Benjamin Givan's Book?

edited November 2012 in Welcome Posts: 45
Has anyone had a chance to dig in to Benjamin Givan's book "The Music of Django Reinhardt" yet? I thumbed throught it at a local bookstore (remember those?) last night, and it looked interesting -- very scholarly.


  • adrianadrian AmsterdamVirtuoso
    Posts: 475
    I've been reading it. I'm only on the second chapter, but... "very scholarly" is right. It's bordering on pretentious, but I'm sticking with it.
  • thickpickthickpick ✭✭✭
    Posts: 142
    I almost bought this book, but then I read a scholarly paper Givan wrote called, "Django Reinhardt's 'I'll See You in My Dreams'" (which can be found here). And it made me think that maybe his approach to the music is a little too dry for my taste. Here's the first paragraph of his paper:
    A jazz improvisation is like a palimpsest in sound. Beneath the music that reaches our ears lies a theme that simultaneously inspires and constrains the performer. From time to time traces may appear on the music's surface that, like ghostly pentimentos, provide us with clues to the improviser's underlying conception of the theme. As the soloist weaves melodic lines that unfold dynamically in time, we may glimpse signs of the static, cyclical form that is his "model,' or "referent." An awareness of the omnipresent model is a sine qua non of competent performance -- and a vital, if not essential, element of informed listening -- in most jazz styles that emerged between 1920 and 1950.

    Is the new book more of the same?
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,868
    He's an academic, this is basically a scaled down version of his dissertation. It's not intended to be entertaining or fun....very scholarly.
  • I thought the second section, where he identifies common patterns/motifs Django frequently used, looked interesting and useful for practice. I've seen a similar treatment of Charlie Parker's common motifs and found it helpful when learning bebop.
  • klemjcklemjc France✭✭
    Posts: 6
    Hi, I was in contact with Benjamin Givan and he was very enthusiastic when I asked him if I could share the transcriptions he had sent me with anyone interested.
    This should include people on this forum, I think!
    I put the file on a small website so it could be accessible (google site).
    There are three PDF files containing the transcriptions he used for his PhD dissertation and book (see Amazon). Best !
  • adrianadrian AmsterdamVirtuoso
    Posts: 475
    Holy moly. This appears to be almost every Django solo! It's in standard notation (no tab), but still! What a monumental effort. Thanks for posting this online, and thanks to Benjamin for making these available.

  • ShawnShawn Boise, Idaho✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 325! :shock: :shock: :shock:

    You don't know what a valuable resource you just posted, many many thanks hands are literally shaking from the excitement! Those transcriptions have a wealth of information in them from the 1949 Rome Sessions, which just happens to be my favorite era of Django's music. This will literally keep me busy for months!!!!!!!!

    :D :D :D

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • thickpickthickpick ✭✭✭
    Posts: 142
    TAB please?

    Just kidding. This is very cool. And it shows just how much work Givan had to do before he even started writing his dissertation. Pretty amazing, actually.
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    I second Adrian's comments! A monumenatl effort.

    Personally, I like Givan's book very much. It IS dry, but it gives the reader a chance to analyze Django's music in a very minute way. The chapter on formulas is really good. I study a new one now and then, and I realize I start noticing them in solos after I do. He takes several solos and demonstrates the use of the formulas, and you realize that Django, like most people who improvise, is playing 90-95% licks that he commonly uses filled in with what are probably some spur-of-the-moment passages. I'm sure Django didn't think of it that way, but hindsight demonstrates that he did it nonetheless. Of course, Django had so many of these formulas that he could play chorus after chorus and most people would never notice the different combinations. He certainly didn't think, "Well, now I'll play formula 6b," but Givan lets us study how Django puts all those licks together in different ways to construct incredible music. Lenny Bruce once said that a really fertile comedian on a really good night might come up with five minutes of original material in an hour set. I think it's probably the same for musicians.

    It's not a book for everyone, but for those who can wade through the arid prose, Givan provides a detailed look into Django's creative process.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,392
    I'm just discovering this thread in May, 2011.

    The Givan book sounds really interesting, and I look forward to checking out the Django transcriptions that were posted above as PDF files.

    I wonder if anyone out there is still using this book or the transcriptions?

    The thing I'm hoping somebody is addressing is this--- I've taken the time to learn five or six Django solos note for note, though admittedly I struggle to play them at his actual tempo.

    In learning these solos, I often find that even after figuring out the exact tricks the magician used, I'm still somehow not much wiser than before--- "How in the world did he ever think of THAT?"

    There are other times when I say, "Oh, my god, how obvious! Why didn't I think of that?"

    I'd really love it if wise person could together some kind of unified theory explaining the theory behind some of Django's harder-to-understand licks... does the Givan book do that?
    I live in a little tourist town called Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada, which is about twenty miles north of Niagara Falls.

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