Uploaded by Brandon McKoy

Historical Investigation(OFFICIAL)

Is Jazz Strictly American?
Brandon McKoy
March 19, 2018
Word Count: 2612
Research Question:
Section 1: Source Analysis
Section 2: Investigation
Section 3: Reflection
Page 3
Page 3-5
Page 5-10
Page 10
Page 11
Research Question
To what extent of cultural history is jazz music strictly American?
Section One: Source Analysis
Taylor, Billy. “Jazz.” The Musical Quarterly 68, no. 2 (April 1982): 21-25. Stable URL:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/742030 (accessed February 12, 2018).
The Musical Quarterly is an academic journal founded in 1915 by Oscar Sonneck;
famous librarian and musicologists. Its notice has resided main in the United States but it does
include some British influence from different interviews that take place within the stories. In
time Music Quarterly, has produced the oeuvre of many different composers and artists. Some
including Aaron Copland and Henry Cowell. But the journal title “Jazz” was developed by a
famous jazz pianist and educator also broadcaster by the name of Billy Taylor.
Born William Taylor in 1964 Mr. Taylor always shared a passion in classical music and
the fast-paced life style of jazz creation. He served as a Professor of Music at East Carolina
University in Greenville North Carolina for over thirty years and 1994 until his death in 2010 he
was the artistic director for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in
Washington, D.C. As a jazz activist, Billy Taylor, with some other friends developed a program
to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians, later including
musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina.
This source is valuable because it details about pure development of breaded jazz and
how its origins have been sustained over time. It goes by doing so to explain what jazz really is.
With this secondary source, it is possible to explore true reasoning behind what makes the genre
of music what it is today.
The reason that this source is potentially limited to my research is because it’s from an
American standpoint with British influence. In past occurrences, the British have been known to
adjust the identity and culture of Africa, and with jazz’s strong African roots the journal’s British
influence may have potentially discredited certain parts of its productiveness, because they did
not think Africans were smart enough to make such a beauty. Also in discussing limitations, it is
important to note that Billy Taylor supported those persons in the jazz arena who were affected
by Hurricane Katrina. This means that Taylor is possibly in favor of jazz being strictly American
from his New Orleans influence.
Burns, Ken. Jazz- A Film by Ken Burns. Produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. DVD Disc
1, PBS Home Video, 2001.
A nine-part miniseries released in year 2000, directed by American filmmaker Ken
Burns. Its main format of broadcasting was through PBS channel but later in 2001 it was
released on DVD and VHS. This is a secondary source that expresses and details the
contributions of jazz to its overall creation.
Born Kenneth Lauren Burns in July of 1953, Burns is known for his style of using
archival footage and photographs in documentary films. His widely known for his very
expressive styles documentary series. Burns’ documentaries have earned two Academy
Award nominations and have won several Emmy Awards, among other honors in the film
industry. In his documentary “Jazz” Burns definitely displays his style of documentary. It is in
chronological order and very dramatic. Burns begins the video with some reference to African
culture but it is not dwelled in long. He goes on to explore where unknown details of jazz’s
origins were derived from, such as the name of jazz coming from a perfume that New Orleans
prostitutes would wear. But in the meat of his work, Burns discusses a lot of American
composers such as different swing musicians that hold the pillar of the genre. Different people
such as Louis Armstrong all the way to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, Burns surveys a span of
forty-five years of a cultural boom.
It is believed that Burns purpose in creating this documentary was to explore some
unresolved theories about jazz. This documentary can also serve to prove heavily disputed results
of the creation of specific areas of the genre era. An example of this is in episode four of the
series where the video discusses who recorded the first jazz record. It goes on to explain why
some people believed that one figure had supported a possible claim then the claim is contested
by facts from the rare exhibits presented.
Some may say that Burns’ work is limited and to a certain degree that claim is agreed
with by many. Often in Ken Burns documentaries he explores American disputes based on what
counter-ideas foreigners have showed. In the “Jazz” series the reason it is not fully credible is
because every person interviewed in the video is American or has some strong American
influence. This means that the video is essentially biased. Also, the majority of exhibits in the
video come from British and European museums, so it is not the most sensible to considered the
bearings legit because Europeans have not had the best relationship in fairly representing history
from Africa.
