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The development of Blues and Jazz - Essay Example

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The development of Blues and Jazz

Like jazz, the blues originated in the Deep South and had its roots in folk and popular culture, namely African American spirituals, gospel music or folk ballads (Culture and Change: Black History in America). Ironically while the proverbial Jazz Age celebrated the material excess and splendor of the years of economic boom which preceded the Great Depression, jazz and the blues had their roots in the melancholy and suffering which typified the lives of African Americans in the plantation society of the Deep South. The sadness of these musical forms, though it speaks tacitly of the pain of separation and exploitation, does not diminish its aesthetic beauty. In fact, perhaps quite paradoxically, jazz speaks of sadness even as it embraces an extremely life-affirming spirit. Perhaps the most important characteristic of jazz is its emphasis on artistic freedom. Improvisation is the most central facet of this musical genre. Improvisation which is essentially the act of creating melodies and lyrics in the flow of a performance debunks the very idea of the normative in creative expression. Improvisation is seen in the solo performances of the best known jazz artist, Louis Armstrong as well as in the “free jazz” styles of artists such as Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane (ibid). The trajectory of jazz and the blues is many pronged. ...
are many factors which imbue jazz with not merely artistic importance but also cultural and sociopolitical importance and an analysis of these is important to this discussion. Jazz was brought to the fore in the American society shortly after the end of World War I. It celebrated, thus, freedom, happiness and the hope for peace, all things that the annihilation of war destroys. Furthermore, the Jazz Age coincided with a crucially important literary and political movement in the U.S.A.-the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance, predominantly an African American movement emphasized the literary and intellectual achievements of blacks and called for social and political equality for the colored people of the country. Jazz and the blues and their multifarious manifestations, formed a major part of the movement. It was celebrated in its most immediate form, music, but its beats and themes were also incorporated in dancing and literature. Above all, by celebrating the folk roots of jazz, the movement upheld black pride and the civic equality of all Americans. In terms of its beginnings, jazz is similar to the minstrels, ballads and spirituals which have existed in every society since time immemorial. These forms are what Mikhail Bakhtin characterizes as “low” or “carnival”; they do not adhere to normative strictures of the “high” arts and seek an audience that is usually not amongst the socially and economically privileged in society (Mikhail Bakhtin). Jazz is unique by the virtue of the fact that it transcends its folk roots to enter the popular imagination of not merely the U.S.A. but many European nations as well. In fact, in the 1940s when jazz had already enjoyed a decade of dizzy popularity, jazz musicians were willing to explore in other directions ...Show more

Summary

Jazz and the Blues The period between the 1920s and the 1930s, an epoch in itself, is aptly named the Jazz Age. Such was the influence of jazz music upon the Western world. The birth of jazz has often been traced to the American south and its progenitors were the African Americans…
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The development of Blues and Jazz essay example
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