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Terminology Question

CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
edited October 2005 in History Posts: 268
On many musette CD comps that I have, the rhythms of the songs are not limited to waltzes. There are tangos, pasodobles, and foxtrots as well. I often refer to the 3/4 or 6/8 tunes as "musette," but I'm starting to feel like that's not really very accurate. It seems like the bal musette bands played for many different styles of dancing. Is "java" a more accurate term, or does that refer to something different?


  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    the java is a type of dance that was popular in the bals musette. I am sure there are some internet sites that explain the history and repertoire of musette :)
  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    Posts: 268
    I've already read up a bit on the bals musette and guinguettes; perhaps that's my problem. :)

    Many musical styles share a name with the type of dance that accompanies them: tarantella, reel, jig, quadrille, etc. After discovering that there were many types of dances done at these French dancehalls, I feel like "musette" is too general a term for the waltzes. I was wondering if there was a more specific term that could be used. Java? Valse? Valse musette? It's really just a semantic hiccup in my brain...nothing very important.
  • kimmokimmo Helsinki, Finland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 166
    Cuimean wrote:
    After discovering that there were many types of dances done at these French dancehalls, I feel like "musette" is too general a term for the waltzes. I was wondering if there was a more specific term that could be used. Java? Valse? Valse musette?

    The term "musette" comes from an instrument similar to bagpipe. Since it was loud, it used to play the melodies on dances (ginguettes were mostly outdoor events and there were no amplifiers in the 1800s). Because of the inevident prominent position of the bagpipe, these events were called "bal musette", bagpipe parties. Come 1900, the accordion replaced the bagpipe, but the term musette stuck, meaning dance music. In the early 1900s musette bands played valses, javas, paso dobles, mazurkas, etc. Since the bands accompanied dances, they needed to follow trends to keep working, so newer styles crawled into their repertoire as well: rag, fox, swing... In printed sheetmusic as well as in the records musette tunes usually have a specification that defines the dance it's supposed to accompany.

    It seems that the correct term for a musette waltz is "valse musette" as you suggest. Java actually isn't waltz, altough it's 3/4, since it always has a syncopated 6/8-part (trio) and it's supposed to be danced to in a different way.
  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    Posts: 268
    Sorry for the silly question. I guess that's what happens when I'm at work and my mind wanders. Thanks for indulging me.
  • trumbologytrumbology San FranciscoNew
    Posts: 124
    I'm guilty of calling any 3/4 piece in this music a waltz. Anyone else care to chime in on the varieties of 3/4 time in Django jazz and other musics?

    I notice in my fakebooks, many 3/4 tunes are labeled "jazz waltz." Is there any more to this term than simply a swing 3/4 feel, a la "Waltz for Debby?"

    Funny thing is I love just about any piece of music in 3/4 time, and I'm completely ignorant about it.

  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 559
    There were really two different "schools" of accordeon playing in the day. One was the dance hall variety, which played mostly valses and javas. The other was the virtuosic school, descended from the accordeon clubs in NE France. This was the school that played mazurkas and marches, things like that. It was more technique oriented. Of course there was crossover, too. Medard Ferraro was pretty much the leader of this school of playing. He was the most prominent teacher and the most technically accompliched of al the early players.

  • François RAVEZFrançois RAVEZ FranceProdigy
    Posts: 294
    Far from being stupid, I find Cuimean's question very interesting. Things are not as easy as it seems.

    In fact the java comes from the old mazurka, which was very fashionable itself at the beginning of the last century. It is written in 3/4 (on the music sheets I own, even the trio is written in 3/4 when they have one which is not always the case). Accentuation is on the 3d time, always played very 'dry'.

    Now it becomes confusing : on some java music sheets you can find the following indications
    valse-java, java-valse, java-mazurka, java musette.
    A very famous song called 'La Java Bleue' is in fact a waltz.

    Now for the waltzes : you can find the following indications on waltz music sheets : valse, valse musette, valse-jazz, valse swing, valse bee-bop, swing. So all waltzes played on accordeon are not of the genre 'valse musette', at least in the opinion of their author. Such musicians as Gus Viseur, Jo Privat, Tony Muréna have written some waltzes labelled as 'valse' and other ones as 'valse musette'.

    Some titles like 'Flambée Montalbanaise' appear as valse on some editions and valse musette on others (the term musette has possibly been added later on the cover).

    I even found a polka musette.

    Now to define the musette genre, which Emile Vacher is sometimes credited to have created, the sound of the accordeon itself and the way it is tuned is also important.

    I believe that the meaning of the term musette itself has been changing
    with time : when I was young it was used to speak of the most corny accordeon players (Aimable, Yvette Horner, and worst ones) who were known in France for their bad taste as for instance Liberace could be in the US.

    But nowadays, 'musette' is a word like 'manouche' that sells.

    I am sorry if I only made things unclearer.


    François RAVEZ
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