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Jazz, blues, and world music

Much of the music that is popular today cannot really be classified as completely Western or Non-Western. Since colonial times, when European cultures came into contact with many Non-Western cultures, musicians on all sides have been experimenting with music that is a blend of "the best of both worlds." Many musical styles have been invented that mix Western and Non-Western traditions. Perhaps the oldest and most widely popular of these styles are the ones that join European and African musical traditions. These include various Latin (from Central and South America, some of which also include Native American influences) and Caribbean traditions, and from North America, many different kinds of jazz and blues . Most American popular musics also grew out of this blending of traditions.

But the process of inventing new ways of fusing Western and Non-Western music continues today in countries all over the world. The term World Music is often used as a catch-all category referring to almost any music with widespread popularity that clearly does not sound like North American popular music. This includes older blended traditions such as rumba and samba, newer but well-established blended genres such as reggae and Afrobeat, and groups with unique experimental sounds borrowing from more than one tradition. Folk and traditional music from around the world is also sometimes included, but the most popular genres in this category tend to be those, such as Flamenco, Hungarian folk, and Celtic music, that are easy for Western-trained ears to understand. African-American traditions are so basic to popular music that they are generally not included in World music, but other North American traditions, such as Native American and Cajun traditions, sometimes are.

Tonal, atonal, and modal music

As mentioned above, Western music has not remained static through the centuries, either. It has changed and evolved as composers experimented with new sounds, ideas, and even new or evolving instruments.

Medieval European music, like many Non-Western traditions, was modal . This means that a piece of music was not in a particular key based on a major or minor scale. Instead, it was in a particular mode . A mode may look very much like a scale, since it lists the notes that are "allowed" in the piece of music and defines the tonic of the music. But a mode is usually also a collection of melodies, melodic phrases, or patterns that are found in that mode and not others (since the various modes are more different from each other than the various scales). Modes also may imply or suggest specific moods or they may be meant to have particular effects on the character of the listener.

Different keys may also evoke different moods, but the main purpose of a key is to define the chords and harmonic progressions that will be expected from a piece of music. From the Renaissance to the present day, most Western music has tended to be tonal. Tonal music is music in which the progression of the melody and harmony gives the strong feeling that the piece has a note and chord that are its "home base", so to speak (the tonic of the key). Think of a very familiar tune, perhaps "Row, Row, Row your Boat" or "Happy Birthday to You". Imagine how frustrating it would be to end that tune without singing the last note or playing the final chord. If you did this, most people would be so dissatisfied that they might supply that last note for you. That note is the tonal center of the tune, and without it, there is a feeling that the song has not reached its proper resting place. In tonal music, just about any melody is allowed, as long as it fits into the harmonies as they wander away from and then head back to their home base. Most Western tonal music is based on major and minor scales, both of which easily give that strongly tonal feeling. Some other scales, such as blues scales , also work well within a tonal framework, but others, such as whole-tone scales , do not.

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Source:  OpenStax, Special subjects in music theory. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2005 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10220/1.5
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