Blog #3 Millard

What comes to mind when you hear the word Jazz?  For me; I imagine a dark smoky underground night club with a line up of musicians anywhere from ages 18 to 80.  They pick up an instrument and begin to play. Even they don’t know where the music will take them.  It is about the moment. 

However, we will never know what the original Jazz scene was like.  Due to the limitations of recorded sound at this time, we have no way of ever knowing its true form.  All we know is what was passed on to musicians through time.  While some of the earliest recordings of Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong seem authentic to the creation and growth of jazz, we have to be aware that the the industry played a major roll in shaping this genre of music.  

In Chapter 5, Millard  reminds us that in the early 1920’s,  jazz was “a carefully crafted music that was created and promoted by the industry of recorded sound.”  We have to consider what was acceptable during this time period.  The earliest jazz came out of the deep south and was formed from a mixture of blues and folk music (among other influences as well) and mostly performed by African Americans.  At the turn of the century, it was not yet socially acceptable to see any one other than white performers.  Therefore, music was adapted and covered my white men and women.  As time progressed, so did music.  With the invention of radio and recording machines.  However, the earliest recordings did not accurately represent the way jazz was during this time.  Since wax disks and cylinders were the only medium to record on, performers were stunted in order to adapt to its limitations.  

First off, as stated earlier; many artist performing jazz  were white because black performers were rarely allowed into the recording studios. Second, the recording medium wasn’t advanced enough to capture the true sound. Wax cylinders/disks were unable to pick up certain notes/frequencies therefore limiting what can be recorded.  Finally, the cylinders/disks  and 78 -rpm used to record on could only hold up to 3 minutes of  sound-constraining the true form of jazz.  The content was diluted or “white washed” to appeal to white audiences-feeling this was the target consumer. Early jazz, as we know it, was a commercialized sound created by the music industry.

Growing up on early jazz, its hard to believe what I thought I knew, wasn’t real.  Well, not that it wasn’t “real,” it wasn’t what i thought it was.  I’m conflicted. Seeing, for the first time, African American artist finally breaking through the colored barrier of the early century-I always felt this was a way to find their voice for the world to hear.  Only, it was shaped around a money making industry.  One can only wonder; if it wasn’t for all these limitations at the time, how would today’s music differ from what it is now.

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