13 October 2009

Ideas from watching Jazz by Ken Burns

First off... see previous post regarding how Jazz is truly American Patriotic Music.


I find it interesting how much Jazz really really really drives home that race is an issue in America. To be fair, you can't talk about the music without race as a factor in the discussion. But the way Burns does it, he almost goes over the top... but just as he's about to go too far, he dials it back. That and the musicians involved are so damn amazing that their genius is undeniable.

And that's what he's trying to drive to, at least as far as I can tell... he's driving to the idea that Jazz transcends races, it was started by Blacks in New Orleans, but has transformed and reshaped itself into a truly American concept. If anything, Jazz was the true mechanism by which Black culture pushed through and shifted American ideas to meet its own nature and in doing so, shape America unlike just about anything else.

Jazz is everything... and it is nothing. It is just music after all. But saying that is like saying that Jerusalem is just a city. Jazz has shifted the world musically unlike anything that had come before since the ideas of Beethoven. Jazz pushed music to places no one had thought to go, as an expression ultimately of freedom from the constraints of what has come before and the tyranny of what comes next. Jazz is the ultimate expression of NOW.

Everything American about music stems from Jazz. It pushed the boundaries of what came before and opened the world to a truly new idea.

That being said... just because its truly American doesn't mean it is evil imperialism. If anything, its the idea of what people really felt America as an ideal always has been... freedom of ideas and innovation of a concept beyond constraints seen before. That idea has been lost some how, buried under the reality of who is expressing the ideas and their inability to listen to one side or another. Jazz, in an odd way reflects that as well. Its been divided into intense schools since Bop punched Swing in the chest and pushed the music ever forward in the 40's and 50's.

Jazz is a reflection of America as a concept, an ideal, a history, and is the musical landscape that shaped the 20th Century.

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