Wednesday, May 12, 2010

History: Forget Making a Scene, it's Time for a New Art Form

I've written about the history of punk rock but now it's time to broaden musical horizons. Time for the history of the "great American art form" - Jazz.

What's odd is that while jazz is decidedly American it turns out not to be very popular in America. In Why Americans Don't Like Jazz Dyske Suematsu lists several reasons. He points out that to enjoy instrumental music you have to be able to abstract art. As a lover of instrumental works I completely agree. There's nothing wrong with a good ballad but I can get as lost in a work with no words in it at all. Yet many people seem unable to listen to a melody. And as he points out, to a non-English speaker all music with English singing is instrumental music. Which may be why jazz is more popular outside of its birthplace. Not that Dyske's ideas haven't been challenged.

Jazz itself, currently popular or not, has a rich history. There are many sites that try and explain the origins of jazz and capture the people and energy that created it. Most of these are short on content and long on adds and other links. Two do stand out but for different reasons.

A Passion for Jazz! has a great deal of information on a number of topics involving jazz. It's easy to get lost for a while reading and exploring but it doesn't quite let it all coalesce into a coherent history or story.

A History of Jazz Music is the online copy of a book by Piero Scaruffi. As a book concentrating on the history and evolution of jazz it helps put everything into perspective over time. But it doesn't meander into other topics involving jazz.

Together they help put together the story of jazz. Now we just have to figure out how to get people to listen. Any thoughts?

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