Emotions (AtoZ Challenge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)

Emotions (Jazz Age Jazz Series) One of the reason jazz is so difficult to define is that it relies so much on the momnet, on that undefinable alchemy between the emotions of the audience and those of the performers

Jazz Age Jazz - Emotions

JAZZ AGE JAZZ - Emotions #AtoZChallenge The Devil music and the freedom of #jazz Click To Tweet

E (AtoZ Challenge 2016)

Jazz is a kind of music that relies greatly on emotions. It’s highly improvisational, and improvisation picks up the mood of the moment and goes with it. The stronger the mood, the livelier the improvisation.

In the 1920s, jazz’s ability to work with emotions was one of the reasons why it was so strongly opposed by the more traditional section of society. Jazz music, with its fast, syncopated rhythm, was thought to be able to bring out the more basic, primitive, animalistic emotions. And the dances that were danced to it (the Charleston, the Black Bottom, the Turkey Trot and such like) didn’t do anything to mitigate that idea.
People would dance in couples to that music, often embracing each other, their bodies rubbing against each other, at a fast, exhilarating rhythm. That was the good of jazz for young people, it was the freedom to express themselves, a liberating experience, both physical and intellectual. Jazz represented the brake away from the past. It was a new rhythm, a new way to understand rules, even a new way to bend those rules to create something that didn’t existed before.

New vs old generationMost traditional people thought this was true… only it wasn’t good at all. The break away from the past and conventional rules were perceive as something that would eventually destroy society. The ‘devil music’ would twist young people’s inhibitions and moral restraints – especially those of women – and would create rebellion against authority, which would eventually lead to chaos.
And if this were not enough, jazz was performed in disreputable places (mostly speakeasies) where other illegal activities were going on (drinking and interracial meeting), which the music seemed to encourage.
It was clearly the making of the devil and some reformers asked that it be prohibited just like alcohol.

But on the other side of the fence, jazz is understood in a very different way. As Wynton Marsalis explains in his book Moving on Higher Ground: how jazz can change your life, the most important emotion jazz encourages is respect.
Because improvisation is so essential to the life of jazz music, it requires a very strong feeling for the group. Musicians have to be aware of what they have to offer, but they also need to be aware that all the other musicians and even the listeners have something just as valuable to bring in. That’s how you recognise everyone’s potentiality and how you create something by making it work together.
At its heart, jazz is a great song of freedom and respect.




Marsalis, Wynton, Moving to Higher Ground: how jazz can change your life. Random House, New York, 2008

Jazz in America – What is Jazz?
Medical Daily – Emotion and Creativity: Jazz Improvisation of Happiness Activates Different Brain Networks than Sadness


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About the Author

I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

38 Comments on "Emotions (AtoZ Challenge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)"

  1. It’s funny how jazz was considered “devil music” by people that wanted to control others. The same can be said about most kinds of music as they debut, and the older generations reject the new sound or style. I like Wynton Marsalis’s take on it, that you have to be able to trust the group in order to experiment as a performer, but I wonder if that necessarily crosses over to the audience?

    I suspect people will always like what they like, and there will always be some type of music that’s considered rebellious for the young folks of that time period. Eventually, even the most risqué songs become mellowed with time, right?
    Laura Roberts recently posted…Delicious! Celebrate Deep Dish Pizza Day #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

    • “It’s funny how jazz was considered “devil music” by people that wanted to control others.”
      You know? You are absolutely right!
      But you know what’s intersting? By “more traditional sections of society” I dont’t necessarily mean “older generation”. A lot of people was opposed to jazz for a variety of reasons – as I will try to expose in future posts.

      Marsalis’s book is the very first I read about jazz and I loved it! He gives an introduction to the music, the first part of the book is quite technical. But the secont part is more about his experience with it and his phylosophy about it. There’s a lot of anecdotes about his formation years and a lot of considerations about what jazz taught him.
      It’s a very good one 🙂

  2. I agree, every generation has their own rebellion music. And the older I get the more drastic the differences. Isn’t it fun! 🙂
    Yolanda Renee recently posted…D – DEADHORSEMy Profile

    • It’s true, but some music is more meanignful on a social level than other, I suspect. Probably rock and roll had the same meaning of early jazz on a social level.

      In the 1920s, jazz wasn’t just a genre of music, it was a way of thinking and it was pervasive. It didn’t just involve a section of society or just artists, but society as a whole, becuase it was the manifestation of a change that was pervasive.
      Rebellious as it certainly is, I dont’ think that rap – for example – has ever had the same social meaning.
      But this is just my opinion. If someone has a different one, please comment 🙂

  3. What a GREAT video you found to go with your post! I really enjoyed watching it!

  4. I LOVE this! Especially the video— to this day, I still can’t figure out how they can dance like that! With all the crazy footwork… when I try it, my feet just go over the place :))))) Seriously, how can an era like this— the jazz, the charleston, everything!— be gone? Such wonderful times. <3

    Anyway, glad to see you in the challenge again! 🙂

    – Jane C.
    Do visit my blog as I showcase my "photography skill" as this month's A-Z theme!

