Sample Music Culture Paper of jazz music
Jazz enthusiasts consider New Orleans, United States, as the birthplace of jazz music. Perhaps, this consideration is one of the reasons why New Orleans boasts of outdoor and street jazz concerts, with each corner artist having a unique blend of the genres, particularly in the French Quarter (Chinen). While the bulk of jazz music, particularly in America, was composed in English, different iterations of jazz exist today due to the spread of the jazz culture into other countries whose citizens are not native English speakers. The pursuit for this genre of music keeps growing by the day. Most of the iterations have moved from the traditional jazz, as introduced by the African slaves during the era of slavery in America, to use native language and fuse the instrumentation with others.
Jazz has a rich history, starting from the late 19thcentury, at a time when America openly practiced slavery. Slaves had arrived in America from Africa, bringing with them a strong musical tradition. They fused European and American classical music forms into their songs, which were primarily influenced by the traditional African music back in their native land, to come up with jazz music (Gioia). At the time, the African slaves ‘preformed’ the music on the streets with crude musical instruments, including the banjo, and other improvised music instruments, such as kick drums. According to Gioia, during these largely ritualized performances, the slaves would dance in rings/circles, following a call and response method of singing, later known as ring shout.
The performances formed the early beginnings of jazz, which paved the way for modern jazz music culture. As a port city, New Orleans was, especially, a point of confluence for different cultures. Therefore, residents of the city had access to the best cultural and musical diversity from around the world, including European classical music and American blues, in addition to South American songs and rhythm (Chinen; Gioia). The infusion of different music from different cultures ideally brought jazz to life, and while the open dances disappeared, especially after the American Civil War, a new form of music came into being. Essentially, one of the most prominent features of jazz is its focus on improvisation, a trend that originated from Louis Armstrong, who is regarded as the initiator of improvisation of modern jazz (Gioia). Armstrong’s spontaneous performances and on-the-spot improvisations inspired many other musicians to take up jazz, infusing their performances with their styles. With the development of early recording of music in the 30s and 40s, jazz found its way out of New Orleans through the radio audience.
The increasing popularity of jazz attracted more people to it, and as a result, big bands began performing. The big bands hinged on improvisation, and through such opportunities, Bebop, which was a style developed by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, developed (Gioia). The new style was an onomatopoeic reference to the rhythmic punches in the music. Moreover, Bebop’s intellectual take and sophistication set the standard for future jazz musicians. When jazz began taking in more cultural influences, it infused with other music genres from around the world to form the different sub-groups that exist today, such as acid, rap, cool, soul, mainstream, and smooth jazz, among others.
The instruments used vary depending upon the varying styles of jazz that resulted from the combination and influence of different cultures and music genres. Each band or individual jazz artist uses different instruments in the composition and playing of the music. However, even in their variations, jazz artists use some common instruments such as horns, consisting of saxophones and other brass instruments (first section). Horns are instruments that produce sound when air is blown through their mouthpiece. In essence, the alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone are some of the most common horns used in jazz. The baritone is the largest and produces the lowest notes, while the alto is the smallest but produces the highest notes. Apart from the horns, there are rhythm (second section) instruments, which include the guitar, piano, and percussion (Gioia). For the percussion, the main instruments used include snare, bass drums, and cymbals.
Jazz concerts/performances are among the most interesting. The distinctiveness comes from the fact that while the audience of other music genres usually stand and even dance during concerts, the audience in jazz concerts is usually seated. One of the most interesting concerts was Marcus Miller’s concert held at the Catalina’s Jazz Club. As the lead, Miller played both the jazz bass guitar and the trumpet. He interestingly is a good vocalist, and provided the vocals for the song “Boomerang” from his album M2. As an original composer of the song, as well as the arrangement, Marcus Miller truly represented the improvisation, which is the hallmark of jazz music and music culture. Along with Miller were Raul Midon, Stanley Clarke, and Victor Wooten. At the concert, Midon was a vocalist, especially for the song “State of Mind.” It was especially breathtaking to watch Midon make sounds with his mouth, attesting to the fact that jazz is indeed music based on improvisation. Clarke played the electric bass, and delivered a good performance. What was especially interesting is his work on the cello, which he played not only with the bow, but also plucked it as a guitar with amazing results. This is even as Wooten played the bass guitar. Alex Han, a 20-year old, played the saxophone, rivaling many of the expert jazz artists. While Lee Hogans played the trumpet, Brett Williams work on the double keyboard was especially fascinating. Adam Agati and Ronald Bruner, Jr. played the electric guitar and drums respectively, making up the rest of the band’s members. While Miller played the bass, other members of the band also played, but with focus on him. However, at some point during the performance, Miller stood back and offered other instrumentalists an opportunity to play, with a focus on the instruments they were playing. Thus, Wooten, Clarke, and Han took a center stage at the concert.
