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The evolution of jazz. A survey of American Art from Scott Joplin. Any interest. The evolution of jazz is a tape recorded feature presented under the auspices of Northeastern University by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council Nat Hentoff associate editor of Downbeat Magazine discusses the growth of jazz from its roots in Europe and Africa and considers the musical as well as the sociological forces that shaped it. Mr Hentoff last week in discussing the origins and the form of ragtime we had come to the high end a distinctive kind of poly rhythm used in ragtime that the ragtime players themselves called secondary
rank. In view of the fact that the Afro-American folk music tradition to be found in the spirituals in the blues in the work songs also contain Pali rhythm the fusion of the two strains in New Orleans. I brought this aspect of poly rhythm into great prominence. This kind of secondary rag which is found in ragtime and later jazz consists in the description of Winthrop Sargeant. In the superimposition of a rhythm of different phrase lengths. But have identical metrical units upon the prevailing rhythm of the music. Usually the superimposed rhythm falls into phrases of three units which are set against a background of the normal for quarter rhythm of jazz. There are of course a number of possible variations. It has nothing in common. Sergeant says despite a superficial similarity of ideas and some mis
informed writing on the subject with the two against three or three against four devices so common in the music of classical European composers. In the latter there is no disturbance of normal rhythm. Strong beads remain strong dates. Arang thirds of the note groups are the same and the metrical units comprising them differ. I think there is some exception to this in 20th century writing. However in the rhythmic super impositions of jazz there is rail syncopation resulting from the displacement of accents from strong to weak beats. In jazz the metric units are the same but the length of the note groups differ. To explain this by way of a simplified example. Keep in mind a regular four beat bass. One two three four. Set over that in the melody phrases of three beat length. One two three. At the beginning the first time the two are juxtaposed the first beat of the melodic three beat
phrase of course coincides with the first beat of the four deep bass. But the second time. The first beat of the melody being in a three beat phrase falls on the fourth beat of the bass. And the third time the first beat of the melody falls on the third beat of the bass and so on thereby providing constant power algorithms in the melody while underneath the regular four beat rhythm of the bass provides the scaffolding. There are many more complex uses of secondary Ragen including changes in the floor of the bass itself. And all kinds of variations in the melody harmonic devices for example by which off rhythms can be produced. But if you want a considerable number of illustrations or variations of secondary rag I think the best place to find them is in one's root Sargent's book Jazz Hot and hybrid every vised edition of which has recently been issued. However music away
in this recording by Joe Sullivan Little Rock get away. Jazz recording with ragtime Seaton's the secondary pattern.
As has already been seen ragtime came to an end for a number of social and musical reasons. And also as Boardman points out for technical reasons in this sense the player piano invented in 1897 had been the main instrument of gaining and disseminating ragtime with the invention of the phonograph it became possible to record and recapture not only the sound of the piano but of the whole orchestra. And with this discovery the age of piano music and of ragtime as the most popular American piano music came to an end. And was replaced in the country at large by the growth of jazz or other in the country abides by the growth of orchestral music. And later pop music and in negro communities by the growth of jazz and the always present vocal brutes. As a matter of fact to some extent the very mechanism of the player piano influenced ragtime piano style by its heavily percussive nature. So that echoes of the player piano lingered a long time. Here's a light recording made in 1946 by a ragtime
pianist lucky Roberts who makes a regular piano sound somewhat like a player piano.
