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See Article History Jazz, musical formoften improvisational, developed by African Americans and influenced by both European harmonic structure and African rhythms.
It was developed partially from ragtime and blues and is often characterized by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, often deliberate deviations of pitch, and the use of original timbres. Any attempt to arrive at a precise, all-encompassing definition of jazz is probably futile.
Jazz has been, from its very beginnings at the turn of the 20th century, a constantly evolving, expanding, changing music, passing through several distinctive phases of development; a definition that might apply to one phase—for instance, to New Orleans style or swing —becomes inappropriate when applied to another segment of its history, say, to free jazz.
Early attempts to define jazz as a music whose chief characteristic was improvisationfor example, turned out to be too restrictive and largely untrue, since compositionarrangementand ensemble have also been essential components of jazz for most of its history.
Similarly, syncopation and swing, often considered essential and unique to jazz, are in fact lacking in much authentic jazz, whether of the s or of later decades. Again, the long-held notion that swing could not occur without syncopation was roundly disproved when trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Bunny Berigan among others frequently generated enormous swing while playing repeated, unsyncopated quarter notes.
Jazz, in fact, is not—and never has been—an entirely composed, predetermined music, nor is it an entirely extemporized one. For almost all of its history it has employed both creative approaches in varying degrees and endless permutations. And yet, despite these diverse terminological confusions, jazz seems to be instantly recognized and distinguished as something separate from all other forms of musical expression.
Most early classical composers such as Aaron CoplandJohn Alden Carpenter —and even Igor Stravinskywho became smitten with jazz were drawn to its instrumental sounds and timbres, the unusual effects and inflections of jazz playing brass mutes, glissandos, scoops, bends, and stringless ensemblesand its syncopations, completely ignoring, or at least underappreciating, the extemporized aspects of jazz.
Indeed, the sounds that jazz musicians make on their instruments—the way they attack, inflect, release, embellish, and colour notes—characterize jazz playing to such an extent that if a classical piece were played by jazz musicians in their idiomatic phrasings, it would in all likelihood be called jazz.
Nonetheless, one important aspect of jazz clearly does distinguish it from other traditional musical areas, especially from classical music: In jazz West Africa in the American South: These elements are not precisely identifiable because they were not documented—at least not until the mid- to late 19th century, and then only sparsely.
Furthermore, black slaves came from diverse West African tribal cultures with distinct musical traditions. Thus, a great variety of black musical sensibilities were assembled on American soil.
These in turn rather quickly encountered European musical elements—for example, simple dance and entertainment musics and shape-note hymn tunessuch as were prevalent in early 19th-century North America.
The music that eventually became jazz evolved out of a wide-ranging, gradually assimilated mixture of black and white folk musics and popular styles, with roots in both West Africa and Europe. It is only a slight oversimplification to assert that the rhythmic and structural elements of jazz, as well as some aspects of its customary instrumentation e.
Nevertheless, jazz syncopation struck nonblack listeners as fascinating and novel, because that particular type of syncopation was not present in European classical music.
The syncopations in ragtime and jazz were, in fact, the result of reducing and simplifying over a period of at least a century the complex, multilayered, polyrhythmic, and polymetric designs indigenous to all kinds of West African ritual dance and ensemble music.
In other words, the former accentuations of multiple vertically competing metres were drastically simplified to syncopated accents. The provenance of melody tune, theme, motive, riff in jazz is more obscure.
In all likelihood, jazz melody evolved out of a simplified residue and mixture of African and European vocal materials intuitively developed by slaves in the United States in the s and s—for example, unaccompanied field hollers and work songs associated with the changed social conditions of blacks.
The widely prevalent emphasis on pentatonic formations came primarily from West Africa, whereas the diatonic and later more chromatic melodic lines of jazz grew from late 19th- and early 20th-century European antecedents.
Harmony was probably the last aspect of European music to be absorbed by blacks. But once acquired, harmony was applied as an additional musical resource to religious texts; one result was the gradual development of spiritualsborrowing from the white religious revival meetings that African Americans in many parts of the South were urged to attend.
This scale is neither particularly African nor particularly European but acquired its peculiar modality from pitch inflections common to any number of West African languages and musical forms.
In effect these highly expressive—and in African terms very meaningful—pitch deviations were superimposed on the diatonic scale common to almost all European classical and vernacular music. That jazz developed uniquely in the United States, not in the Caribbean or in South America or any other realm to which thousands of African blacks were also transported is historically fascinating.
Many blacks in those other regions were very often emancipated by the early s and thus were free individuals who actively participated in the cultural development of their own countries. In the case of Brazil, blacks were so geographically and socially isolated from the white establishment that they simply were able to retain their own African musical traditions in a virtually pure form.
It is thus ironic that jazz would probably never have evolved had it not been for the slave trade as it was practiced specifically in the United States.
Jazz grew from the African American slaves who were prevented from maintaining their native musical traditions and felt the need to substitute some homegrown form of musical expression. American slaves, by contrast, were restricted not only in their work conditions and religious observances but in leisure activities, including music making.Perfunctory mini-biography ( pages) that's more like an introduction than a real biography.
If you only want to know the basic facts of Parker's life, with no depth or analysis, then this is for you. JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources.
What is Jazz? Here are some (attributed) answers from the best and most influential Jazz musicians of all time: OK, OK, that probably didn't help much, but . Jazz has left a deep impression in music. Improvised and/or extended solos are the primary example of this. Jazz also contributed to the development of musical instruments, most famously the modern drum set, which was largely developed by early jazz musicians.
Journals in JSTOR Date Range Aboriginal History. Jazz: Jazz, musical form, often improvisational, developed by African Americans and influenced by both European harmonic structure and African rhythms. It is often characterized by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, and the use of original timbres.
Learn more about its history and prominent musicians.