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Origins III - Radio and the Industrial Beat

Radio achieved national popularity in the 1920's and '30's, and became the central entertainment for many homes. Audiences hungry for new sounds could now hear them in their own living rooms, and much of this programming was jazz. Nightly and weekly variety shows of the '20's broadcasted bands like Paul Whiteman's. Radio in the swing era of the 30's exposed listeners to artists like Duke Ellington and Count Basie. NBC's 'Let's Dance' program featured Benny Goodman as the hot band, and helped to pack the halls wherever the 'King of Swing' played live. Jazz became the popular dance music of America. Many musicians like Thad Jones heard jazz for the first time on the radio. Musical events in New York and other cities were followed through broadcasts. When Charlie Parker solos crossed the country on the airwaves in the '40's, musicians migrated to New York City to learn the bebop sound.

The popularity of jazz as dance music had a direct influence on the musical structure. Different in many ways, swing, boogie-woogie, New Orleans jazz, and even bebop had the common thread of 4 beats to the bar. This rhythmic pattern had been in music for centuries, and provides the most accessible dance grooves. The accent on the 2nd and 4th beats, known as the backbeat, became more pronounced in drumming styles. In W. R. Stokes' book The Jazz Scene, Bill Cosby describes dancing to songs like Night In Tunisia and Confirmation as a teenager in the '40's. Even though the melodic and harmonic structures were becoming more complex, the music remained in the public ear because of its foot tapping rhythm. Jazz thrived on radio until rock and roll took over in the '50's, sounding the first of many premature epitaphs for our native art form.

Another influence on jazz was the increasing industrialization of society. Early examples of this are the train songs of blues, folk, western and country music. The speeding up of the steam engine was imitated in performances, and the wheels clacking on the tracks inspired rhythmic foundations. As cities became centers of manufacturing, the complex beats of machines and traffic became a part of everyday life, and of drumming and percussion styles. The faster pace of jazz reflected the rhythms of the cities in which it evolved. This suggests the intensity of free jazz, the grind of funk rhythms, and the new sounds of hiphop - types of music born of the urban existence.    [top]
- article by Frank Singer 2002



Jazz Origins
I - Beginnings 
II - Jazz and Technology
III - Radio and the Industrial Beat    
The Swing Era
I - Precursors
II - The Decade of Swing
III - The BeBop Strain
A First Look Back
New Orleans Revival

Jazz Forms

The Blues
The 32 bar Song Form
The Latin Influence
Hard Bop
Evolution 1 - A New Dialogue
Evolution 2 - Into The Seventies
Evolution Of The Jam Session
Post Modernism


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