While right time last to utilize Winthrop Sargeant again it profoundly affected popular music. As it existed between nineteen five in 1910. The rag offer the most intricate and interesting rhythmic development that has ever been recorded in our popular printed sheet music. The rag writers of the early 900 use every formula of syncopation phrase distortion and cyclical rhythmic structure that ingenuity could contrive. Poly rhythm flowered exuberantly by 99 every aspect of the three over for Variety had been exploited including complex super impositions and exact repetitions of cyclical phrases. None of the sheet music industry's subsequent efforts have shown anything of comparable technical complexity. There are a few footnotes to the study of ragtime that should be included as well as an indication of what happened ragtime when it reached New Orleans New Orleans the main origin point for what later was known as jazz. For one thing it's really brushes demonstrated aside from the influence of Negro brass bands and
both European and afro american dance patterns. They're also English and Scotch folk song echoes in ragtime sometimes definite themes although the themes are of course syncopated. Then a footnote concerns the historical importance of Sedalia Missouri a little less than 200 miles from St. Louis as a major center of ragtime in the 1890s and for some years later Scott Joplin played and studied there and wrote his first ragtime compositions in the town including Maple Leaf Rag. Joplin had been a traveling musician. And as the ragtime historians as Bronson Campbell and RJ Karoo point out at about that time during the late 1880s early 1890s negroes were getting in a greater measure of the opportunity to perform in better places to demonstrate their abilities to a widening audience. They went beyond storming and small minstrel override shows my Raney for example and later Bessie Smith. Or with medicine shows and covered not only the southwest but the northern and western sections as well. Joplin settled after a period of a tenement musicianship in Sedalia and studied at the George R.
Smith negro musical college there. The impact of the cake walk on Sedalia and therefore on Scott Joplin before he wrote any rags has been described by Campbell and Caruso and further substantiates Casey Thompson's thesis. Musical America was changing drastically during the 1890s they write a revolution was on popular dances were changing also with a two step supplanting the poker the schottische and other earlier dancing forms right along with the two step came a dance of American Negro origin that had a tremendous Vogue the cake walk. And name cake walk was applied to the dance and likewise to the music for it. Although the dance could be done to any good two step music. However we believe they continue it is of historical importance that the Cakewalk Music was syncopated systematically deliberately. It's a good place and syncopation rather had been used much earlier but usually incidentally in non Afro-American songs in a company where it's generally only a bar or two would be syncopated the cake walk however was a syncopated piece of music and it caught the public's fancy. Something the earlier samples had failed to do.
Originated by the negroes and first performed by them the dance and the music were appropriated by the whites and became the rage of all classes in all sections. Located in the Midwest with a substantial negro element of the population. So Daley was right up front with the cake walk. The dance enjoyed great popularity in the town these two men by the way grew up at this time. Joplin was a pioneer in the musical form and made the claim that he had composed one of the first of the new cakewalks. I know there's another influence as he began to produce in Sedalia what later came to be recognized as classic rags. He finally moved to St. Louis. Where ragtime was already in progress and where the pianist. Has been and soon as mentioned had also been influenced by the syncopations of the negro brass bands as well as by the dance tradition. Joplin by the way wrote a ragtime opera in three acts in 1911 called Tree money shot but it was never published and performed only once at the composer's home. Thing to remember about the classic rag. Before it was transformed in New
Orleans is that syncopation in early ragtime was fairly crude even even with the use of secondary rag. It was fairly monotonous fairly repetitive. The Northern rank pianists and some of the Midwestern ones kept a rigid two beats to the bar in the left hand while syncopated the melody in the right. It was the New Orleans ragtime pianist as Rex Harris writes. But their closer proximity to jazz who rag the bass. While at the same time syncopated the nominee that's creating more rhythms against rhythms than the plain use of the secondary rag would do. Jelly Roll Morton who was in New Orleans at the time described in the course of his Library of Congress react recordings what happened to the rag using Maple Leaf Rag as an example. You are
great record where her record make a record of the matter.
