Call and response (music)

Call and response (music)

Overview
In music, a call and response is a succession of two distinct phrases
Phrase (music)
In music and music theory, phrase and phrasing are concepts and practices related to grouping consecutive melodic notes, both in their composition and performance...

 usually played by different musicians, where the second phrase is heard as a direct commentary on or response to the first. It corresponds to the call-and-response pattern in human communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 and is found as a basic element of musical form
Musical form
The term musical form refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, and it describes the layout of a composition as divided into sections...

, such as verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form is a musical form common in popular music and predominant in rock since the 1960s. In contrast to AABA form, which is focused on the verse , in verse-chorus form the chorus is highlighted...

, in many traditions.

European Christian congregations have used such patterns since before the Middle Ages based in the Greek classics forms from Theater and Oratory, for example, in Antiphon
Antiphon
An antiphon in Christian music and ritual, is a "responsory" by a choir or congregation, usually in Gregorian chant, to a psalm or other text in a religious service or musical work....

 and Responsory
Responsory
-Definition:The most general of a responsory is any psalm, canticle, or other sacred musical work sung responsorially, that is, with a cantor or small group singing verses while the whole choir or congregation respond with a refrain. However, this article focuses on those chants of the western...

.
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Encyclopedia
In music, a call and response is a succession of two distinct phrases
Phrase (music)
In music and music theory, phrase and phrasing are concepts and practices related to grouping consecutive melodic notes, both in their composition and performance...

 usually played by different musicians, where the second phrase is heard as a direct commentary on or response to the first. It corresponds to the call-and-response pattern in human communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 and is found as a basic element of musical form
Musical form
The term musical form refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, and it describes the layout of a composition as divided into sections...

, such as verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form
Verse-chorus form is a musical form common in popular music and predominant in rock since the 1960s. In contrast to AABA form, which is focused on the verse , in verse-chorus form the chorus is highlighted...

, in many traditions.

European Christian congregations have used such patterns since before the Middle Ages based in the Greek classics forms from Theater and Oratory, for example, in Antiphon
Antiphon
An antiphon in Christian music and ritual, is a "responsory" by a choir or congregation, usually in Gregorian chant, to a psalm or other text in a religious service or musical work....

 and Responsory
Responsory
-Definition:The most general of a responsory is any psalm, canticle, or other sacred musical work sung responsorially, that is, with a cantor or small group singing verses while the whole choir or congregation respond with a refrain. However, this article focuses on those chants of the western...

. In Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

n cultures, call and response is a pervasive pattern of democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 participation—in public gatherings in the discussion of civic affairs, in religious ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

s, as well as in vocal and instrumental musical expression. It is this tradition that African bondsmen and women brought with them to the New World and which has been transmitted over the centuries in various forms of cultural expression—in religious observance; public gatherings; sporting events; even in children's rhymes; and, most notably, in African-American music in its myriad forms and descendants including: gospel
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

, blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African American music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a...

, rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 and jazz extensions.

Call and response patterns between two musicians are common in Indian Classical Music
Indian classical music
The origins of Indian classical music can be found in the Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures in the Hindu tradition. Indian classical music has also been significantly influenced by, or syncretised with, Indian folk music and Persian music. The Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, describes music...

, particularly in the style of Jugalbandi. Call and response is likewise widely present in parts of the Americas touched by the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is extensively used in Cuban music, both in the secular rumba
Rumba
Rumba is a family of percussive rhythms, song and dance that originated in Cuba as a combination of the musical traditions of Africans brought to Cuba as slaves and Spanish colonizers. The name derives from the Cuban Spanish word rumbo which means "party" or "spree". It is secular, with no...

 and in the African religious ceremonies (Santería
Santería
Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....

).

Folk music


It is common in folk
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 traditions of choral singing of many peoples, especially in African musical cultures . In the West, it is most readily seen in the sea shanty
Sea shanty
A shanty is a type of work song that was once commonly sung to accompany labor on board large merchant sailing vessels. Shanties became ubiquitous in the 19th century era of the wind-driven packet and clipper ships...

, African-American work songs, military cadence
Military cadence
In the armed services, a military cadence or cadence call is a traditional call-and-response work song sung by military personnel while running or marching...

s, and the dance-songs of various European countries including France (particularly Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

) and the Faroe Islands
Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland...

.

Popular music


The phenomenon of call and response is pervasive in modern Western popular music, as well, largely because Western music has been so heavily shaped by African contributions. Cross-over rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, and rock music
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

 exhibit call-and-response characteristics, as well. Three examples are The Who
The Who
The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey , Pete Townshend , John Entwistle and Keith Moon . They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction...

