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Jazz Research Paper Final

Jazz Research Paper Final

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Published by Ian Koll

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Published by: Ian Koll on Jul 30, 2012
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05/13/2014

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Ian KollHistory Of Jazz PaperWolf 11/13/11Jazz, Race, And The Quest for AuthenticityPrior to the thirteenth amendment, which marked the legal end of slavery
1
, black slavesfought for what little rights they had by any means that were available to them. This struggle fora social identity, which had no documented starting date, marked the beginning of a newly
forming “black culture,” and became both the basis and a reference point for 
the majority of theartistic works that would be produced by blacks in the decades to come. Many of thesecontributions to black culture would come in the form of music, which stemmed from thetraditional tribal music brought to America by the African slaves, and manifested itself in theform of field hollers, work songs and spirituals. These songs, which were frequently banned byslave owners to prevent the risk of revolt, allowed the slaves to both connect with one anotherand escape some of the hardships their stressful work entailed. Many critics of these early formsof black music disregarded the music as merely circumstantial, and that none of the innovations
were truly black in nature. George S. Schuyler argued against this “black art” by stating, “If one
wishes to speak of the musical contributions of the peasantry of the south, very well. Any groupunder similar circumstances would have produced something similar. It is merely a coincidence
that this peasant class happens to be of a darker hue than the other inhabitants of the land.”
2
Lessforgiving critics such as Johann Tonsor disparage the innovations of black musicians altogether,
1
Mintz, S. (2007). The Origins and Nature of New World Slavery: Abolition.
Digital History
2
 
George S. Schuyler, “The Negro
-
Art Hokum,”
Nation
122 (June 16, 1926): 662
 – 
3.
 
saying “To one who has passed his childhood in the South, no music of the world is so tenderly
pathetic, so wildly, uncouthly melancholic, so fraught with an overpowering heinweh [sic], as
that of the Negroes.”
3
Nevertheless, these slave-born musical innovations would later become thebuilding blocks of one of the largest contributions to American popular music in history: thecreation of jazz. Unbeknownst to many whites at the time, early jazz music carried many of thesentimental and spiritual aspects of slave culture with it, and as such was an art form held verydear to many blacks who both performed and listened to it. In the words of Dr. Ruth Katz:
First of all, this music is the cultural and spiritual tool and means by which the journeyof an entire group of people is chronicled.Second, jazz is the repository of how our ancestors were able to maintain life's energyin the face of inhuman treatment by one group of humans, toward another group.The Holocaustic aberration of slavery is contained within jazz music, in other words, jazz is the symbolic record of our evolution as a people, that describes our developmentfrom bondage to freedom. Thus, this particular musical creation has the potential, anytime that is heard, played, or talked about, to bring forth very intense reactions.
4
 For that reason, it has been debated as to whether or not black ingenuity in early jazz necessitatesauthenticity, or if traditional African influence was merely one piece of the stylistic qualities of  jazz.The earliest roots of jazz can be traced back to New Orleans, in the Creole sections of the
city. Often referred to as Dixieland jazz due to the popularity of the “Original Dixieland
Jazz
Band,”
which was a popular outfit of white jazz performers during the early 20
th
century, thisstyle of jazz merged influences from many separate forms of music. These musical influences
3
 
Johann Tonsor, “Negro Music” 1892
 
4
 
Katz, M. Ruth Mark. "The Significance of Jazz (African Rhythms) In Our Community." Drums of Change, Drumsof Spirit
 
 
included the aforementioned rhythm of tribal African music and the harmony of popularEuropean forms of music. The African music supplied much of the underlying beat to jazz, andintroduced a feature to the music that would become pivotal to the definition of jazz: polyrhythm.Polyrhythm, or the simultaneous sounding of two (or more) independent rhythms, was anintegral part of traditional Sub-Saharan African music, and gave jazz its beat. The Europeancontribution was seen in the form of danceable melodies, which, when combined withpolyrhythm
, gave jazz its iconic “swing” sound. The Creole innovators who brought both styles
together became renowned throughout Louisiana for their contributions to music. Nevertheless,after the Civil War, many Creoles with African ancestors (also referred to as Creoles of color,)were required to undergo the same racial scrutiny as ex slaves as provided by the LouisianaLegislative Code of 1894. Forced to move to the more impoverished side of Canal Street, theCreoles of color continued to experiment with jazz music, and eventually gained fame in theNew Orleans music scene. The clashing of different races and cultures helped fuel thepopularization of jazz, and gained the genre an increasing number of black patrons, who wereexcited to see a genre of music stemming from African roots.After its establishment, jazz gained much of its popularity and cultural following in New
Orleans‟s red light district, whi
ch was named Storyville
5
after the municipal court member
Sidney Story, who, through his connections to the city‟s legislature, helped established the
district. Originally intended to help contain the rampant spread of prostitution throughout the city,Storyville was characterized by seedy establishments that ranged from inexpensive whorehousesto much nicer, more expensive brothels. It was customary for these houses to have some form of live musical entertainment, which gave jazz bands an opportunity to have their music heard.
5
Weinstock, Len. "The Origins of Jazz." Red Hot Jazz. http://www.redhotjazz.com/originsarticle.html

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