From historiography to musicology one takes tentative steps away from a natural sense of simple hearing to an understanding of the elements, syntax, vocabulary of some musical forms.In this instant case, it is all about Jazz and the month of May as celebration.Bartok and Stravinsky are better known today as this form of art is increasingly being studied at Conservatories and Universities,serious students with horn rimmed glasses have given it a more sober and scholarly feel away from the smoky,alcoholic and dark interiors that Jazz was known for.It is a kind of Chamber music heard in the drawing rooms and not for instinctive dancing on wide and crowded floors,anymore.
The birth of Jazz in the multicultural society of America has led intellectuals from around the world to hail Jazz as "one of America's original art forms".Difficult to define, write,( quite literally) suffice it is to say that Jazz is based more on performance, instinct and improvisation rather than a strict sense of grammar.
Hence so much of discussion has gone on in defending it as a very valid art form.
Here in this do-it-yourself kind of Ted Talk on Jazz the celebrated Leonard Bernstein insightfully talks of its essentials and delves on the melody,Scales major and minor, rhythm,accents,syncopation,tonal colours, instruments imitating the vocal chords with interesting comparisons from select classic Jazz pieces.He talks of the structure of Blues as a strict poetic form with music and naughtily reminds us that it's themes are also about happiness and not just being 'blue.' As a respected conductor and composer of Western Classical music he tells us with understated authority how Jazz is about Instruments that are like the voices and its sounds in the Louis Armstrong use of the trumpets.Jazz is about tonal colours, harmony and form of the quintessential African sound.And the need to be able to distinguish tricky imitations by the plungers in the trombone,the vibratos,Afro-Cuban bongo drums,Cuban cowbells,and the Oriental cymbals and vibraphone.
Interestingly, Jazz is not about composers but players and improvisers.The notations are difficult to write but experimented with.It is while playing that Jazz seeks its own path segueing to the design, innovation and creativity of the performer of the day.In fact the new form of 'simultaneous Jazz',two different musicians on two different instruments duel and match like a Q&A session is also talked about in the video essay.And it is in these two areas Hindustani music and Jugal Bandi forms seem to resonate sounds familiar and convergent with Jazz
.And maybe, that is why our music finally travelled to the west, be it a Ravi Shanker, a Ustad Allaudin Khan or a Purna Das Baul.And maybe that is why so much came back home in terms of new sounds and ideas with their creative fusion !
For those like me who know very little : hear this spirited defence of Jazz and why it is legitimate Art for America and the world from someone who knows.