Bop Music in the 1950s Essay

Bop Music in the 1950s Essay

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The Bop Beat

The bebop revolution coincided with the birth of the Beat Generation. In a slightly unbalanced relationship, Beat writers often molded their poetics and style after the playing of such jazz music. "Jazz writers," such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, upheld their poetic ideals to the techniques of jazz musicians, such as rhythm, improvisation, and call and response. The structure of creative writing underwent a change, as the importance of form equaled that of theme.

Swing, the predecessor of bop, was big, sweet, and hot. The performers were big bands, fronted by a charismatic bandleader, yet the success of a piece depended mostly on the unity of the ensemble as a whole, rather than on the showcasing of prodigious individuals. The requisite instrument was the saxophone, which was often smooth and mellifluous. Songs were old favorites, or simple jazz standards, that had been arranged to suit a large ensemble. Swing bands played in large venues, such as ballrooms, and to large audiences, who seized the opportunity to not just tap their toes, but to "jump, jive, and wail." The swing era became the most popular form of jazz, as it catered to audiences as a form of social and interactive entertainment.

So, bop can be seen as a reaction to the eventual sterilization and ubiquity of swing music. The first bop records were made by in 1944 by Coleman Hawkins experimenting with his swing band. Several individuals were instrumental in the propagation of this new form, such as Charlie "Bird" Parker (alto sax), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Thelonious Monk (piano), Bud Powell (piano), Miles Davis (trumpet), and Charles Mingus (bass). The standard ensemble became a quintet, consisting of piano, bass, drums, reed instrument...


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...ndiana University Press, 1991.

Ginsberg, Allen. Howl and other poems. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1997.

_____________. Composed on the Tongue. Bolinas, Cal: Grey Fox Press, 1980.

Jones, Morley. Jazz. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980.

Kerouac, Jack. Book of Blues. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

___________. On the Road. New York: Penguin Books, 1975.

___________. "The Essentials of Spontaneous Prose." Casebook on the Beat. Thomas Parkinson, ed. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, 1961. 65-67.

Podhoretz, Norman. "The Know-Nothing Bohemians." Casebook on the Beat. Thomas Parkinson, ed. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, 1961. 204.

Tallman, Warren. "Kerouac's Sound." Casebook on the Beat. Thomas Parkinson, ed. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, 1961. 220-221.

Waters, Kristen. "Pandering to Publishers." Sequel. Vol. 10 (1998): 61.

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