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Key People:George GershwinBenny GoodmanDuke EllingtonMiles DavisLouis Armstrong...(Show more)Related Topics:Latin jazzDixielandswingJazz-rockFree jazz...(Show more)

Jazz, music form, often improvisational, occurred by african Americans and also influenced through both european harmonic structure and African rhythms. The was emerged partially native ragtime and blues and also is often identified by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying levels of improvisation, regularly deliberate deviations the pitch, and the usage of initial timbres.

Any attempt to arrive at a precise, all-encompassing an interpretation of jazz is most likely futile. Jazz has been, from its an extremely beginnings at the revolve of the 20th century, a continuous evolving, expanding, changing music, passing through numerous distinctive phases that development; a definition that might apply to one phase—for instance, to new Orleans style or swing—becomes unreasonable when used to an additional segment the its history, say, to cost-free jazz. Early attempts to specify jazz as a music who chief characteristic was improvisation, because that example, turned out to be also restrictive and also largely untrue, due to the fact that composition, arrangement, and ensemble have additionally been essential materials of jazz for many of the history. Similarly, syncopation and swing, often taken into consideration essential and unique come jazz, space in reality lacking in much authentic jazz, even if it is of the 1920s or of later decades. Again, the long-held id that swing might not happen without syncopation to be roundly disproved as soon as trumpeters luigi Armstrong and Bunny Berigan (among others) frequently generated enormous swing while play repeated, unsyncopated quarter notes.


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Jazz, in fact, is not—and never has been—an totally composed, predetermined music, nor is that an entirely extemporized one. For almost every one of its history it has employed both an innovative approaches in differing degrees and endless permutations. And yet, despite these varied terminological confusions, jazz seems to be instantly recognized and also distinguished as something separate from all other develops of musical expression. To repeat Armstrong’s well known reply once asked what swing meant: “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” To include to the confusion, there regularly have to be seemingly unbridgeable perceptual differences between the producers of jazz (performers, composers, and arrangers) and also its audiences. For example, v the arrival of complimentary jazz and also other latter-day avant-garde manifestations, many senior musicians preserved that music that didn’t swing was not jazz.

Most early classical composers (such as Aaron Copland, man Alden Carpenter—and also Igor Stravinsky, who became smitten v jazz) were drawn to its important sounds and also timbres, the unexplained effects and also inflections of jazz playing (brass mutes, glissandos, scoops, bends, and also stringless ensembles), and its syncopations, fully ignoring, or at the very least underappreciating, the extemporized facets of jazz. Indeed, the sounds the jazz musicians make on your instruments—the method they attack, inflect, release, embellish, and colour notes—characterize jazz play to such an level that if a classical piece to be played through jazz musician in your idiomatic phrasings, it would in all likelihood be called jazz.


Nonetheless, one important facet of jazz plainly does identify it indigenous other timeless musical areas, specifically from timeless music: the jazz show is mostly or completely a creative, improvising composer—his very own composer, together it were—whereas in timeless music the performer commonly expresses and interprets someone else’s composition.

West Africa in the American South: gathering the musical facets of jazz

The aspects that make jazz distinctive derive mainly from West afri musical sources as taken to the north American continent through slaves, that partially kept them against all odds in the plantation society of the American South. These facets are not exactly identifiable since they were no documented—at the very least not till the mid- to late 19th century, and then just sparsely. Furthermore, Black slaves came from diverse West african tribal societies with unique musical traditions. Thus, a good variety of black musical sensibilities to be assembled ~ above American soil. These consequently rather easily encountered European music elements—for example, straightforward dance and also entertainment musics and shape-note singing tunes, such as were common in beforehand 19th-century north America.

The music the eventually ended up being jazz developed out of a wide-ranging, gradually assimilated mixture the Black and white people musics and popular styles, v roots in both West Africa and also Europe. That is only a slim oversimplification to assert that the rhythmic and structural aspects of jazz, as well as some facets of the customary instrumentation (e.g., banjo or guitar and percussion), derive generally from West african traditions, vice versa, the europe influences deserve to be heard not just in the harmonic language of jazz but in its use of such conventional instruments as trumpet, trombone, saxophone, wire bass, and also piano.

The syncopations of jazz to be not entirely new—they had actually been the central attraction of among its forerunners, ragtime, and could it is in heard even earlier in minstrel music and also in the job-related of creole composer luigi Moreau Gottschalk (Bamboula, subtitled Danse des Nègres, 1844–45, and also Ojos Criollos, 1859, amongst others). Nevertheless, jazz syncopation struck nonblack listeners as fascinating and also novel, because that particular type of syncopation was not current in European classical music. The syncopations in ragtime and jazz were, in fact, the an outcome of reducing and also simplifying (over a period of at least a century) the complex, multilayered, polyrhythmic, and also polymetric designs indigenous to all kinds of West African routine dance and also ensemble music. In various other words, the previous accentuations of multiple vertically contending metres were significantly simplified come syncopated accents.

The provenance that melody (tune, theme, motive, riff) in jazz is an ext obscure. In every likelihood, jazz melody evolved out the a simplified residue and mixture that African and European vocal products intuitively occurred by slaves in the United states in the 1700s and 1800s—for example, unaccompanied ar hollers and work songs connected with the readjusted social problems of Blacks. The extensively prevalent emphasis on pentatonic formations came generally from West Africa, whereas the diatonic (and later much more chromatic) melodic present of jazz grew from so late 19th- and also early 20th-century europe antecedents.

Harmony was probably the last aspect of european music to be absorbed by Blacks. However once acquired, harmony was used as second musical resource to religious texts; one an outcome was the gradual breakthrough of spirituals, borrowing from the white religious revival meetings the African american in many parts of the south were urged come attend. One critical outcome of this musical acculturations was the breakthrough by Blacks that the so-called blues scale, with its “blue notes”—the flatted 3rd and saturday degrees. This scale is neither specifically African nor specifically European yet acquired its peculiar modality from key inflections common to any variety of West afri languages and musical forms. In effect these extremely expressive—and in afri terms very meaningful—pitch deviations to be superimposed ~ above the diatonic scale common to virtually all european classical and also vernacular music.

That jazz occurred uniquely in the unified States, not in the Caribbean or in south America (or any kind of other kingdom to which thousands of African Blacks were additionally transported) is in history fascinating. Countless Blacks in those various other regions were really often emancipated by the early on 1800s and thus were complimentary individuals who actively participated in the cultural development that their very own countries. In the instance of Brazil, Blacks to be so geographically and socially isolated native the white facility that they simply were may be to retain their very own African musical heritages in a virtually pure form. The is for this reason ironic the jazz would probably never have progressed had it no been because that the servant trade together it was exercised specifically in the unified States.

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Jazz grew from the afri American slaves who were prevented from maintaining their aboriginal musical traditions and felt the should substitute some homegrown type of music expression. Such composers as the Brazilian mulatto José Maurício Nunes Garcia were totally in touch through the musical developments of your time that were emerging in Europe and wrote music in those styles and traditions. American slaves, by contrast, were limited not only in their work conditions and spiritual observances however in leisure activities, consisting of music making. Although servants who play such instruments as the violin, horn, and also oboe were exploited for your musical talent in such cities as Charleston, south Carolina, these were impressive situations. By and huge the slaves were relegated to choose up whatever little scraps the music were enabled them.