Tempo (AtoZ Challenge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)

Tempo (Jazz Age Jazz Series) The rhythm of jazz was different from anything that came before it. In the 1920s, a part of critics believed that rhtythm destroyed people's inhibitions

Jazz Age Jazz - Tempo jazz

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Early jazz was strongly connected to sensuality. Its fast tempo, its syncopation, brought it a lot of trouble, because in many respects, that rhythm was associated with sensuality.
At the very beginning, jazzmen would perform in brothels, which connected jazz with sexuality from the start. The music itself was syncopated and meant to be danced with transport and freedom. In fact, jazz became so popular because of the popularity of dancing, which, by the way, happened in questionable environments – like speakeasies – where different forms of rules were routinely broken. It was quite clear that jazz was something disreputable that nice people wouldn’t want to be involved with.
Most critics of the 1920s exhorted listeners to resist the devil or wicked power jazz could exert on human behaviour through its fast, entrancing tempo. They believed that this music reduced moral restrains and encouraged sexual permissiveness and a state of mind similar to alcoholic intoxication.

Joan Crowford - Our Dancing DaughtersIt isn’t surprising then that some 1920s reformers hoped to pass a legislation that – similar to the prohibition of alcohol – would control, limit and hopefully stop the flow of jazz.
The dances themselves were often criticised, if not cried against. Most of the Jazz Age dances were meant to be danced in couple, most were meant to have the partners’ bodies touch and rub against each other. Most of these dances were fast and exhilarating.
Raids against dance places weren’t uncommon, as were outcries on newspapers.

What critics never thought about wondering was why people, especially youths, liked these dances. Why they sought the exhilaration of the dance itself and the shiver of the prohibited.
These youths were the same who wanted to break with the past and with their parents’ values. The same youths that had known war and wanted to forget it.
Jazz was their language. The language of their body and their minds. The tempo of this music was their tempo, which was widely different from that of any previous generation.  Jazz music broke the rules and sought ever new ways to express the present and the future. Jazz tempo was the tempo of a new era and a new world.



Ogren, Kathy J., The Jazz Revolution. Twenties America and the Meaning of Jazz. Oxford University Press, New York, 1989


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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.

17 Comments on "Tempo (AtoZ Challenge 2016 – Jazz Age Jazz)"

  1. I remember scenes in some of the old Black and whites. They really are pretty sensual. Lots of body movement. Your posts are so well done!

    • We tend to think that silent movies were boring. And really old and not modern. With women that needed the assistance of a men all the time and blush at any word.
      Anyone thinking this should watch a silent film. then will talk about all of this again 😉

  2. It’s funny how much society has changed, when dancing wild and touching each other was considered obscene…now it’s not even something we think about!
    Megan Morgan recently posted…T – TensionMy Profile

  3. I sort of love the entire concept of dancing being so sensual that it shocks people. Good. Most of the time they could use a shaking up. Thanks for all the time you have put in on your posts. I find them very enlightening.

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    Kathleen Valentine recently posted…T is for Tessie: Blogging the #AtoZchallengeMy Profile

  4. It’s a grand thing Jazz was never prohibited outright. It’s continuation to move on stronger than ever before is a testament to the awesomeness of jazz.
    Jeffrey Scott recently posted…Nostalgia TV – TMy Profile

    • I have to admit that knowing about jazz history has helped me a lot to appreciate the music itself.
      And you know, it was so tightly linked to the changes that were happenign in American society at the time, that I don’t think prohibiting it would have made any different. And in fact, it appears that quite a few communities did prohibited it in public halls.

  5. And the dancing was blamed on the liquor and booze.

    Every generation had a dance craze that the generations before just had to condemn. Mum and Dad did the Twist (among others) that Gramma Rabbit and my other grandparents would not permit to be taught to me, my siblings and cousins. (so we went to school dances and weddings and learned that way! Television helped a lot too!).

    When I was growing up, it was … (*shuddering*) disco. Now, Latino music is everywhere, and I can hardly move to the beat without dislocating something or sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies in milk. (Snap! Crackle! Pop!).

    Jazz sounds and looks like fun. I just wish I was younger to fully enjoy it!

    • And th enew generations will always find a way to learn and enjoy the new dances, no matter what ‘reformes’ would prefere them to do.
      History of humanity 😉

  6. To this day, when I hear music, I first hear melody, then rhythm, and lastly lyrics.

    I never thought syncopation would be associated with sensuality – but it makes sense.
    Molly recently posted…A-Z Challenge: U is for UndergroundMy Profile

  7. Very interesting, Sarah. I had assumed it was the atmosphere of the whole parcel, the idea of doing something prohibited and therefore dangerous and exciting. I hadn’t associated it with the music particularly, let alone the dancing!
    Ali Isaac recently posted…Fire and Water | Prose and PoetryMy Profile

  8. Love Louis. Could have done with being able to visit during April. I forget how much I love Jazz till I hear these tracks. Brilliant posts.

    • Well, better late than never tight? 🙂
      Besides, there are so many partecipants, I’m sure I’ll find still many other interesting blogs on the list.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

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