Section Two: Investigation
Some say that Jazz is uniquely American and should be considered as America’s classical
music in many different realms. Taylor would say that jazz is a musical language(Taylor). It is a
language that expresses the overall belief system of African Americans in America. It tells the
story to people nations of other decent who do not understand and may wish to become
passionate about it. As classical music, Jazz has many forms including its standards that are so
simple they become complex therefore opening up an entire new door for expression in the
improvisational community. And even though jazz has supported that ideals of music for over
one hundred years, it is still excellent enough to stand out wherever it may be. All in regards to
its deep African roots.
Jazz is one of the most difficult art forms of music. Its use of many different rhythms and
syncopation that causes it to stand out so definitely. While playing, and improvising upon jazz
music it is one style that should be taken slowly and thought about precisely in order to match
the true sound of its being (Murphy). The thought of improvising about jazz is important because
it tells the stories of African-American struggles and roots. It does so by expanding on the
rawness of events such as slavery and an assortment of inequalities by the color of skin. In
research, it is found that Billy Taylor would describe jazz as America’s “indigenous classical
music” (Taylor). Jazz is definitely one of the music genre that creates a proper image of the time.
Its sound is developed from a very historic and cultural background, and through understanding
it, players are able to give it more meaning and truly define their own identity through use of
music. This paper will discuss the historical and musicology development of jazz to what it has
become today, in regards to its deep African roots in order to prove that jazz is not strictly
Even though it is difficult to categorize a specific type of music to one continent as huge
as Africa, there are some general suggestions in African music that really displease strong
culture dating nearly three hundred to four hundred years back. He goes back to sleep three in the
New World(Floyd). Samuel Floyd Junior on the power of black music discusses how Africans
used the physical aspects of dancing drumming and song to connect to spiritual worlds which
existed in most traditional communities as a very important part of the African lifestyle. This
spiritual connection swayed away from western music in the way that it was functional to the
field songs that were used by workers to ease the pain and calm the nerves down as well as it
served for a guide to young children about life skills into an adulthood. The use of song and
dance in adulthood was used to express the teaching of life lessons and also it taught different
sex positions. Different behaviors in a variety lives with different lyrics of songs combined with
a mixture of poly rhythmic tones created an understanding of community values in Africa. The
use of communication through dance was very important in Africa because it showed the
survival skills that one could have. If an individual was able to use an instrument to play very
straight rhythms and balance them against different percussion pieces he then created a
resonance within the ear to create the traditional African sound. By combining both vocal and
instrumental skills it was very helpful in developing melodic tones across the region’s air.
In 1619 one of the first English colonies in North America to acquire slaves was West
Virginia. And even after 1807 when the United States and Great Britain outlawed slave trade this
became profitable because the new industry heads underlining continued until the 1860’s. The
years which are marked by the Civil War. One big permitting factor during this time was the use
of slave instrumentation in the South. At most times instruments, such as violin and violas as
well as different homemade instruments such as banjos and small drum pieces were custom on
plantations. And the slaves playing these instruments became more useful, because slave-owners
sought entertainment the slaves from Africa begin to express how they really felt through their
music to the slave-owners and this created a transportation from Africa into North America slave
owners line how loud instruments such as different when pipes and drums could be used to
create communication across the slaves. This eventually led to the ban of all the music in the
middle of the 18th century across North America except for the developed French Louisiana and
this important later in the uprising of jazz in New Orleans. This left no opportunity to make
instruments so slaves took upon themselves to communicate across the area by using their voice
and body.
The soulful, as we know it today, yelling across the field of slave songs came from the
feelings of Africans attempting to imitate their musical desires they once had before.
Unknowingly slaves used major scales and harmonic minor resonance in order to communicate
on the plantations. This was influenced by the Europeans and Africans combination of slavery.
The classical music training coming from Europeans musicians. Other influences of sounds
develop from Cuban slaves being brought into Africa. During this time slaves were brought in
order to make slave ownership more profitable across the New World. Cuban melodies were
then combined with African drums in order to create new sound. A vocal quality of call-andresponse in voice to create measure pickups in the development of sliding into notes. This is later
imitated by instruments through jazz in America where different sets of slaves and immigrants
combined to create a new sound.
Another form of combination and imitation that is later emulated doing jazz instruments
and vocals is the use of the ring ritual. Europeans which role was very key in the life of slaves in
Africa. European practices were synchronizing with the traditional performance of African dance
in the New World which later helped to carry out poly rhythms and syncopation. As it relates to
the voice the development of sound been created is voiced by different tremolos grunts mums
and shouts.
