's feast seven kilometers from here, so I signed up. I can't believe it cost thirty-five euros, but that's OK too. Rose is free: "Gee, thanks, sis." There'll be music (hopefully the village oom-pa-pa) & a party. Rose got up well after nine this morning, and slept for another half an hour in the car, so she could make a pretty good run at midnight. She made it on the Bastille Day, but it's light here in summer until ten. We met some friendly kids & parents, but they're not staying at the hotel. There is another man with a daughter, which means divorced, but we haven't met them yet. We went to the ski resort, which is utterly French, rude to the point of hostility, even when it's obviously going to cost them money. Well, at least they're faithful to principle. Rose did some sledding & sliding, as we happily disregarded the rules against having fun & spending money, and we'll ski tomorrow. It may snow tonight.

                      Chapelle du Bez: Our Lady of Travellers

Rose & Marie in the Igloo,
                        shadow of SAGReiss

Day 2 [1 January 2010]: The Inbred New Year's. Rose attacked the New Year with savagery. Midnight? She pissed on midnight. Literally, in fact, as I kidnapped her to the potty (I wear no watch.) and she heard the countdown on the throne. The whole scene was bizarre. The 100-seat town hall was filled with scores of pimply teenagers, a few old coots, three dozen nuts from the local home for the retarded, and us, basically everyone drunk or crazy or both. One of the handicapped passed out on the dance floor before the salmon was served. I was feeling a little nervous, so I went to talk to the overseer. One of his shoulders was about as big as both of mine: "If there's a problem, let me know. I'll take care of it." Rose began dancing before anyone else, and danced the night away, stopping only to eat two helpings of goose liver and three helpings of salmon, which I had to unroll & extricate from the sorrel. One of two ladies, one blonde, one brunette, danced with her most of the time, but she didn't mind dancing alone, or with me, as a last resort. As you can see from the page & slideshow, it was a weird but wonderful evening. The next morning we met Marie, a mulatto from Martinique, which is awfully convenient for her father, a retired dentist who lives in Joyeuse. He has six kids with at least two wives, and thus more than a passing familiarity with judges, lawyers, & gendarmes. Marie is a lovely girl. We had dinner together, and we'll go skiing together tomorrow. We went sledding today, as Rose got up very late. Skiing with a seven-year-old friend should encourage her & harden her resolve. Rose is quite athletic, as I was as a kid. She is also outgoing, spontaneously making friends everywhere. I only became silent & mean in junior high school, about the time I discovered books and that all is not well in the world.

Day 3 [2 January 2010]: The Skiing. After a leisurely breakfast with Rose & Marie, we tried to ski. There was no monitor, so I decided to rent skis for myself too, and fulfill that role. It didn't quite work out that way, as I have never skied, which was probably as obvious to Rose as it was to everyone else. A kid who couldn't have been more than eight told me that there was no left & right ski, and how to strap them to her boots. I didn't bother trying to put mine on. I could barely walk. Rose skied, standing up, for a couple of yards before she decided she had had enough. I didn't push her for fear of discouraging her from future endeavors. (I had already decided that we were going nowhere near the ski escalator, or whatever the fuck that's called.) I rewarded her wisdom with a repair to the restaurant, where Marie joined us after a much more successful outing. We ate lunch, and then traded in our skis for a blue sled. The man didn't charge us, as we had already paid 22.50euros for the unused skis: "Gee, thanks, bro." While I loved it when Rose could neither walk nor talk, I now feel that I am dealing with my intellectual equal. I haven't felt that way (except with you, my friends) since I was five years old, when I realized that my father was not my intellectual equal, which he never was. Rose's mind works, not like a child's, but like a mind.

Marie in the

Rose on Naïa's

Day 4 [3 January 2010]: The Two Queens. We had an uneventful trip home, the highlight being Rose's blaring out Shnirele Perele in tune with the Klezmatics. She now sings this song to bewildered grown-ups everywhere, who can't figure out why their schoolboy/girl English is so worthless for understanding Americans. Heh, heh. We stopped at Papi's to pick up the Three Kings' cake & apple cider, and were greeted with overt hostility by his son from Aubenas. We didn't stay for a drink. It was great at Naia's, as it always is. We ate green beans, salad & spaghetti. I had tried to cheat with the cake, asking for two fava beans (nowadays replaced by little trinkets) and an indication of where they were hiding. I still didn't get it right, so Naia's father & I swapped slices of cake with the girls, thus cheating again, but the girls won, so all was well. They wore the princess crowns.