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Ch. 02: Before It Was Jazz

A Cross-pollination of Cultures

It has been said that jazz is the only true American musical genre. Other styles, folk, country & western, pop, rock ‘n roll and musical theatre all have strong heritages to the folk, pop and stage music of Great Britain and Europe.

But it would be erroneous to present jazz as a style which had no parents. The influences of African culture, Latin American rhythms and European harmonies and song forms all played an important part in the unfolding of the style.

Whereas the exact birth time of jazz is somewhat uncertain, the birthplace can be most certainly stated as New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans, which in the late 19th century arguably was the most cosmopolitan city in America, was a fascinating cross-pollination of cultures.

Port of New Orleans, 1840s, artist: Henry Lewis

Originally settled by the French in 1718, then given to the Spanish in 1763, given back to the French in 1801, but ruled by the Spanish until France sold it to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase, New Orleans had a French-Spanish blend of cultures which made it unique from any other city in the United States.

Although slavery was a part of the culture and lifestyle of New Orleans, it is important to note that under Spanish rule, many slaves were given free status and rose to the upper levels of society, some even owning businesses and their own slaves. Also during the Spanish rule, the marriages between French or Spanish white men and light skinned women of color became common, creating an upper class called “creoles of color”, separate from both white and black cultures. These free creoles of color were raised in an elite, educated, prosperous lifestyle which included an emphasis on education, the arts and all the cultural activities that money could provide.

It is understandable, then, that the Creoles living in New Orleans in the mid-1800’s had a desire to emulate the classical arts that were then prominent in Europe, specifically Paris. In addition to their own symphony, they supported three opera houses, several schools of musical learning and dozens of private music teachers instructing in piano, violin and voice.

In addition, German and English immigrants, French-Canadians (called Acadians in Canada, shortened to Cajun in Louisiana) and Euro-French (which was the foundation of the city-based Creole, French/African, culture) also populated the area in and around New Orleans. Add the influence of the Spanish culture, the African slave trade and the close proximity of the Caribbean, Latin American cultures and its easy to see that New Orleans was a microcosm of almost every culture in the Western Hemisphere.

New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, April 1867 – Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

New Orleans was also a major shipping port and entry point for many of the African slave ships traveling to America in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Before landing in North America, many of the ships paused in the Caribbean islands with the purpose of allowing the African slaves to acclimatize before continuing on to various ports in North America. While in these island ports, the influence of Spanish culture was fused into their way of life. During these stops, the slaves heard rhythms and tasted food which they then brought to their final destination.

This is not to say that while in Africa they did not have their own indigenous music. Music, in fact, was an integral part of their lives. The celebrations of life, the stories of tribal history, and the passages of life and death were all recorded in songs and chants. Music was not so much a diversion as a basic element of life. Music was not an artistic activity of the select, it was a communal function of the many.


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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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