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4

The Swing Era

footnotes

7. The size of the big band (i.e., number of musicians) grew gradually from 7 to 9 to 11 etc., culminating in about 17 (give or take a musician or two).

8. polyphony: two or more simultaneously played melodies

9. homophony: single melody played with chordal accompaniment

I. Transition from Dixieland


A. Written Arrangements

      

1.

by the end of the 1920s, jazz was developing in two complimentary directions  

            

a.

emphasis on the soloist 

            

b.

emphasis on the ensemble 

      

2.

because of the collective improvisatory nature (all band members improvising at the same time) of Dixieland, the basic structure of this style had to remain simple and the instrumentation had to remain small 

      

3.

in order to accommodate more sophisticated music and more musicians in an ensemble, written arrangements became necessary and increasingly common in the late 1920s 

      

4.

rather than collective improvisation (an all-out group effort), the conception of how a tune should be arranged (how the instruments should sound together and in what order musical events would occur) became the product of one person’s mind: the arranger’s 

      

5.

although written arrangements all but eliminated collective improvisation, they still provided space for individual soloists to improvise 


B. Ensemble size

      

1.

although there were several well-known small swing groups (trios to septets) during the 1930’s and early ‘40s, the era was characterized by the big band 

      

2.

the typical 1920’ Dixieland group of five to seven members had increased in size to (generally) 15-18 in the ‘30s and early 40s, adding new dimensions to the music7 


C. New breed of jazz musicians

      

1.

many were formally educated (e.g., conservatory trained) 

      

2.

many came from brass and military bands 

      

3.

represented a cross-fertilization between music readers and non-music reading improvisers 


D. Geographical movement

   

jazz moved from New Orleans to Chicago (which had its own style of Dixieland) to New York which became the center of the music world 

      

1.

recording companies 

      

2.

publishing houses 

      

3.

all fields, all styles 

      

4.

music business activities 


E. Dates

      

1.

beginning of the big bands: 1920-1935 

      

2.

the Swing Era: 1935-1945 


F. New song forms

   

proliferation of new song forms (e.g., AABA); tunes were now capable of greater harmonic sophistication (i.e., more complex chords) and capable of evolution 


G. Popularity

   

spread of radio and recording, making jazz popular (and learnable) throughout the United States 


H. A new sound

   

Basically jazz moved from the improvised polyphony8 of the Dixieland bands to the homophony9 of the big bands 

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