Essay on History Of Jazz And Classical Music

This essay has a total of 1761 words and 8 pages.

History Of Jazz And Classical Music

History of Jazz and Classical Music

Upon entering a modern record store, one is confronted with a
wide variety of choices in recorded music. These choices not only
include a multitude of artists, but also a wide diversity of music
categories. These categories run the gamut from easy listening dance
music to more complex art music. On the complex side of the scale are
the categories known as Jazz and Classical music. Some of the most
accomplished musicians of our time have devoted themselves to a
lifelong study of Jazz or Classical music, and a few exceptional
musicians have actually mastered both. A comparison of classical and
Jazz music will yield some interesting results and could also lead to
an appreciation of the abilities needed to perform or compose these
kinds of music.

Let's begin with a look at the histories of the two. The music
called classical, found in stores and performed regularly by
symphonies around the world, spans a length of time from 1600 up to
the present. This time frame includes the Renaissance, Baroque,
Classical, Romantic and Contemporary periods. The classical period of
music actually spans a time from of 1750 to 1800; thus, the term
Classical is a misnomer and could more correctly be changed to Western
Art Music or European Art Music. European because most of the major
composers up till the 20th century were European. Vivaldi was Italian,
Bach was German, Mozart and Beethoven were Austrian; they are some of
the more prominent composers. Not until the twentieth century with
Gershwin and a few others do we find American composers writing this
kind of art music. For the sake of convention, we can refer to Western
Art Music as Classical music.

Jazz is a distinctively American form of music, and it's history
occupies a much smaller span of time. Its origins are found in the
early 1900s as some dance band leaders in the southern U.S. began
playing music that combined ragtime and blues. Early exponents of this
dance music were Jelly Roll Martin (a blues player) and Scott Joplin
(ragtime). The terms "Jazz" and "Jazz Band" first surfaced in the year
1900. Some say this occurred in New Orleans, although similar music
was played at the same time in other places. The most prominent
exponents of this early music, called Dixieland Jazz, included Louis
Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. After World War I, Jazz music had evolved
and was aided by the development of the recording industry. The
small dance band ensemble grew into the larger orchestra known as the
"Big Band". The music of the Big Bands became known as "Swing." Two of
the more famous Swing band leaders were Tommy Dorsey and Harry James.
In the late 40s and through the 50s, a different kind of Jazz became
popular. This music, played by a very small ensemble, was much more
sophisticated and complex . Its rich harmonic changes and melodic
counterpoint were not conducive to dance. It became known as "Bop,"
with Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie being the early proponents.
In the last twenty years there has been a combination of Jazz with
popular music of the US and Latin America. This modern Jazz music has
been called "Fusion." Present day exponents include Pat Metheny and
Chic Corea. There has also been a return to the sound of Bop in the
last ten years by such musicians as trumpeter Winton Marsalis and his
brother Branford, a saxophonist.

Let's focus on the instrumentation of the two kinds of music. In
Classical music, both large orchestras and small ensembles are used.
But generally, the greatest and most prominent compositions are for
the larger symphony orchestra. The largest part of the orchestra is
the string section consisting of violins, violas, cellos and string
basses. These instruments were invented very early in medieval times
but really matured into their present form during the late 18th
century. The wind instruments, comprised of brass and woodwinds, took
longer to mature. The brass section in particular did not posses the
ability to play chromatically (in all keys) until the advent of valves
which allowed the length of the instrument to be changed while
playing. This occurred around the middle to late 19th century.
Consequently, the brass instruments are less prominent in the music of
Bach, Mozart and Beethoven along with their contemporaries. Late 19th
and early 20th century composers make use of a very large orchestra
with all the fully developed wind instruments. Some of the master
orchestrator/composers of this time were: Wagner, Rimskey-Korsakov,
Ravel and Stravinsky. Currently, composers also make use of the full
orchestra but with the addition of increasingly larger percussion
sections which add many unique and unheard of sounds than in earlier
music.

Early Jazz music was played in small ensembles making use of
clarinet, tuba, cornet, baritone, drums, and piano. Dixieland groups
of New Orleans had similar instrumentation. During the Swing era,
larger groups were employed to achieve more of an orchestral sound.
The Big Bands of the this era were predominantly wind orchestras
containing alto and tenor sax sections, trumpet and trombone sections,
along with piano and drums. When Bop music arrived, the alto saxophone
and trumpet were the preferred instruments of the major soloists who
were backed up by piano, string bass and drums. With the advent of
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