  5. I’d never thought about the respect angle before. ‘Society’s reaction to anything a little bit new and different and exciting isn’t unexpected, the same was true of rock and roll, and punk, and rave music, but the idea that because of the need to understand each other and the music, that it engenders respect – I like that idea.
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles | Wittegen Press | FB3X
    Sophie Duncan recently posted…Murder Most Foul! – E is for Embarrassment – Cozy Mystery #AtoZChallenge 2016My Profile

    • That’s one of the best parts of Marsalis’s book, in my opinion. I really like his phylosophy.

      I agree that everything that is new and different is seen with mistrust, especially at the beginnig, but as I commented above, I don’t really think that every new music had the same social meaning as early jazz. By this I mean that not all music involved the totality of society as jazz did. Of the ones you mention, I think probably only rock and roll had the same social meaning.
      Just my two cents 😉

  6. “especially those of women” – wow, that’s so not a shock. Establishments types are always so worried about women being liberated in any way. How very true about the respect element because of the improvisation – I’d never thought of it like that before.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)
    Tasha recently posted…E – Enola Sciotti – Fictional Phantoms #AtoZChallenge 2016My Profile

    • In the 1920s, a lot of people were very worried about women’s… integrity 😉

      I’ve been posting a series of articles about the New Woman where I address women’s subject more in detail, if you may be intersted.

  7. Jazz, ghosts, speakeasies and the 1920s: what a marvelous concept for a novel! I look forward to reading your work.
    @RhondaGilmour from
    Late Blooming Rose

  8. This reminds me when I worked at that New Orleans-themed restaurant, one of my co-workers taught me how to swing dance. We got so good at it we used to go up and put on shows on the dance floor during songs. Jazz makes you wanna move, no doubt about that!

  9. The roaring 20’s would be an interesting place to visit if I were able to time travel.
    And to think I’d be engaged in the times immoral activities. Drinking and Interracial association. Yikes! I’d be in the drunk tank for sure. Wait, did they even have those then?
    Great post, another great song selection.
    Jeffrey Scott recently posted…Nostalgia TV – EMy Profile

  10. Improvisation is also important just for life in general 🙂 I also love it how the same rhetoric keeps coming up every time a new musical genre pops up…

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary
    Tarkabarka recently posted…E is for Elder siblingsMy Profile

  11. I am really enjoying learning about all of the different aspects of jazz. This is such a great blog and a wonderful theme!
    Mary Burris recently posted…#AtoZChallenge E is for ElleMy Profile

  12. The images and videos you’re using are fabulous! This theme is a bit like taking a music appreciation class. I will never listen to Jazz the same way after this.
    Robin Rivera recently posted…Masterplots Theater: E is for EscapeMy Profile

  13. Well, this challenge has been a journey for me too. I’m happy you’re experiencing the same thing 🙂

  14. I’ve been looking forward to your theme – and I’m not disappointed. Love your take on the Roaring Twenties – and I didn’t know about Wynton Marsalis’s book, so thanks!
    Jemima Pett
    Jemima Pett recently posted…E is for Earth | #IWSG post remembering Sue Ann BowlingMy Profile

  15. Years ago, I became hooked on Wynton Marsalis’s mellow music. I luv his statement that the most important emotion that jazz encourages is respect. I also have a desire to time travel back to some of those speakeasy joints of the 1920s. Except I believe the danced so hard to wipe out the difficulties and hardships of the times.

    Gail’s 2016 April A to Z Challenge
    E is for Eastern European Ancestors
    Gail M Baugniet recently posted…E is for EASTERN EUROPEAN ANCESTORS #IWSG #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

    • Oh, good, another time travel pal 🙂

      Well, although I agree that the 1920s weren’t the happy place we normally think, I think there was indeed a sense of positiveness and hope that it’s hard to find in many other decades. Some people were scared of change, but many others were excited about it, because change brought many good things to a lot of people. The following decades were a setback, and I believe times would catch up with the 1920s only in the 1960s.

      I don’t think they danced to forget. I think they dance to express the new feelings they had inside themselves.
      In fact I think that’s the power of 1920s jazz. It didn’t try to hide a tough reality, it urge to discover a new way of living.

  16. I never really think about background of music. This is really interesting. I never thought of Jazz as primitive.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted…Endangered Takahe – #AtoZ Postcards of New ZealandMy Profile

  17. I’m really enjoying your topics, videos, and pictures. Love this line: “At its heart, jazz is a great song of freedom and respect.”
    Claire Noland recently posted…F is for France and Fabulous FakeMy Profile

  18. Very true. Jazz is not like some of the music today where you can just turn your brain off and listen. If it does not pull you in you’re likely to lose interest.
    Sheena-kay Graham recently posted…(The) Equalizer and IWSG: Powerpuff Yourself TodayMy Profile

  19. Really enjoying this series, Sarah. Long live the devil music!
    Anabel recently posted…The Greenock CutMy Profile

  20. It has always intrigued me how one group of people can deem something as “wrong” and go after it without trying to first understand it and the people who are creating it or who seek it out. I love how music is associated with freedom. I’m really enjoying your posts and learning a lot!
    Jen recently posted…The 2016 A-Z CHALLENGE brought to you by The Letter “F”My Profile

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