The Worldwide Spread of Jazz Through Early Technological Innovation

The Worldwide Spread of Jazz Through Early Technological Innovation

Paige Slovacek

The origination of jazz in American culture corresponded almost exactly with the innovation and proliferation of technology worldwide. Without the early invention of such things as the gramophone and radio communication, jazz would not have had such an impression on international musical culture.

Jazz was in full swing in by the 1920s, as was the improvement and increased production of gramophones. “Jazz had entered Germany at the end of World War I and received a boost by the postwar dance craze… recordings became and additional factor during the 1920s, as gramophones improved in quality and numbers” (Harris). The following video is a brief history on gramophones and its global proliferation:

Radio was another major catalyst of the growth of jazz across borders. “In the early 1920s… the first regular radio broadcasts began in the United States. A 'radio mania' swept the nation… Other developed countries kept pace with the United States in adopting the new medium” (Harris). As a piece of inorganic technology, radio may not seem influential to music apart from making it more widely accessible. However, the evolution of radio between two separate continents is part of the reason for the difference between American and European knowledge of jazz with respect to the audience (Harris). While European nations held radio to be a publicly funded amenity, in America, true to its early capitalist ideals, commercial model private broadcast stations came to be dominant as early as the late 1920s (Harris). The following video explains the blast-off radio experienced throughout the 1920s:

Before it became a widespread, flexible art form, jazz itself has multinational parentage. “It seems in retrospect almost inevitable that America, the great ethnic melting pot, would procreate a music compounded of African rhythmic, formal, sonoric, and expressive elements and European rhythmic and harmonic practices” (Schuller). The great diversity that the United States shelters further enforces the success of the hybrid musical genre that inherently creates unease in some circles and great excitement and social involvement in others.

While jazz has certainly had a terrific influence on American culture, societies which have been exposed to the high-energy, rhythmic music jazz creates have adapted it to their own culture in some way or another. The way in which jazz was integrated into nations was varied based on the current relation between a nation and the United States in the early twentieth century.  “[Jazz] has been and is regarded all over the world as a peculiarly American art form, and as such has been warmly welcomed by both masses and intellectuals in such countries as France and as warmly denounced in the totalitarian nationalisms of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia” (Esman).

The early integration of jazz influences in multiple cultures is exhibited still today. International jazz festivals celebrate the diversity among jazz music and musicians and continue to acknowledge the social aspect of the genre. The following video affirms the ongoing camaraderie among jazz musicians and also exhibits the continued influence of technology on the international expansion of musical ideas:

Works Cited:

Esman, Aaron, H. "Jazz—A Study in Cultural Conflect." American imago 8.2 (1951): 219-226.

Harris, Jerome. "Jazz on the global stage." The African diaspora: A musical perspective 3 (2000): 103.

Schuller, Gunther. Early jazz: Its roots and musical development. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press, USA,   1986.

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