Let me thank those Stein in his book jazz a People's Music gives a more general picture of what happened. The rags were a great influence on New Orleans music but largely for their educated background. From the piano rags jazz got an instrumental virtue was a day that had been lacking in the folk blues. It's not hard to see a translation of the glittering runs and decorated figures of the ragtime piano and the dancing clarinet decorations of New Orleans band music and other gift of the piano Rags is a more complex and organized musical design. They contributed a 16 bar theme contrasting to enriching the 12 bar blues themed they provided the music built upon the coster contrast of two distinct themes. One serving as a refrain the other for development and variation of form similar to the Rondo of classical music which also incidentally originated in an old European folk dance. They provided a recognition of key diatonic music with an accompanying ability to modulator or change key. Almost every piece of New Orleans marching jazz has such a
modulation. The simple harmonies of ragtime piano provided a base for standardizing the instrumental ensembles of band music and thus making possible the interplay of solo and ensemble of diatonic a non-diatonic language that is an essential quality of New Orleans music. Contrary he continues to those theories which hold that New Orleans music came wholly from the alleged unconscious is the fact that arrangements the skeleton outline of harmonies and ensembles played a prominent role in this music. But it was largely out of the marriage of rags and blues that the great New Orleans music flowered with the additional thread elation of him spirituals folk songs of every description and origin marches cakewalks and every other folk dance of the blues provided the wonderfully
poignant melody as the non-diatonic musical language that was Sondos in blue notes in the vocal approach to instrumental music which has already been mentioned and the soaring freedom that resulted from it. They printed out of the musical form and provided the most subtle contrast of hot and sweet blue and non blue any of. The Blues provided the riffs and breaks so important to the new jazz forms they provided finally the essential antiphonal character. The statement in answer the forward movement through a constant series of contrasts and surprises. The rags provided the Impalas toward a greater technical mastery of the instrument the brilliant bronze and decorated of figures. The interplay and contrast of themes and the use of key out of the two blues in rags rose the music of well organized form. Some of the more ardent champions of ragtime attended to over emphasize its importance in early New Orleans by pointing out that interviews with New Orleans musicians
who were living in the city at the turn of the century have been frequently marked by the fact that these musicians refer to their music as ragtime and expressed great admiration for the rags behind Joplin and the rags contained in the red book of rags a standard collection of the time. It is true the Joplin's and other rag compositions were known and popular in New Orleans but as Jelly Roll Morton demonstrated they were frequently played in a quite different manner. From the notated sheet music. First of all. Jazz as a name did not come into being until sometime later and so almost all syncopated music in the 90s and in the first decade of this century was called Ragtime and that's a lot of compositions called rags weren't rags in the original sense of the word Tom. And more important is the fact that with the exception of a few school New Orleans negro musicians who could play the rags as written most of the early jazz men. In adapting this primarily pianistic music to other instruments improvised around the rags. Many who could play only by ear improvised all the more freely. And as Nicholson
indicated infused a more fluid feeling of the blues and the other Afro-American elements that came from the field holler in the work song. To make quite a different thing out of the piano rags. For a final example. Let's listen again to the Scott Joplin they believe. Has played for us briefly by the composer. And then a version of it by a group of New Orleans musicians largely composed of New Orleans musicians led by the. New Orleans trombonist kid Henri.
And here is an idea of what happened on your own. And
I am. It was a good example of I later came to be the New Orleans clarinet
and this is. In the way of my hearing and began to play and story.
We have now reached the stage in the evolution of jazz that has excited the imagination of jazz admirers all over the world. That phase of jazz history that probably has more has had more written about it than any other. The arrival of jazz largely in the city of New Orleans. Though it was growing elsewhere too. You know late 19th and early part of the 20th century. As I've shown the elements that fused into jazz were many. And of many decades derivation. The Africans revivals going back centuries. The question that has always intrigued jazz historians is why. Did this sudden fusion of all these disparate elements. Not entirely disparate bits of but quite diverse. Why did this sudden fusion occur in New Orleans primarily and how did it occur. There are no final answers to either question but enough has been written and recorded to
allow for some tentative answers. I should preface this by pointing out that although it used to be common practice in jazz historiography to write. As if New Orleans had been the one place where jazz came into being it is becoming increasingly clear that other cities and areas were contributing to the evolution of jazz at the same time. Rudy brass who was once a proponent of. It all started in New Orleans now believes there were at least three main strands in addition to New Orleans he mentions the eastern seaboard style. And the piano music of the turpentine camps of Mississippi in eastern Texas. The last trend moving in time perhaps to Kansas City. And sociologist Monroe Berger points out Cincinnati. Should be included as well. Then too there was St. Louis Memphis and Willis James of Atlanta University says the Pensacola and Atlanta and all sorts of southern towns were incubated of jazz in the late 19th.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Growth of Jazz, Part One
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two, explores the growth of jazz, as it begins to form in various cities around the U.S. and, particularly, in New Orleans.
Series Description
Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
African Americans--Music--20th century--History and criticism.
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:24
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 9; Growth of Jazz, Part One,” 1954-01-08, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 30, 2023,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 9; Growth of Jazz, Part One.” 1954-01-08. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 30, 2023. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 9; Growth of Jazz, Part One. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from