Cover image for Jazz in American culture
Title:
Jazz in American culture
Author:
Townsend, Peter, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
x, 193 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781578063239

9781578063246
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library ML3918.J39 T69 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

Delivers a persuasive appreciation of what jazz is & how the music permeated American culture.


Summary

The family of musical styles known as jazz came into being around 1900 as several popular black musical idioms coalesced. This free-flowing, spontaneous music based in improvisation emerged primarily from ragtime and the blues. But jazz did not remain solely in the domain of American music, for very quickly it swept through virtually all of the national culture as fiction, poetry, film, photography, painting, and classical music came under its spell. If it's art that expresses a nation's essence best, then jazz set America's tempo and afforded an artistic pattern for modernism.

In this book for the nonspecialist Peter Townsend shows how during an entire century jazz has appeared in a wide diversity of times and places and in many different cultural settings.

He reveals how jazz surfaced early in America's movies ( The Jazz Singer , Strike Up the Band , Orchestra Wives , Blues in the Night ) and how it became an aesthetic model serious composers (George Gershwin, Aaron Copland) did not miss. Jazz has punctuated literary fiction (Ralph Ellison, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison) and American poetry (William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Percy Johnson). Jazz influenced painting (Jackson Pollock, Romare Bearden, Stuart Davis, Archibald Motley, and Jimmy Ernst), and several photographers have devoted their careers to documenting jazz performers and their music scene (William Claxton, William Gottlieb, Roy De Carava, Carol Reiff).

Townsend probes the deep-rooted mythology that holds jazz as indefinable, unteachable, and instinctive with blacks but tough for whites and that its birthplace was New Orleans brothels, that its musicians live tragic lives, and that jazz is dominated by males and despises whiffs of the mainstream.

As modernism swayed to the tempos of jazz and adapted to its modes, the once clearly defined lines of demarcation faded and jazz became well established as one of the great musical cultures of the world.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

For viewers of Ken Burns' recent TV documentary Jazz who came away from the program feeling--as many critics did--that the series raised more questions about jazz history, theory, and performers than it answered, these two upcoming books will provide challenging and informative accounts of the amorphous musical culture called jazz. Townsend's book is perhaps best suited to the casual reader, providing a detailed account of the history and theory of jazz music that is broad and deep but still greatly accessible. He explains the key elements of rhythm, harmony, and improvisation that define the music; the introduction of the jazz solo and famous soloists; and the "swing era," which brought the music to the forefront of popular music in the 1930s and 1940s. He then departs on an exploration of jazz's broader role in American culture--its reflection in other art forms and its influence on nonmusical art forms such as literature, film, and dance. Such theoretical discussions of jazz have often left the casual reader behind, but Townsend's discussion of jazz's influences on writers such as Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac are enlightening and accessible. Townsend challenges the curious reader to go beyond a traditional understanding of what music is and does and look at it in a broader social context. A broader theoretical examination of African American music is at the heart of editor Conyers' collection of essays. A variety of writers contribute to Conyers' theme that jazz, like the rap music that succeeded it, is an indigenous American folk music whose innovative use of melody and rhythm places it in the echelon of great art. The essays examine jazz history, unsung performers and their instruments, jazz culture in the U.S. and abroad, and, most of all, the greater political and economic significance of jazz in American history. This collection makes the argument that both jazz and rap have had to confront the conflicting demands of art and commerce and both are struggling to maintain their artistic (and political) credentials in the face of the vulgar demands of the marketplace. --Ted Leventhal


Publisher's Weekly Review

In the spirit of scholarly enthusiasm, Peter Townsend (not of Who fame) delivers a thoughtful, historical analysis in Jazz in American Culture. He argues that jazz is a culture unto itself, complex and influential. In chapters such as "Jazz As Aesthetic Model" and "Jazz As Myth," Townsend explores the music's status as "culture" via its various spheres of influence. And, of course, there are leading roles and cameos by jazz superstars like Lester Young and Charlie Parker, as well as genre-crossing discussions of artists such as Jackson Pollock and Stuart Davis. ( Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

For viewers of Ken Burns' recent TV documentary Jazz who came away from the program feeling--as many critics did--that the series raised more questions about jazz history, theory, and performers than it answered, these two upcoming books will provide challenging and informative accounts of the amorphous musical culture called jazz. Townsend's book is perhaps best suited to the casual reader, providing a detailed account of the history and theory of jazz music that is broad and deep but still greatly accessible. He explains the key elements of rhythm, harmony, and improvisation that define the music; the introduction of the jazz solo and famous soloists; and the "swing era," which brought the music to the forefront of popular music in the 1930s and 1940s. He then departs on an exploration of jazz's broader role in American culture--its reflection in other art forms and its influence on nonmusical art forms such as literature, film, and dance. Such theoretical discussions of jazz have often left the casual reader behind, but Townsend's discussion of jazz's influences on writers such as Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac are enlightening and accessible. Townsend challenges the curious reader to go beyond a traditional understanding of what music is and does and look at it in a broader social context. A broader theoretical examination of African American music is at the heart of editor Conyers' collection of essays. A variety of writers contribute to Conyers' theme that jazz, like the rap music that succeeded it, is an indigenous American folk music whose innovative use of melody and rhythm places it in the echelon of great art. The essays examine jazz history, unsung performers and their instruments, jazz culture in the U.S. and abroad, and, most of all, the greater political and economic significance of jazz in American history. This collection makes the argument that both jazz and rap have had to confront the conflicting demands of art and commerce and both are struggling to maintain their artistic (and political) credentials in the face of the vulgar demands of the marketplace. --Ted Leventhal


Publisher's Weekly Review

In the spirit of scholarly enthusiasm, Peter Townsend (not of Who fame) delivers a thoughtful, historical analysis in Jazz in American Culture. He argues that jazz is a culture unto itself, complex and influential. In chapters such as "Jazz As Aesthetic Model" and "Jazz As Myth," Townsend explores the music's status as "culture" via its various spheres of influence. And, of course, there are leading roles and cameos by jazz superstars like Lester Young and Charlie Parker, as well as genre-crossing discussions of artists such as Jackson Pollock and Stuart Davis. ( Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


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