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The History Of Modern Day Jazz Essay, Research Paper

There are many different forms of music around the world today, many of which we have never even seen or heard. Late in the year 1619, African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia and, they brought many of their own traditions, languages, and ways of doing things. One of their most popular traditions is music. To the native African people, music was a way of life and everything about their life was expressed by music. It helped express religious ceremonies and it was also used to express the birth of someone, a marriage, healing, going to war, or death. With the help of native African-Americans music and a little help from the Europeans form of music and 300 years of blending of the two in the U.S., we have what we call Jazz .African Americans came from clans and tribes, which originated around West Coast of Africa, south of the Sahara. Many names were given to that area such as the Ivory Coast, and the Gold Coast, and many other names. The death rate was so high on the ships that used to come over to the U.S. that many of the African Americans felt that music was the only way to keep them from drifting away into a deep sleep. The Africans also helped them through very difficult times and life in the U.S. because not all the slave masters were fair. Many tribes produced black slaves that came over to America. Some of the tribes were the Yoruba, Ibo, Fanti, Ashanti, Sus, Ewe, and many others. In the Ashanti culture, they thought it was absurd to worship their god without the use of music, so they would have either chanting or singing going on during their religious ceremonies. Almost all African-American music was rhythmic, with the use of drums. They also had some crude whistles, flutes and some stringed instruments like the banjo, which came from Africa where it had been copied from a guitar-like instrument played by the Arabs. They were also able to sing. Though the music was very complex, it was nothing compared to the music that was being played in Europe at the same time. African-American music played several roles; it spoke of the unique experiences of Black Americans and was a dominant influence of American popular music. Jazz was one of the most distinctive forms of modern black music. When the African-Americans came to the U.S., they were forced to listen to other forms of music besides there own. Slave masters discouraged the slaves customs so the blacks had no choice but to listen to their master s music. So they eventually adapted to the music of their masters. If you lived in Virginia or other British owned colonies, you were probably exposed to European-Protestant music.Early forms of Jazz were also considered a synthesis of Western harmonic language and, were formed with the rhythmic and melodic inflections, or a change in tone or pitch. Many blacks brought with them a very strong sense of rhythm and dance when they came to the colonies. Many of the African Americans did not have paper and pen to write down the music that they were playing, so much of their music was done with improvisation. Improvisation is the art of composition of any variation on a melodic line at the spur of the moment and without any preparation. Improvisation is perhaps the best-known musical element in Jazz. Call and Response , which was another name for improvisation, was something African-American music used quite often. Call-and-Response resulted when a soloist and an individual singer would play back and forth. Many changes took place when African Americans tried to interpret the European music. Since the scales of Europe and Africa were different, the African Americans tried to adjust their ears to fit the European scales by adding a blues-y kind of note that was haunting and low-down (Boeckman 9).The blending mostly started down in New Orleans, where most of the time the African-Americans would march behind a funeral procession; on the way they would often play slow hymns and on the way back would break out into jazzed-up versions of the same tune. In addition, much of it was improvised on the way back from the funeral procession. The instruments that were used in the band were a cornet, and a trumpet, to carry out the melody, a clarinet, and a sackbut (trombone) to fill in, and a rhythm section.

Jazz is considered polyrhythmic; two or more separate rhythms are being played at the same time. The African-Americans rhythms are so complex that Western musicologists still have difficulty clearing them up. In West Africa, the music would sound like it was written in the time signatures of 3/4, or three beats in a measure, 6/8, or 6 beats in a measure, and 4/4, or 4 beats to a measure. It s as if an orchestra were playing the same tune as a waltz, a one step, and a fox trot (Stearns 4).Jazz is not African music; most of the African people would not understand it, because our music differs so much from their music. Just because we got most of it from the Africans and the Europeans does not mean it is part African or part European. As James Lincoln Collier stated, Sometimes when you mix two things together you get something very different: blue and yellow together make green, which is neither a bluish color nor a yellowish color but something distinctly new (Collier 33). The African Americans combined their powerful sense of rhythm and dance with the harmony and form of European Music. Moreover, out of that came a new style of music all their own. By the late 1920 s, Jazz was one of the most popular and distinctive forms of black music. Jazz was obviously a music in which blacks were the primary creators and whites often the imitators (Ogren 11). The first known Jazz record was Dixie Jass Band One-step and Livery Stable Blues played by a band called the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. The record became the first million-seller and jass or Jazz as it soon became spelled was a word known all across the nation. What helped sell the record was Livery Stable Blues which featured many barnyard animals and a little help from some exuberant new rhythms. Many people felt that Jazz came from a sign painter in Chicago. He made signs for a black musician named Boisey James. Moreover, on the signs they read, Music will be furnished Jas Band (Fordham 47). Another theory was that the word Jazz is some how related to Jazbo Brown, who was a musician well known in the Mississippi River Valley, because when Brown played at the local caf s the people would shout More Jazbo! More, Jaz, More! (Fordham 48). Though many white Americans often thought that Blues meant sad slow or sorrowful music, it actually expressed a wide range of emotion and descriptions of African American life. Many of the African tribesmen would not enjoy the Jazz of that today because we have blended it to such an extreme what they originally had, no longer exists. It is sometimes interesting to think that most of American art is derived from Africa and Europe. Thanks to the help of Native African Americans we have what we today call Jazz. Thanks to the Europeans, we also have Jazz and other forms of art. America has been affected by many other cultures from around the world, and it shows with all the different ethnic backgrounds in the United States.

Boeckman, Charles. Cool, Hot and Blue: A History of Jazz for Young People. Washington, D.C.: Robet B. Luce INC, 1968.Collier, James Lincoln. Inside Jazz. New York: Four Winds Press, 1973.—. The Making of Jazz: A Comprehensive History. Boston: Houghton, 1978.Fordham, John. JAZZ. New York: Doeling Kindersley, 1993. Jazz. The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 1993. Jazz. Toolworks Refrence Library. 2nd ed. 1991.Ogren, Kathy J. The Jazz Revolution: Twenties America & the Meaning of Jazz. New York: Oxford, 1989.Souther, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1971.Stearns, Marshall. The Story of Jazz. 5th ed. New York: Oxford, 1956.Tirro, Frank. Jazz: A History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1977.

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