Jazz music was borrowing rhythms from African music, especially drumming, and inventing new forms. New Orleans was the epicenter of invention with blues, spirituals, ragtime, marches, and Tin Pan Alley sounds. InNew Orleans set aside an area of parkland called Congo Square for African dance and informal music improvisation. That was seed ground for many jazz musicians and performers and served as an important early venue for one of New Orleans' most famous exports, the wholly American art form called jazz.
Pre Though jazz and classic blues are really early twentieth-century black music innovations, certain characteristics found in jazz do have their roots in much earlier musical traditions.
Call and response, improvisation, the appropriation and reinvention of elements from Western art music: For instance, the era American historians call "antebellum" roughly holds much of interest to researchers looking for the deep roots of jazz.
There was one condition that had to be met for a black tradition unique to North America to develop. There had to be a creole population in place, i.
Historically, and for various complicated reasons, slaves in the United States began reproducing their numbers after the closing of the African slave trade in The creole birthrate actually climbed in the United States, as opposed to most Latin and Caribbean American colonies.
Unlike in Brazil or Cuba direct African infusions into black American culture were much less pronounced in the early and middle nineteenth-century.
Afterblacks in North America began remembering--as well as forgetting--African musical traditions, reinventing them to fit their needs in an entirely different American context.
This is an important thing to remember, especially if you hold with Amiri Baraka that "Blues People" have always been curiously American "Negroes. That is to say, depending on the region and the demands of the musical audience--whether it be fellow slaves or plantation-owners--the music varied from place to place.
These instances of black music-making were largely produced by and for a black slave community that understood the significance of the music in ways that whites never could. Scholars have often noted the hidden meaning of field hollers and the significance of the drums to communication between various slave groups.
The drums were even banned in the British Caribbean. He would play his violin with other slaves to entertain plantation misters and mistresses at quadrilles and fancy balls. Others slave musicians would play at the so-called quadroon balls, New Orleans galas where light-skinned slave women were auctioned off to the highest bidder.
There were striking similarities between these balls and the Storyville milieu where Jelly Roll Morton learned to entertain prostitutes and their patrons. Despite the fact that the vast majority of blacks lived in the South, there were some freemen and women in the North.
Indeed, they even had their own autonomous cultural venues, like the African Grove theater in New York City. But perhaps an even more important agent in spreading black musical style to the North during the first half of the nineteenth century was minstrelsy.
The show became increasingly formalized after the Christie Minstrels devised a much-imitated structure for it in the s and 50s. Two ubiquitous components of this structure were the Stephen Foster songs and a generic instrumentation including banjoes, "bones" jawbones scraped together for percussive effectfiddle, and tambourine.
Minstresly had of course a more spurious connection to black musical traditions than did, say, the spirituals. But it should be remembered that most Northern minstrels did go to great lengths to acknowledge the black stevedores or plantation slaves from whom they had stolen their material.
This sort of Love and Theft, according to Eric Lott, set a precedent for a whole tradition of blackface in America where white performers would borrow lovingly, profitably, and heavily from black musical styles, from Dan Rice to Elvis.
Though the minstrel show declined in popularity during the s, blackface has retained a unique place in American culture. When the Fisk Jubilee Singers--a black gospel group from the first all-black university--showed up in New York in the s to try and raise money for their troubled institution some audience members were disappointed, expecting them to sing a bit more like the minstrels did.
|Where to Celebrate the History of American Jazz | Travel | Smithsonian||What Thomas Dorsey and his friends kept as the defining attributes of gospel music - the call-and-response format, ample room for improvisation, rhythm, frequent use of the flatted seventh and third in melodies - remain true even today. The elements introduced by later musical forms, such as close harmonies barbershop quartetsa sense of professionalism jubilee quartetsshowmanship minstrelsythe regular use of an aab rhyming scheme, and a pronounce beat the blues all endure, but are tacked on the spine of the original spirituals, which are for the most part irrevocably linked to their African forebears".|
Indeed, blacks entering show business from the s on often had no choice but to enter it as minstrels. As it turned out, white audiences after the Civil War preferred black minstrels--or blacks in blackface--considering them the "genuine" article.
The irony is, of course, that blacks in blackface had to perform a stereotype of themselves contributing to the construction of pervasive stereotypes of black people based on apocryphal happy-go-lucky "Jim Crow" and "dandy" plantation types.
Despite the more troubling aspects of minstrelsy, it was another place where European and African traditions met and mingled in a heady, racist, and decidedly American stew. It is also the place where many jazz performers including, for one, Bessie Smith got their start.
Some form of music shaped by the black experience in the United States had appeared in both the South and the North by the time of the Civil War.
Likewise, New Orleans--being the center of the American slave trade--had already taken on special significance in the history of black music-making in America.
Near the New Orleans slave market, the hub of the interstate slave exchange, blacks continued to meet on or around Congo square, under the supervision of their masters to sell their wares, exchange information, and dance to drums that Lundy sketched in his diary and claimed were straight from Africa.
Another white observer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk--Americas foremost composer, inter-American cultural diplomat, and piano virtuoso of the s-claimed that he grew up in the shadow of Congo Square. In what is probably his most famous composition, Gottschalk sketches for us an interpretation of another African instrument retained and reinvented by blacks in America.
He called this composition "The Banjo. Though we have checked our facts, this timeline may contain erroneous information.The history of the music echoes the history of twentieth-century America. Jazz provided the background for the giddy era that F.
Scott Fitzgerald called the Jazz Age. The irresistible pulse of big-band swing lifted the spirits and boosted American morale during the Great Depression and World War II/5(). The Scholastic History of Jazz resource site is full of audio clips, history, and research starters on the subject of jazz.
Join Grammy-Award winning trumpeter and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis on a tour of jazz — see the people, read about the events, and listen to the music.
The late 19th century and early 20th century was an era that the American popular music was able to achieve a much greater international acclaim. Minstrel songs, ragtime songs and the African American songs of the 19th century played a major role in shaping the American Music scene and infl.
The classic blues came to draw more readily and obviously on other forms of music--from the jazz world (with many musicians beginning to perform in both the blues and jazz genre) as well as from minstrel shows, circuses, vaudeville, and other sources of traveling music in the South.
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