Music education always & always looking forward.

Tritone Interval in the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Purple Haze"

On Friday, I'll share with any blog enthusiasts out there a Prezi I've been working on for years (no joke, years) intended to help inform/remind students that white people did not invent rock'n'roll.  I really don't know how I can put it any more simply than that.  If you teach in a classroom like mine, and your students are largely non-white, it still would not surprise me if those students did not know the true roots of rock'n'roll.  I encounter many many students of color who have no idea that rock sprung from black culture -- one of my students even asked me this past month, "Miss, why don't black people like rock'n'roll anymore like they used to?"  (Talk about a question you have absolutely no clue how to answer, and as a white woman, I have no place answering that question.)

Kids want to learn.  And regardless of who I am demographically, as their music teacher, it is my task to teach them about music.  There's no guarantee that anyone else will.  

Anyway.  Stories aside, if kids don't know about Jimi Hendrix and understand who he was and why he mattered, they need to know. point blank.  

“Purple Haze” - Jimi Hendrix

Intro: Widely known as one of the greatest guitarists in popular music and a pioneer in alternate techniques, Jimi Hendrix had a short but tremendously influential career. His debut album, Are You Experienced?, released under the band name the Jimi Hendrix Experience, sold one million copies within seven months of its release in May of 1967. The album is widely considered to be a defining work of American rock and is listed on the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. “Purple Haze” was the opening track on the North American version of the album, and is widely considered to be one of the most significant guitar tracks of all time.

Analysis: The first interval heard in the song is a tritone, which repeats as the first guitar riff of the song is played. As the tritone interval is repeated, it is doubled in the bass guitar. Hedrix returns to the tritone as he starts the solo for the song, almost using it as a harmonic reference point. 

Considerations for Teaching: Jimi Hendrix having died at age 27 likely due to a drug overdose, his music and legacy has been tied inextricably to drug and alcohol use. Many claim that the lyrics in “Purple Haze” refer to being in an intoxicated state, a claim that Hendrix denied, instead stating that the lyrics of the song were influenced by a woman who he had met and by a science fiction story. Regardless, the literal lyrical content of the song contains no inappropriate language, however strange it may be for someone to ask for a reprieve while he kisses the sky.

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