White Jazz Music in the 1920s Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1793 Words
Date:  2022-03-07


White jazz music rapidly spread in the 1920s through massive electrical recordings. Jazz music is a combination of African and European music which originated in New Orleans, United States of America. The period when jazz music gained popularity is referred to as the jazz age. The Jazz period is an era in the music industry which occurred in the 1920s and 1930s (Akyer, 2009). It was a period characterized by social-cultural changes and rapid national and international popularity of jazz music and dance styles (Gioia, 2012). This research paper explains the contributions of technological advancements, the existence of varied cultures in the United States, the role of the prohibition of alcohol, contributions of the media, revolt against traditional culture and the role of women as the core reasons for the widespread popularity of the white jazz music in the 1920s.

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Famous jazz musicians included Louis Armstrong- the first soloist in American jazz history (Akyer, 2009). He is re-known for his great tone and rhythm inventiveness. Other musicians included Johny Dobbs, King Oliver kid Ory, a famous trombonist, and musician Duke Ellington among others. A white jazz musician Paul Whiteman said jazz was "a genuine music force." Majority of middle-class Americans afterward agreed with musician Paul`s notion.

Role of Technology in Spread of White Jazz Music

Before the invention of recorded music, songs were spread through pianos and live performances which was limited in terms of geographical space and effectiveness. Later, industrialists invented new instruments and efficient recording techniques such as modern electrical recording appliances (Akyer, 2009). The white jazz musicians were able to efficiently record some original work and compositions meant for jazz professionals through the recording companies preferred popular artistic works to make higher profits. As time went by, the musicians adopted more sophisticated stylistic techniques notably melodies and musical harmonies.

Technological advancements created more leisure activities as the household chores were reduced by the labor-saving appliances manufactured in the industries. The industrial made appliances performed efficiently as opposed to the human workforce. The free time was utilized in leisure activities such as entertainment in the dance halls (Akyer, 2009). Moreover, the industrialists gained enormous wealth which was further invested in the lucrative jazz music industry thereby boosting the growth of the sector.

Different Cultures and White Jazz Music

America is a continent comprising of varied social-cultural traditions and beliefs. Jazz music owes its origin to activities of African-Americans musicians. The music was influenced by African cultures and rhythm. Musicians borrowed the aspect of singing through personal expressions. The American culture affected harmony and introduced the application of instruments such as trumpet, piano, and saxophone. There were rapid dance and music improvisations in the jazz music. Initially, the music was not socially accepted by the middle-class who attributed the music to deteriorating moral values in the society. Furthermore, the jazz musicians were seen as ill-trained and inexperienced. After some time, middle social classes accepted the music after white actors were used to market the music in America (Alexander, 2016). The encroachment of the new cultural changes in the society resulted in a cultural clash between the African-American traditions and the life of the middle-class white Americans.

Migration of Americans boosted the growth and expansion of the jazz music industry (Gioia, 2012). The movement of the people from the rural to urban areas and rural to rural regions had a profound effect on the jazz music industry in various ways. The concentration of many African- Americans in urban areas such as Chicago and New York area meant urban media houses staged jazz music more than suburban radio and television stations (Schuller & Rubin, 2011). The migration of the African- Americans from the southern region to the north led to the introduction of a culture of the racially discriminated society in northern America which revitalized jazz music.

New Orleans was a port city with numerous communities with several social-cultural beliefs and traditions fused to produce improvisations and swing which are the main components of jazz music (Orchoski, 2015). The beliefs of the Creole and ragtime had a profound cultural impact on the jazz music. For example, the famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong applied improvisation through the introduction of a soloist to a part of his artistic work (Akyer, 2009). Armstrong formed a band which popularized a new form of jazz music termed as scat singing.

The informal system of education contributed to the spread of white jazz music (Akyer, 2009). Musical families trained some family members how to compose and record music in order to become future musicians. Some artists such as Musician Pops Foster became famous for learning and playing homemade music appliances and instruments.

Prohibition of Alcohol in the US

Prohibition in American history denotes the period in the 1920s when trade in alcoholic beverages was illegalized (Akyer, 2009). The United States government enacted legislation that banned the manufacturing, transit, importation, exportation, and trade in all forms of alcoholic products from 1920 to 1933 (Orchoski, 2015). The ban aroused widespread fame of the jazz music, though indirectly. The citizens highly opposed the statutes through demonstrations and non-payment of taxes which culminated in a massive loss of revenue by the government (Akyer, 2009). Organized criminals started marketing alcoholic beverages in the main cities.