's song, "My Generation", "Black Dog
Black dog
Black dog may refer to:* Black dog , a ghostly dog in the folklores of the British Isles* Black dog , a coin in the Caribbean, starting under the reign of Queen Anne* Black Dog , a 1998 film...

" by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

, and The Pogues
The Pogues
The Pogues are a Celtic punk band, formed in 1982 and fronted by Shane MacGowan. The band reached international prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. MacGowan left the band in 1991 due to drinking problems but the band continued first with Joe Strummer and then with Spider Stacy on vocals before...

 Fairytale of New York
Fairytale of New York
"Fairytale of New York" is a song by the Irish rock group The Pogues, released in 1987 and featuring the British singer Kirsty MacColl. The song is an Irish folk style ballad, written by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan, and featured on The Pogues' album If I Should Fall from Grace with God...

:

Where call and response is most apparent in the secular music arena is in traditional and electric blues, where the most common 12-bar form is an AA'B pattern where the AA' is the call (repeated once with slight variation), and B is the response. But, each A and B part may itself consist of a short call and a short response, and those 2-bar calls and response may also be divided into 1-bar-each call-response pairs.

To make an attempt at diagraming it:
  • Twelve bars:
    • A: 4-bar CALL
      • (2-bar vocal CALL
        • [1-bar CALL, 1-bar RESPONSE]
      • 2-bar instrumental RESPONSE
        • [1-bar CALL, 1-bar RESPONSE])

    • A': 4-bar CALL (repeated with slight variation)
      • (2-bar vocal CALL
        • [1-bar CALL, 1-bar RESPONSE]
      • 2-bar instrumental RESPONSE
        • [1-bar CALL, 1-bar RESPONSE])

    • B: 4-bar RESPONSE (repeated)
      • (2-bar vocal CALL
        • [1-bar CALL, 1-bar RESPONSE]
      • 2-bar instrumental RESPONSE/turnaround
        • [1-bar CALL, 1-bar RESPONSE])


Note that each turnaround can be considered a call which the next A section is the response to.

Leader/Chorus call and response


A single leader makes a musical statement, and then the chorus responds together. American bluesman Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters
McKinley Morganfield , known as Muddy Waters, was an American blues musician, generally considered the "father of modern Chicago blues"...

 utilizes call and response in one of his signature songs, "Mannish Boy
Mannish Boy
"Mannish Boy" is a blues standard first recorded by Muddy Waters in 1955. It is an arrangement of Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man"...

" which is almost entirely Leader/Chorus call and response.
  • CALL: Waters' vocal: "Now when I was a young boy"
  • RESPONSE: (Harmonica/rhythm section riff)
  • CALL: Waters': "At the age of 5"
  • RESPONSE: (Harmonica/rhythm section riff)


Another example is from Chuck Berry's "School Day (Ring Ring Goes the Bell)".
  • CALL: Drop the coin right into the slot.
  • RESPONSE: (Guitar riff)
  • CALL: You gotta get something that's really hot.
  • RESPONSE: (Guitar riff)

Question/Answer call and response


Part of the band poses a musical "question", or a phrase that feels unfinished, and another part of the band "answers" (finishes) it. In the blues, the B section often has a question-and-answer pattern (dominant-to-tonic).

An example of this is the Christmas song Must Be Santa
Must Be Santa (song)
"Must Be Santa" is a Christmas song that was originally recorded in 1961 by Mitch Miller. Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks wrote the song. Although the lyrics are different, it has exactly the same tune as "Oh, You Sweet One", written by Moe Jaffe and Richard Hardt, and recorded by Thurl Ravenscroft...

:
CALL: Who laughs this way, ho ho ho?
RESPONSE: Santa laughs this way, ho ho ho!


A similar question-and-answer exchange occurs in the movie Casablanca
Casablanca (film)
Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, and featuring Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson. Set during World War II, it focuses on a man torn between, in...

between Sam and the band in the song Knock On Wood:
CALL: Who's got trouble?
RESPONSE: We've got trouble!
CALL: How much trouble?
RESPONSE: Too much trouble!

Question/Answer in Indian Classical Music


A distinct section in North Indian Classical Music is known as sawaal-javaab (question-answer). Primarily an instrumental technique, the sawaal-javaab occurs between two artists. One artist will present a melodically and rhythmically challenging riff which will be either replicated or improved upon by the other artist.

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