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Jazz Music

Jazz Music and its Influence on American Culture David P. Kruppenbach, II ANT101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Dr. Ronald K. Bolender August 23, 2010

Jazz Music Jazz Music and Its Influence on American Culture Before the sound of jazz music first broke the airwaves in popular culture its

influence was still relatively small mostly being performed in the black neighborhoods of New Orleans, until 1917 when the first jazz recording was made. By then, more southern blacks were moving northward, jazz started becoming mainstream as it was being played in the dance halls, cabarets and theaters of the big cities like Chicago and New York (Jazz: marking time in American culture, n.d. para. 3). Once jazz started to be recorded, more students of music could hear it. This helped up-and-coming musicians, because they were able to hear how jazz was played, they in turn could pick up the jazz style and build on it to add more tunes and stylization (Jazz: marking time in American culture, n.d. Jazz roots, para. 1) . The 1920s showed the beginning transformation of the music from the simpler sound arrangements of folk songs and working-man spirituals to more entertaining as the folksy ad lib and classical music styles merged into the unique jazz sound that would truly popularize it. Marching, syncopation, lyrical and solo performance improvisation-all were markers of this new musical genre (Jazz: Marking time in American culture, n.d., jazz roots section, para. 1). This made jazz different from other types of music of the times, the blues, folk music and the classical sounds of Bach and Brahms. Jazz would become a major player in the shaping of American culture from the 1920S to the present day. It would influence the womens movement, recognition of the African- American on the social scene in American culture. Jazz would have an impact on fashion, the social culture, politics and consumerism in a way that no other musical genre had previously in

Jazz Music history. This article will examine the effects jazz has had in, and the changes it would create in American popular culture of the U. S. Jazz music has its roots in the south, through the workday songs of 1890s Black field workers and their folk songs the African slaves brought over with them from their homeland-similar to American folk as they toiled in their labors of planting and harvesting. Jazz also incorporated marching cadences, improvisation and as Blacks moved north into the larger towns and cities, the regional music distinctions were added

to the already unusual sound of jazz. The influence of the music was bringing recognition and a rise in popularity to the point that it was playing to more and more Whites-it became a refuge and an outlet, a new source of entertainment. Jazz brought Blacks and Whites together, especially in the northern regions of the country where attitudes toward Blacks were more tolerant as compared to the South where, because of jazz, the Whites felt threatened- their feeling of control over the African-American had already begun to slip at the end of the nineteenth century. The prejudices were still there, but with this new music sweeping the nation, they felt the hold on the former slave community slipping even more. The Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups were growing, again the southern whites disliked the fact that jazz gave Blacks a measure of status that they did not have before. The evolution of jazz music and culture into a societal revolution elevated aspects of African American popular culture for the first time in the history of the United States. The culture of a minority became the desire of the majority. (American jazz culture in the 1920s, n.d.

Jazz exacerbates racial tensions section, para. 1, 2). Blacks in American culture had a long way to go to remove themselves from the ascribed position they had come into as

Jazz Music

slaves. Jazz offered them the opportunity to move up in the social structure, economically and to gain class status above the low-income-poor housing situations many found themselves in. They had the chance to gain an achieved status through jazz music (Miller, 2007, pp. 244,245). Also, young Whites found a rebellious outlet to express themselves with new dances like the Charleston, which came about as a direct result of jazz. The dancing was less formal, freer (American jazz culture in the 1920s, n.d. Jazz: Dictator of fashion section, para.1). This in turn brought about changes in fashion styles; especially womens. The Victorian clothing of the pre-war era was clearly unsuitable jazz apparel. the hemlines rose, dresses became looser fitting in an adaptation to the primitive and untamed style of jazz music. Hairstyles changed too, with women cutting their hair shorter and bobbing it with bangs above the eyes, instead of the high, unwieldy hairstyles of the Victorian era which just were not suitable to jazz dancing. The flapper clothing style of 1925 dresses began to resemble "shifts," which had been undergarments for hundreds of years. These dresses had no waistline and were loose, which allowed complete freedom of movement. Arms were cut loosely and skirts approached knee length (American jazz culture in the 1920s. n.d. Jazz: Dictator of fashion section, para. 6). In the social strata (Miller, 2007, p. 244) of the U.S., there were many layers of difference between Blacks and Whites, economic, race, ethnicityin all of these they remained opposites, the Whites had and the Blacks did not. Along came jazz music, at first, the Blacks and Whites were more in opposition, then came together through the music as they took from each others cultural styles of music, blending their different musical abilities and remaking jazz into a universal, culture changing medium that is still

Jazz Music breaking down the walls of divided cultures and barriers to social equality, at least in music. The jazz would change and break into different types: Cool jazz, bebop, fusion,

modern jazz. It is still popular, but not like in the beginningthe1920s though the 1940s were the wild times of the music. Modern music like Rap, Hip-Hop, New Wave and Grunge Rock are more prevalent on the radio, jazz has a niche, but is responsible for many of the musical genres today.

Jazz Music

References American jazz culture in the 1920s, (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/tbacig/studproj/is3099/jazzcult/20sjazz/jazzlib. html Jazz: Marking time in American culture, (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2010, from http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ASI/musi212/introduction.html Miller, B. (2007). Cultural anthropology (Ashford University ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.