Jazz historiography

analytical Essay
788 words
788 words

The rapid development of jazz in both the United States and Europe generated a number of diverse musical expressions, including musics that most listeners today would not recognize as “jazz” music. In order to remedy this situation, jazz musicians and critics after 1930 began to codify what “real” jazz encompassed, and more importantly, what “real” jazz did not encompass. This construction of authenticity, often demarcated along racial lines, served to relegate several artists and styles (those outside a “mainstream” to the margins of historiography.

The issue of race is central to all discourses of jazz. Alongside race goes the problem of representation, or, who gets to play what for whom and under what circumstance. Problems of representation abound from the beginning of jazz history, usually centered on white representation of black music and culture from a negative vantage point. Iconic examples of this phenomenon include the 1917 release of

Livery Stable Blues by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and Paul Whiteman‘s 1924 Aeolian Hall concert. The ODJB‘s recording was the first jazz record and the first representation of jazz to the majority of Americans, both black and white. Whiteman’s concert was invested in representing jazz to white Americans, showing how it had progressed from its primitive black beginnings to a more sophisticated style rooted in the fundamentals of European practice. Indeed, ideas of creation and control in jazz have usually been drawn along racial lines: black as creator, white as curator. In this mode of racial understanding in jazz, white jazz fans and musicians supposedly lack an essential “something” that makes them unable to innovate in jazz. Conversely, black musicians, while highly c...

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... of which modern jazz big band dance music (for example, the Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and Count Basie Orchestras), bebop, and later Free Jazz- emerged.

Modern jazz, and particularly bebop, because of its hybrid nature has presented cultural critics, and especially critics of music, with a set of unresolvable issues. The music itself embodies contradiction. It can accurately be called both popular and high culture; it has an oral, vernacular lineage and one related to more innovative compositional techniques; it is Afro-American and European, romantic and revolutionary; and it has both escapist (ie, Sun Ra and late-era John Coltrane) and resistant (ie. Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman) tendencies. As a result, jazz has become one of the most highly discusses and debated modern musical forms with controversial discourse surrounding its development.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that this thesis will seek to correct by including guitarists from outside.
  • Analyzes the issue of authenticity, which is intimately tied to issues of race and social impact.
  • Analyzes ethnicity, and/or musical pedigree, though there seems to be a hierarchy at work in those.
  • Opines that while jazz may be an african-american music, it is still often viewed as being unique.
  • Analyzes how the rapid development of jazz in the united states and europe generated diverse musical expressions, including musics that most listeners today would not recognize as "jazz."
  • Explains that jazz's history of development is also connected to america’s social and historical shifts.
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