My experience with jazz especially at the concert was more than an awakening. It allowed me to experience some of the biggest and best jazz musicians in the world. Marcus Miller, having played with Miles Davis, was an inspiration. Perhaps more interesting was Stanley Clarke’s work on the cello. The fact that he could both bow and pluck the instrument added to the fascination and enjoyment of the concert and my experience with jazz music.
Jazz is an uplifting genre of music, and the fact that it allows improvisation makes it not only interesting but also enjoyable. This is among the features that endear fans to the genre. The jazz music culture is also lively, and it is interesting to see improvisation live on stage, as well as the fascination of each member of a band showcasing their skill in playing an instrument. Even more interesting is the ability of jazz artists and bands to create jazz covers of popular songs, thereby giving them a new perspective and tune that one would not have thought was possible (Peters). To me, jazz, in this form of improvisation, means that I have an unlimited source of music; a feeling shared by other jazz fans. The great heritage of jazz means a lot to the fans as they can relate to the struggles and the development of the genre over the years. This makes fans feel as part of the rich heritage of jazz music. Moreover, as jazz continues to evolve as a genre of music, fans can evolve with the music and appreciate the uniqueness of the music. To jazz fans, the music is a classical form of art that embraces different cultures and music genres, bringing them together in a harmonic rhythm (Russonello). Moreover, jazz is more than just music, because it also acts as a source of education to most jazz fans. Looking at the development of jazz from its early stages at the Congo Quarter (now Louis Armstrong Square in New Orleans), jazz fans can appreciate its development, infusion of other genres, and its generous acceptance of other cultures within its ranks. The harmony of different cultures and genres in jazz is especially a symbol of unity and appreciation of the uniqueness of each culture and music genre.
Although, currently, the audience and artists playing jazz are elderly, younger people are beginning to show an interest in the genre and even learn performances. Additionally, schools are teaching jazz as part of the education curriculum, a fact that guarantees the revival of jazz in the future (Fordham). Furthermore, with advancement in technology, the production and instrumentation of jazz will have changed, 50 years from now. The changes will also affect the way people gain access to jazz music. Currently, internet technology has made it easier to find music online than before, and similar advancement will ensure that jazz fans and artists will be able to access music and reach audiences easily.
Newcomers into the world of jazz may be fascinated by the genre. However, it is important for such newcomers to know that just like other genres of music; the enjoyment of jazz is largely a matter of personal choice. The different iterations of jazz and infusions mean that individuals have a wide variety of choices. As a music culture, jazz embraces other music genres and cultures, with different jazz artists infusing their style in their performances and recordings. For this reason, newcomers should not expect a standard form of recording or performance. Additionally, contrary to the popular belief, jazz is not music for the old, because many young artists and fans play and enjoy jazz, respectively, as a music culture.
Chinen, Nate. “Jazz Fanfare for a New New Orleans.” New York Times, 2007. Accessed from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/arts/music/12chin.html.
Fordham, John. “Where It’s At.” The Guardian, 2006. Accessed from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2006/jun/23/jazz.johnfordham.
Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. Barnes and Noble, 1997. Accessed from http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/g/gioia-jazz.html.
Peters, Alexa. “8 Great Jazz Covers of Pop Songs.” Paste Magazine, 2017. Accessed from https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/02/8-jazz-covers-of-pop-songs.html.
Russonello, Giovanni. “At 30, What Does Jazz at Lincoln Center Mean?” The New York Times, 2017. Accessed from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/13/arts/music/jazz-at-lincoln-center-30th-anniversary.html.