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Pre-Jazz and the Brass Bands

New Orleans - The Birthplace of Jazz
  1. Seaport city: New Orleans provided the meeting place of many different ethnic groups and cultures. There was a market for music and entertainment, and abundant port work.
  2. Liberal atmosphere: mixing of French, Spanish, West Indian traditions and Catholic religious attitudes. No prohibitions against "the Devil's" instruments. Different attitudes toward blacks; more social and economic mobility. Residents take pride in being a cosmopolitan, sophisticated city.
  3. Long-standing tradition of music: from Congo Square to present-day Mardi Gras. Congo Square provided early performance opportunities for African music.
Other contributing elements:
  1. Storyville (1897-1917): provided places to work: houses of prostitution, cabarets, saloons, dance halls, etc.
  2. Reinterpretation of the 14th Amendment to justify segregation: forced downtown and uptown blacks together; depriving the Creoles of their somewhat privileged status. While many Creoles had conservatory training and good instruments (which assisted them in catering to the popular music market), Blacks, on the other hand, were known for their longstanding vocal tradition and their lack of hang-ups as to what was or wasn't possible on instruments.
Prerequisites for Jazz:
  1. a model on which to pattern the music
  2. instruments
  3. sources of music
  4. model: brass bands
    1. no fixed instrumentation (made do with whatever they had)
    2. played for all occasions
    3. were often associated with burial societies, benevolent and protective societies, or other community organizations
    4. usually 12-17 musicians
    5. each type of instrument had an assigned roll
      • trumpet: melody
      • clarinet: embellish melody
      • tuba: bass line
      • trombone: roots with slides, smears, slurs
      • drums: military cadences, time
      • everybody else: double some function above (even strings sometime)
  5. instruments: major source was confederate military bands; also used second hand instruments from other sources (ad hoc and homemade instruments were used as well)
  6. lack of formal training led to different attitudes about how to play these instruments, about what was possible, etc
Sources of Music:
  1. secular and sacred music of the historical past
  2. music of the day
  3. the blues
  4. music the Creoles knew: waltzes, marches, two-steps, overtures, schottisches, etc.
  5. music was borrowed from all sources and fixed up to meet their needs (not snobbish in what they borrowed from)

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