This post comes at a sad time in many peoples’ lives, specifically those with deep affiliations and love for the music industry; yesterday the music artist Prince died at the age of 57 years old. We’ve sadly lost another great artist to the ages in 2016, but they’re never truly gone. They will live forever in our lives through the music they’ve made and the impressions they left on the world, and that’s what I
want to discuss with you today, the music; specifically jazz music and why you should all try to listen to a little more.
First I want to clear the air around jazz. What I’m assuming you think of immediately when I mention jazz is elevator music. You know pianos, slow beats and few vocals, if any. But jazz is so much more than that! Last semester I had the privilege of taking a class titled African American Music since the 1940s, a class I wanted to take since I was a freshman in college, and I learned so much about music and how it ties into not only our lives but the events of the world around us.
What I discovered was yes, jazz can be that elevator music, which I personally love, but it’s also a musical impulse which shapes music around the world. What constitutes the jazz impulse? There are actually two different parts needed to make up the jazz impulse: 1) clarify the realities of the world around you and see what they really are, and 2) envision the possibilities in that world. That last part is crucial because for something to be considered jazz it needs to be new or shown in a new light, this is why many rap artists are considered a part of the jazz impulse because they see things a different way and make music differently.
These artists are right up there with the greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and this brings me back to Prince who was once referred to as the heir to “The Duke”. Prince’s music brought in a funky sound and challenged many social norms of the time. He was a talented vocalist and instrumentalist, which could make some tracks hard to listen to, but that is the first reason you should listen to jazz.
It Challenges You
Some jazz records are just plain hard to listen to with the cacophony of noises and everything going on. To me this is a good thing because it challenges your ear which also challenges your mind which is like any other muscle in your body and if you don’t work a muscle it won’t grow. Listening to jazz causes different areas of your brain to be activated, for the first time in many peoples’ cases, and this challenge causes you to think more critically as well as creatively, according to Psychology Today.
Once again, as with any other muscle, once you break through a barrier and the muscle doesn’t feel as sore any more the exercise starts to be less work, one might even say fun!
As challenging as it may be to listen to some jazz, once you develop an ear for what you’re listening to you start to realize it’s fun to listen to, and what are the benefits of having fun? That’s right! Less stress, and you all know I’m all about making things are stress-free as possible. I listen to jazz a lot while I’m studying or writing a paper and I’ve never felt more cool, calm and collected than in those times.
Much of jazz music is also based around improvisation so musicians will start in one place, then drift off to another world, and eventually make their way back and finish. Much of jazz music is trying to be optimistic and seeing the world as it could be and for many musicians that is a peaceful and happy world so listening to jazz should bring both of those things, peace and happiness.
These are all great things I cherish everyday because I like to be challenged while also having fun and being stress-free, but to me I think the most important aspect of the modern day jazz impulse is helping me think about things differently.
Before I took my music class last semester I never thought I would listen to jazz music for fun and I certainly never thought I would listen to the many different rap genres there are. I found a love for gangsta rap in Public Enemy and N.W.A. because when you listen to their music, AND the lyrics, they’re telling a side of the story never heard before. But I also started to enjoy Prince and Jimi Hendrix and Duke Ellington because they were developing new sounds and ways to play the music before anyone else.
They saw things differently and weren’t afraid to take the dive into the unknown and be the people to say, “I did that first.” Of course for many jazz artists they were so far ahead of their times they never got to see their music go big in their lifetimes, but the point remains, they stand as testaments to not be afraid to challenge social norms and try to create something new.
One of the biggest weapons in this world, in my opinion is to have a stress-free, creative mind that isn’t afraid to challenge societal norms. With this winning combination who knows what could happen.
So now I challenge you to try out some jazz on Pandora or Spotify or even YouTube to just get a taste. You may just like it and discover new ways to do your homework or confront a problem.