In jazz music, it is important to look at the development of jazz the arrangement of slaves
that came in during heavy trade. When Africans first came into the Americas as slaves they
brought what they had with them. Songs, memories and experiences that could not be stripped
away from them. These mere belongings were the only for them to express their culture in a new
land which was America. But it is also important to note that Africans were not the only slaves
and emigrants that brought similar belongings with them to the Americas. As a variety Scotch,
German, and English emigrants came into the new land, they sought entertainment in their spare
time so they would learn songs from the African culture that they could incorporate with the
already standing cultural identified instruments and music. Taylor would describe them as a
“transplanted people” who yet again such as the Africans had the desire to express themselves.
But they could not do so with words so they developed their expression through music. But yet
again this caused an upset to settlers who thought that the music would gain control of politics.
And to a certain degree they were correct. Therefore, once again field songs and slave music had
to be reformed again, but this time it would consist of German, Scotch and English influence
This is how jazz has become a part of such a rich cultural identity that stems from
African roots. It is because as African slaves were combined with different emigrant influences
across their own land and branching into the New World in the nineteenth century, the slaves
were forced to communicate with each other. It could not always be done so through verbal
language so they tool of music was used to express an overall desire for freedom. It is argued
that jazz is strictly American because a lot of the major development happened after a consistent
portion of slaves were displaced into the Americas, but the roots of their cultural traveled with
them and so did their experiences with other emigrants. The reason there is Latin-jazz is due to
the fact that African slaves came in contact with the Cuban slaves seeking freedom. The reason
there is jazz that sounds like classical music is due to the fact that African slaves came in contact
with the European musicians who taught them how to play different instruments through
standard form. The reason there is jazz that sounds like country western music is due to the fact
that African slaves came in contact with the settlers from West who forced the slaves to learn
specific songs as a way for their entertainment. Jazz has been restructured from many different
forms of music and it roots will always live strong. Music does not change.
Section Three: Reflection
In an investigation, such as this it was important to find possible text that supported both the
claim and the counter claim. With such a dense topic as such pulling out and planning what
should be discussed is important to do. A historian should be careful to depict what is important
and what could potentially be withheld. In the nature of this paper, more modern information
could be withheld as well as information going into to detail about the development of each style
of jazz could be saved for another paper. Even though it is important and not to be forgotten in
context of supporting a dense strong argument information as such should be excluded. It could
potentially be referenced in an annotated bibliography.
Also, while doing this assignment, it is important to note that a historian may face
challenges finding authentic primary sources of information because so much of African history
has been lost due to lack of documentation in its earlier periods of reign. Secondary sources are
easier to find and quote but it is important to test the credibility of them with sources that support
opposing claims. This would assure that the information present is accurate on both ends of the
argument. By balancing information that support opposing arguments it is also less likely that a
source may be biased in its statements. This goes in correlation with finding the origins of
authors and producers, the value of the information as well as defining the true purpose that each
and every source was developed.
Bowman, Wayne. “Philosophy, Criticism, and Music Education: Some Tentative Steps down a
Less-Travelled Road.” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education no. 114 (Fall,
1992): 1-19. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40318912 (accessed January 18, 2018)
Burns, Ken. Jazz- A Film by Ken Burns. Produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. DVD Disc
1, PBS Home Video, 2001.
Floyd, Samuel A., Jr. The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its History from African to the
United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Gushee, Lawrence. “The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Jazz.” Black Music Research Journal
22, Supplement: Best of BMRJ (2002): 151-174. Stable URL:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/1519947 (accessed February 15, 2018).
Ken Burns. (2018, March 18). Retrieved November 22, 2018, from
Murphy, John P. “Jazz Improvisation: The Joy of Influence.” The Black Perspective in Music 18,
no. 1/2 (1990): 7-19. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1214855 (accessed February 24,
Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History, from the Mississippi Delta to
Chicago’s South side to the World. New York: Penguin Books, 1982.
Siegenfeld, B. (2014). If Jazz Dance, Then Jazz Music!
. Jazz Dance, 17-23.
Taylor, B. (2014). E history and development of jazz piano : A new perspective for educators.
Boston, MA: University of Massachuse s Amherst. doi:10.3897/bdj.3.e4735.figure3a
Taylor, Billy. “Jazz.” The Musical Quarterly 68, no. 2 (April 1982): 21-25. Stable URL:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/742030 (accessed February 12, 2018).