Headphones & Stereos: The Origins of Jazz
Jazz is a musical art form that most people are familiar with to some extent. Despite this familiarity, it is difficult to define jazz due to its complexity. Many experts and jazz musicians often disagree on any one strict definition, although many feel that it is one of, if not the, only true art form developed specifically in North America. The origin of jazz dates back as far as the beginning of the 20th century, around 1900, but its influences can be traced back to earlier music styles centered primarily around African-Americans. Although African-Americans were the predominate force behind its creation, it blends elements of both African-American and European music styles. The birth of what is known as jazz took place in 1900. Many believe that it occurred in New Orleans, but it was a musical style that was also found in other areas, such as Chicago, at the time. Today, jazz has grown and branched off into many different styles and interpretations. Often jazz is combined, or fused, with other music forms. These forms of jazz include Latin jazz, smooth jazz, and acid jazz. Jazz music's development and growth has come a long way from its pre-jazz origins to today's distinctive styles.
Field Hollers & Spirituals
Some of the earliest forms of music to contribute to jazz date back to slavery. During the years prior to the Civil War, enslaved Africans often sang a type of work song as they labored in the fields. These songs were actually shouts, or "hollers," and did not involve instrumental music of any kind. Originally field hollers were a reminder of the homes from which they were stolen. As time passed, it became a method of communication as slaves were unable to talk with one another while on the fields. It was a way of expressing thirst, hunger, sorrow, and simply coping with the hardship and demands of their existence as slaves. It is often referred to as a type of "call and response." Field hollers were often very synchronized and rhythmic. Spirituals also developed during the days of slavery. These were songs where slaves were able to sing as they worked on the field. They were also sung as a way to uplift the spirit from the despair of slavery. Spirituals were often religious expressions that slaves created from the teachings of Christianity. Songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “Wade in the Water” are still remembered today.
Ragtime was one of the later precursors to jazz. It first appeared as a musical form in the late 19th century, just prior to jazz. Its origins centered around red-light districts in Missouri and was created and popularized by African-American pianists. It is strongly influenced by African music and is recognizable by its syncopated sound. This syncopation is one of the ragtime features that influenced the sounds associated with jazz. Ragtime was most popular in states such as Louisiana and Missouri. It was also wildly popular oversees in Paris and London. Like jazz, ragtime is a completely American form of music. One of the leading names associated with this form of music was the composer Scott Joplin. As jazz became increasingly more popular, ragtime's popularity began to fade.
A band that is made up of performers using brass instruments such as trombones, saxophones, trumpets, tuba, and percussion instruments are known as brass bands. There are several different types of brass bands, but the type most closely associated with jazz music is the New Orleans brass bands. These bands play a combination of West African folk and European music and date back to the late 19th century. New Orleans jazz funerals are a well-recognized use of these types of bands.
Blues are a music genre that is nearly as popular, and just as recognizable, as jazz music itself. It's roots are embedded in slavery and the field holler and is predominately associated with the South. The Blues date back to the late 19th century and have developed into or influenced some of the world's most popular forms of music such as rhythm and blues (R&B), rock and roll and jazz. There have been several different forms of the blues over the years, including the Chicago blues, Delta Blues, and electric blues.
- Basin Street: A website dedicated to preserving the history of Jazz music. This site concentrates primarily on the early historical period and it also features a newsletter.
- New Orleans Jazz: A website by the National Park Service. Visitors can find information about the history and culture of Jazz, as well as resources for teachers and children.
- Jazz Roots: A website dedicated to the roots of Jazz music. Features historical images, fun facts, information on early musicians, and books.
- Red Hot Jazz Archive: The Origins of Jazz: An article that talks about the origins of Jazz music. This page explains the obscure nature of Jazz's early beginnings, as well as its roots in Louisiana and the Creole culture.
- National Museum Of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center: What is Jazz?: The Jazz section of the Smithsonian Institute website for musical history. This page offers a brief explanation of the nature and origins of Jazz music.
- Black History in America: History of Jazz: A teachers' resource by Scholastic.com. This website features an outline of Jazz history, including audio clips.
- The Jazz Foundation of America: A website for Jazz musicians. Includes a variety of resources for musicians, including jobs, help with medical care and housing, and press releases.
- A Short Blues History: A History of Rock and Roll website feature on Blues music. Includes its history, as well as information on some of the “Blues Queens”, women who contributed to the genre.
- Jazz In America: Characteristics of Ragtime: A web page dedicated to the characteristics of Ragtime Jazz. It also points out when the best years for Ragtime music were, and the reasons for its decline in popularity.
- University of Scranton: History of Blues: This web page is about the rise of Blues music. It explains the West African cultural roots of Blues music and its relations with rock music in the mid-20th century.
- Ragtime: The Music That Gave Birth To Jazz: A website that explains the origins of Ragtime music. This article discusses its connections to Jazz, and lists some major Ragtime artists.
- Institute for Jazz Studies: A University of Rutgers website dedicated to the study of Jazz music. Features the Jazz Oral History Project, a digital exhibit and an encyclopedia.
- Jazz Style Periods: A PDF article about the different styles of Jazz music. Includes information about what time periods these styles originated in.
- Jazz.com: A website dedicated to Jazz music. Features blogs, news stories, music reviews, and interviews.
- The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: The website of the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival. Visitors can find photo galleries, as well as information about schedules, the local culture, crafts and marketplaces, and hotels and accommodations.
- Jam Session Etiquette: An article by the Philly Jazz organization about rules of etiquette to observe during a jam session. It explains the difference between a jam session and sitting in, as well as information about house rules and what tunes one should choose.
- Chicago Jazz: A website for the Chicago Jazz music scene. Features musician websites, a calendar of events, music reviews, and videos.