Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jazz In Print (1856-1929)

Jazz in Print is not, as its title might suggest, a bibliography of writings about jazz.  It is instead a collection of full text articles from newspapers and magazines (both popular and scholarly) that demonstrate the reception and understanding of African-American vernacular music in American society through the year 1929.

Jazz is a genre that came of age during the early years of sound recording.  The history we best know is the history we can hear.  Jazz in Print helps to document the prehistory of jazz by reprinting writings about the work and recreation music of American slaves, and about musical forms like minstrelsy, blues, and spirituals.

Beginning with ragtime at the turn of the 20th century ragtime and later jazz becomes a subject of dispute among musicians and critics. While the writings here demonstrate a "culture war" between classical music and jazz, the majority of the articles show a strong appreciation for jazz in American musical life.

Some entries are sensational ("Musician is driven to suicide by jazz" (177)  or "Shady dance steps barred by police" (214)).  Several were written by noted composers or critics like Leopold Godowsky (194), Darius Milhaud (234; 358), Virgil Thomson (342), Serge Koussevitzky (365).  In a 1924 symposium among a number of America's musical leaders asks "Where is Jazz leading America?," the The √Čtude reminds us that their magazine "does not endorse jazz, by discussing it."  There is also a  exchange of viewpoints in Forum magazine between George Antheil ("Jazz is Music" July 1928) and Sigmund Spaeth ("Jazz is Not Music" August 1928).

Jazz in Print provides an illuminating timeline that shows both the evolving influence of African-American music upon American popular culture and reaction of the cultural mainstream to this influence.

 The book concludes with an index of the names mentioned in the text.

Jazz in Print (1856-1929): An Anthology of Selected Early Readings in Jazz History, edited by Karl Koenig (Pendragon Press, 2002).

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