jazz essay

History of jazz numbers many decades. During the long time of its development jazz has repeatedly died, was reborn, experiencing crisis processes, causes and development of which are unexpected, and sometimes not even clear, and not always investigated and disclosed with sufficient completeness in its native land in the United States. This is understandable, because the development of jazz, one of the symptomatic phenomena of art of XX century, reflected many problems that have troubled people for many centuries: escalation of social and class conflicts, growth of self-awareness of oppressed nations and peoples, issues of spirituality and morality in bourgeois society. It goes without the saying that there exist many social and political issues that have shaped and influenced jazz and blues, and their musical off shoots. Thus, the main aim of this project is to dwell on racial issues with more details, for the purpose of to understand the limits of their influence on jazz.

Nowadays, as much as previously, the ways of jazz development are inseparable from the evolution of views on race issues. In the twentieth century, America has made significant efforts to reduce ethnic tensions, but the relevance of racial differences has not been removed yet. We are going to draw a panoramic view of American research literature on racial identity by means of musical creativity since the analysis of the spectrum of problems contributes to better understanding of the processes of jazz music existence. This primarily will focus on studies that reveal the social and racial components of the development of associated African-American culture.

First of all it is necessary to mention that a creation of own music let the oppressed black population to show with full force their vast natural creative abilities, which led to a rise in its spirit and identity. For instance, tremendous tension in the perception of race relations is evident in the biographies of famous jazz musicians, among whom we would like to highlight Miles Davis (1926-1991), who was a witness and direct participant in a number of unpleasant incidents directly linked to racial segregation (Floyd, 1995). It is important to take into account the fact that the younger generation of ‘black’ jazz musicians grew up in a very different America, and this generation knows about the past of their country only from the stories of parents, evidence of the social environment and historical literature. However, echoes of racial tensions do not go by themselves, their presence is still acute in the African-American culture and ethnicity.

Ray Pratt, the author of the study “Rhythm and Resistance: Explorations in the Political Uses of Popular Music”, expressed on this issue as follows: black slaves adapted elements of the culture of those who dominate them, to find identity, or at least recover as much as possible parts of their authentic culture, which were destroyed by the experience of forced exile from the African country (Pratt, 1990). Scott Deveaux, a specialist from Philadelphia University, in his turn formulated more concrete and rigid view. Deveaux retorted, recognizing the status of classical music with jazz, that jazz music openly acknowledges its duty not to Europe but to Africa (Deveaux, 1998).

Analyzing the U.S. research literature on jazz music, and the ways racial issues have influenced it, written by ‘white’ and ‘black’ authors, one can easily trace the boundaries which moved different researchers by various sides of the barricades (of course, the speech is going about race issues). If the ‘white’ authors connect jazz’s problems with the music and aesthetic categories, the ‘black’ critics and commentators always connect the question of jazz music with various cluttered racial connotations. Thinking about this situation, it seems that African-American researchers are interested to create a model that represents the entire ‘black’ culture in terms of opposition: a priority is given to finding or creating artificial contexts, differentiating the ‘black’ and ‘white’.

It is undoubtful fact that jazz music was greatly influenced by various social and political issues, and awareness of this fact allows researchers to identify three main forms of creative realization in jazz – improvisation, arrangement and composing activities. In the frames of hot debates about race and authenticity, jazz acts as an inclusive process that allows each musician to develop a unique, individual style. Improvisation and performance style – are the factors by which jazz is a living musical genre, which continues to attract new generations. Jazz music is synonymous with freedom not only for its performers, who are free to improvise and create constantly, playing any tune, but also for its audience. That is why this particular musical direction was banned by some totalitarian regimes. In 2012, a general understanding, international cooperation, freedom of thought and active cultural interaction becomes even more necessary than previously, and jazz seems to fully reflect these values.

In conclusion, we have observed racial issue and its influence on the jazz, as well as proved that the development of jazz was highly burdened by racial, social and self-identification components in its historic homeland.

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