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Impact of Racial Relations in America on the Development of Jazz - Essay Example

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Jazz in itself is a special kind of music characterized by much improvisation, multiple rhythms, and blue notes and swung accompanied by vocals affiliated to call and response tradition. No doubt, Jazz was originally meant to be dance music…
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Impact of Racial Relations in America on the Development of Jazz
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Impact of Racial Relations in America on the Development of Jazz

Jazz in itself is a special kind of music characterized by much improvisation, multiple rhythms, and blue notes and swung accompanied by vocals affiliated to call and response tradition. No doubt, Jazz was originally meant to be dance music. However, courtesy its appeal and tastefulness, it soon gradated to be a part of the contemporary popular music. Today, it would not be wrong to say that Jazz does has an important place in the modern Western classical music. Jazz, though quintessentially an American music form has its roots in the West African musical art forms and expressions (Gioia 1998). It also needs to be mentioned that Jazz borrowed a lot from the European band music (Gioia 1998). Jazz as an American musical art form originated from the city of New Orleans (Gioia 1998). It was the large Creole and Cajun population that inhabited this American city, which blended the elements of French-Canadian culture with their own native notes and rhythms to give way to a special kind of music called Jazz (Gioia 1998). Gradually Jazz expanded its scope to include within its ambit, varied other American urban centres, before it eventually migrated to Europe and other parts of the world. In the 20th century Jazz gave way to many subgenres like bebop, hard bop and free jazz. Race and racial relations did play an important role in the formulation of Jazz music. Music and Race Relations in America Much before the origins of the United States of American the race relations in America had been marked by varied levels of domination of the white race over the blacks. As far as the white Americans were concerned, they were mostly free to choose between different modes of expression available and accessible to them. However, the things were not that simple and easy for the blacks. As is common with any suppressed race or culture, the blacks resorted to modes of expression that were different and in tandem with their essentially African background (Werner 1999, p. 57). The oppression impacted varied facets of the social and personal life of the black Americans. The predominant white opinion was that the blacks were inferior to them and they could only become cultured and civilized by adopting the art forms and modes of expression that had their origins in the Western civilization (Werner 1999, p. 36). However, it was easier said than done. In any age and time, it was impossible for a black individual to become white. So, the other possible way out for the blacks was to imitate the white art forms and to harmonize their modes of expression by blending them with the white art forms (Werner 1999, p. 37). In that context, music was particularly an art form which allowed the blacks to register their protest and to give vent to their emotions and feelings in a way that they liked and that was their own. It is evident from the historical facts that each phase of black existence in America had its own distinct musical genre (Werner 1999). Once the slavery was abolished in America, it created a dire need for new musical solution for the urge to build and bolster a distinct black identity and culture (Peretti 1994, p. 17). In the meantime, New Orleans, which was earlier under the French rule, had a thriving population of Creoles. A significant number of these Creoles were not only proficient in European instruments and European music, but also were conversant with the African drum rhythms and had already given way to a musical form that was later known as Jazz (Peretti 1994). The free blacks readily adopted Jazz to give vent to their essential isolation and pain. Till the late 40s, Jazz saw the emergence of varied black masters like Louis Armstrong and Thomas Dorsey (Peretti 1994). Yet, the most important fact was that the American media was mainly dominated by whites (Peretti 1994, p. 41). So the expected result was that Jazz though being primarily Afro-American music, it was the ... Read More
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