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Notes from Red & Hot by S. Frederick Starr

Chapter 1 – The Two Revolutions of 1917

“…in the twentieth century there does exist one form of expression–jazz–that has far outstripped the others in its impact upon social life, private relations, and practically every other field of the arts.” (9)

“What is jazz?  Critics and musicologists…have concentrated on such musical traits as syncopation, improvisation, and the use of “blue” notes.  As the list is extended, and as the discussion plunges deeper and deeper into the arcana of polyphony and contrapuntal rhythmic formations, the essence of the music is easily lost from view.  To performers and audiences alike, the glory or baseness of jazz at its inception was its raucousness and utter indifference to the niceties of nineteenth-century musical etiquette.” (9)

Jazz “appeared to the world of 1917 as an aggressively anarchastic, a slap in the face of “cultivated” taste, the antithesis of the virtues of proficiency and technical mastery that had built European civilization in the nineteenth century.  It was no less aggressively individualistic.” (10)

“…the “society” of the jazz band offered unlimited freedom to the individual, and yet the community as a whole–the “sound”–was still greater than the sum of its parts.  Thus, the jazz band solved the great conundrum of the nineteenth-century social theory and romantic aesthetics.  It reconciled the individual and society, giving each a new freedom and direction that was inconceivable to even the most utopian dreamers of the world…” (10)

F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Crackup (1956), on jazz:  “The word “jazz,” in its progress toward respectability, has meant first sex, then dancing, then music.  It is associated with a state of nervous stimulation, not unlike that of big cities behind the lines of war.” (qtd. 10)

Note to self:  Need to reread Gatsby.

“”Everywhere jazz carried with it a message of social and sexual emancipation.” (11)

“…the message of American jazz spoke to the individual’s free use of his bodily powers on his own time.” (12)

“…jazz epitomized the desire of each human being to express all the passions of the imperfect present–sadness, laughter, love, hate–through a Dionysian blend of rhythm, melody, and dance.” (12)

From Georg Barthelme, German critic, (1919):  Jazz is a philosophy of the world, and therefore to be taken seriously.  Jazz is the expression of a Kultur epoch….Jazz is a musical revelation, a religion, a philosophy of the world, just like Expressionism and Impressionism.  Jazz is the logical development and completion of an idea that is called to introduce a new and better age….  There is nothing higher, nothing beyond!” (qtd. 12)

“By 1914 over 500,000 phonographs were being produced each year in America alone; by 1919 the figure had soared to two and one quarter million.  The number of records manufactured annually in America passed 50 million in 1914 and reached 100 million by 1921.” (13)

J.P. Sousa’s reaction to advent of recording:  “recordings would bring about ‘a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestations…” (qtd. 13)

“Sound recording shifted the spotlight from the conductor and composer to the performer and soloist.” (13)

Note:  fun word:  contrapuntal  – look it up.

“Jazz in its essence is tentative, experimental.” (14)

American artists who learned (of) jazz via recordings:  Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, Count Basie. (14)

First jazz recordings (look this up?) made on Feb 26, 1917 just five days before the coup d’ etat in Petrograd, formerly St. Petersburg. (15)

“…at precisely the moment the proletarian dictatorship was being established in Russia…another revolution of popular culture had burst out in America.” (16)

F. Scott Fitzgerald:  “It was characteristic of the Jazz Age that it had no interest in politics at all.” (qtd 16)

How some felt about jazz:  “the eleventh century Kievan monk Isaac, who excoriated the Devil for appearing to him in his cell in the form of a demon playing loudly on flutes and tambourines.” (17)

Russian contributions to American life were typically focused on the highbrow:  Henry James’s infatuation with novels by Turgenev; Glinka and Mussorgsky; Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky both toured the U.S.  (18)

American contributions to the Russians were typically in the popular arts and sciences:  Mayne Reid (?), Jack London, Mark Twain, and James Fenimore Cooper, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison. (18)

Chapter 2:  The “Low Sweet Fever” Under Tsar Nicholas II

“Russia’s youth wanted to catch up and were open to whatever fashions from abroad captured the aura of modern life.  Their new religion was pantheistic, embracing simultaneously the gods of women’s liberation, social reform, sports, technical education, and freer sexual mores.  In this charged atmosphere of urbanism, youth, feminist activism, and cosmopolitanism the dance craze of the early twentieth century exploded.”  (29)

Ragtime music arrived in Russia in 1910.  RAGTIME IS NOT JAZZ.

  • the cakewalk
  • haut monde = high society

“Russians could study the latest dances in the movies, to appropriate piano accompaniment.” (32)

Russian public had a “fascination with black Americans.” (33)

African-Americans in Russia pre-1910

  • Nelson, an African American, accompanied JQ Adams’s family to Russia in 1809 and was allowed to join the tsar’s service rather than return to America.
  • US Minister to Russia discovered in 1894, a black American, from Tennessee, working as a servant in the court of Nicholas II.
  • A handful of African-Americans amassed fortunes as jockeys
  • Jim, a black barman, mixed drinks at L’Europe Hotel in St. Petersburg
  • Emma Harris an actor from Kentucky was lured from a theatre troupe and remained in Russia for the rest of her life.
  • Black Americans known best to Russians were musicians or actors. (33)

“Yet the reality was a carefully structured written music developed my black and white Americans of lower and middle classes and embraced by white Americans and Europeans of the middle and upper classes.” (34)

“But Russians, like other Europeans and white Americans, seemed to wish the music to have an even more erotic and disrespectful background than it had.  In this wish can be sensed the breakup of nineteenth-century values.” (34)

Potemkin Villages – DEFINE, could be a great image…false villages created to impress dignitaries

F. Scott Fitzgerald coined the term “the low sweet fever.” (36)

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