The ban on trade in alcohol led to the emergence of illegal bars and restaurants known as speakeasies (Gioia, 2011). The mushrooming drinking dens acted as the avenues for hosting the modern dance songs and novelty music. Majority of the clubs adhered to racial discrimination norms. There were few clubs which allowed integration of both white and black performers (Alexander, 2016). Professional musicians staged their performances in the illegal nightclubs, conference, and dancehalls. As a consequence, the music was seen as immoral, and the elderly viewed it as a threat to the traditional culture and attributed the music to societal moral decadence.

The national public debates on jazz-fueled more popularity on the music. Academicians started criticizing the music. Distinguished Professor Henry Van Dyke of Princeton University said "...it is not music at all (Gioia, 2011). It`s merely an irritation of the nerves of hearing and a sensual teasing of the strings of physical passion." The media wrote negatively about jazz music. The New York Times used propaganda to denigrate the music. The paper, for example, claimed that a conductor had died of cardiac arrest caused by jazz music (Schuller & Rubin 2011). The newspaper further highlighted that the Siberians had applied jazz music to scare wild bears from their farms whereas they had used utensils such as pots.

The Mass Media and White Jazz Music

White jazz music was popular on the upcoming radio stations as the white artists used the stations to popularize their artistic work (Gioia, 2011). There was racial segregation at the time, and many radio stations declined stage performances by black artists. The widespread popularity of white jazz music was partially attributed to the revolution in mass communication. The radio and television stations enabled many persons to economically access jazz music. The music was partially free and accessible, unlike the live performances which were costly and in the far city dance conferences (Alexander, 2016). The radio broadcasts had headquarters in the major urban areas such as New York, Kansas City, Chicago and Los Angeles. The media houses performed both concert music staged by volunteers and band music acted by music professionals in the live stages in the nightclubs and dancehalls.

The radio stations and television in the urban areas played white jazz music more than the stations in the sub-metropolitan region. The high density of population caused the high number of audience in the cities. There was a high concentration of African Americans in such areas than in the suburbs (Gioia, 2011). The famous big jazz bands such as those of Musician James Reese Europe and Fletcher Henderson attracted enormous radio passive and active audiences.

Revolt of Traditional Culture

Jazz music was a genre of the youth due to its syncopation nature. The youth rebelled against the old cultural order (Schuller & Rubin 2011). Music by musicians such as Charleston rapidly became popular among the youth. The conservationists were concerned about the cultural changes in the society notably smoking of cigarettes and cigars by females, casual discussions about sexual behavior and upcoming jazz radio programs. The traditionalists viewed the social changes as causes of societal moral decadence (Orchoski, 2015). Some middle-class Americans viewed the rhythms of jazz music as causes of high cases of promiscuity among the youth. The old generation viewed jazz music as a moral disaster that was blamed for all social evils bedeviling the society. Despite such notions, jazz was popular among the youth who wanted to break from the old age traditions of their ancestors.

Jazz music was appealing to the youth who were escaping from the American rural setups. Jazz venues were found in many urban areas such as Chicago and New York (Gioia, 2011). A philosopher noted that "in fashion would, sooner or later, be defined as jazz." Jazz phenomena occurred in both suburbs and urban environments where the young generation performed all types of "immoralities" such as smoking, drinking, driving fast, among other "dirty" behaviors.

Role of Women

The jazz music industry enabled females of all age groups avenue for revolt and provision for employment in the entertainment industry thereby revitalizing the white jazz music. The females needed liberation from the male chauvinism, and therefore jazz provided ample avenue for rebellion in several parameters (Gioia, 2011). They were free to attend dances in the nightclubs and dancehalls that accorded them more freedom in the dress code, communication etiquette, and personal character. The females adopted new hairstyles and wore short garments caused by the disillusionment of First World War experiences. Jazz music became very popular among women due to the encouragement of promiscuity as a result of full improvisational nature of the songs. The elderly persons rejected jazz music industry and viewed it as immoral and root for social immorality. On the other hand, the young men and women revolted against the older generations which afforded white jazz music opportunities for growth and development.

In the jazz history, women have received less recognition as compared to the male musicians. Nevertheless, women have greatly contributed to jazz music as instrumentalists, actors, composers, music writers and band executives (Alexander, 2016). The rise of many jazz women musicians contributed to the widespread popularity of jazz music. After the end of the First world war, women started pursuing more roles in the society and in particular the entertainment industry. The women musicians capitalized on themes pertaining to gender equality.

Jazzwomen musicians included Bessie Smith who inspired other latter musicians such as Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin. Other notable female musicians included pianist Lovie Austin, Irene Higginbotham who wrote over fifty songs, Dorothy Fields who composed over four hundred lyrics of songs and pianist Li Hardin Armstrong. The female singer...

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White Jazz Music in the 1920s Essay. (2022, Mar 07). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/white-jazz-music-in-the-1920s-essay

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