The Rise of Jazz in Chicago Culture


During the 20th century, Jazz underwent a musical renaissance in Chicago. The presented factor significantly benefited the people of Chicago and the US in the long run. One of the desirable factors experienced due to the establishment and promotion of jazz in the region was the creation of employment. Evidently, a boom was noted in the establishment of industrial jobs which attracted the attention of the young workers across the region (Anderson 135). The factor further prompted a rise in the level of disposable income with a massive rise in demand for music theatres, concert halls, and night clubs. The southern side of the city experienced the establishment of more entertainment districts with venues such as Andy’s Jazz Club and Green Mill being established. The region’s economy continually benefits from the jazz development in that over 100,000 people are attracted to Grant Park every summer to witness the great music styles of the jazz stars in the region (“Chicago..And all that Jazz” n.p).

The Rise of Jazz

Jazz music has its origins in New Orleans. Despite this, most of its history is from Chicago. During the early 20th century, the growth of the manufacturing industries which benefited Chicago economically brought along the culture of jazz music. The promoters available on the southern side of the city were financially well-off and took advantage of the presented opportunity by attracting the best jazz artists from the region. The Original Diexieland Jass Band was one of the common bands invited by the promoters at the time. As the members of the band stayed in Chicago, Bix Beiderbecke became their follower and a legend after learning how to play jazz from the band. Beiderbecke showed his admiration for Louis Armstrong, a horn player from New Orleans. Armstrong was a part of the hottest jazz ensembles, the Creole Jazz Band, of the 1920s (Oler 94).

During the 1920s, the jazz recording industry of Chicago indicated a positive growth as major musicians made their recordings. For instance, in 1926, Ben Pollack Orchestra was recorded by Victor label. The musician affiliated with a West Side musicians group referred to as the Austin High Gang. New York decided to challenge the role of Chicago in capitalizing the jazz music in the 1930’s and 40s. Despite this, the clubs which focused on the jazz musicians ensured that Chicago still remained a destination for the presented music players.

A renaissance was ensured in the 1950s by innovators such as Herbie Hancock. In 1951, a pianist known as Jamal, born in Pittsburgh, established a fan base in Chicago with his post-bop style. Some of the recordings of the pianist were a hit during the time such as the Poinciana (Anderson 135). He did not let his skills go at a waste in that he trained pianists how to become better in the art. His skills enhanced further after winning a Grammy Award as the jazz artist who is globally renowned. Sun Ra also contributed to the development of the jazz music in the region after establishing a record label known as El Saturn. He experimented with the orchestra by implementing new Diaspora and African styles in his music. His label remained in Chicago after deciding to relocate to New York in early 1960s. It is clear that the jazz afro centric culture welcomed jazz revolution. With the Experimental Band established by Richard Abrams, the musicians managed to bring in an African culture into the jazz music, therefore, promoting the prominence of the pieces even to the American.

Meaning of the Rise of Jazz in the African-American Literature

The rise of the Jazz music has significantly impacted the African-American literature. Evidently, the music ensured a relocation of approximately six million African Americans from the states located at the south to the West, East, and Midwest resulting to the Great Migration (Anderson 136). The rise fundamentally impacted the African-American literature as it made it easier for the people to express themselves. Apparently, the market had an increased appetite for the musical style of the black, performing bodies and rhythms. The people could easily express how they felt about racism in a collective manner through their jazz pieces. Clearly, black musicians could connect to the larger community communicating their struggles displayed through their exploitive cultural, political, and socioeconomic arrangements evident during the 20th century (Vaillant 1917). It is evident that during the 20th century, the members of the community could not relate to the world at large as a result of the difficulties in communication driven by racism. But with their music, they could communicate to their fans and the public about what they felt about the racism situation and the changes that were anticipated.


The rise of jazz in Chicago has significantly benefited the members of the community. Through industrialization, jazz was established in the region. The jazz music pieces continue to advance and become better over the years, thus making it easier for the members of the African-American community to engage in self-expression. Through music, the members of the community could relay their feelings and thoughts to the larger community about their difficulties and hardships originating from racism.

On Classical Music

‘The Half King” by Douglas Adams is, in many ways, inspired by “From the New World” by Antonin Dvorak. The tune resembles the one that serves as an inspiration to it by using a pentatonic scale and syncopated rhythm.  The harmony of the tune is dominated by brass instruments. Dissonance dominates the tune by creating an unstable tension that is resolved in the end. ‘The Half King” has a ceremonial feeling to it. The upbeat tune reminds of official celebrations.

Emmanuel Chabrier composed his famous Habanera for the piano, and the tune was arranged for the orchestra some time after. Because of this, the rhythm, harmony, and the volume of the piece are unusually calm for the orchestral music. Habanera appears to be a piece composed for a small ensemble, and the fact that it is played by the orchestra makes it unusual.  Habanera is influenced by traditional Spanish music (Hinson 80) The slow tempo helps to emphasize the characteristic rhythm.  The cross-rhythm is syncopated, and there is an accent on the upbeat in the middle of the piece.  The time signature of the rhythm is 2/4. The intervals within the melody are both conjunct and disjunct, as they constantly change. The melody goes up and down, unexpectedly enters the higher register, and calms down in the end. Habanera makes the audience peaceful and engaged at the same time by combining slow tempo with strong rhythm. About tempo and rhythm you can read in importance of music essay.

“The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives is composed of simple harmonies. The instruments play at independent tempos (Hitchcock, Wiley &Zahler 440). There are three groups of instruments: strings, a trumpet, and a woodwind quartet. The main emphasize of the tune is the trumpet that is extremely noticeable in contrast to unified clarinet, oboe, and string sections. The contrast in rhythm and melody of different instruments is set to bring a special meaning to the tune. Trumpet stands for “question of existence,” while other instruments are the “answers” that fail to explain the questions of existence.”The Unanswered Question” evokes complicated feelings in a listener. It makes one think about the purpose of life. After the tune ends, it leaves the person to deal with the feeling of melancholia (Baron 40). Such melancholia is explained by the harmonies of the strings. Moreover, the unusual structure makes the tune cosmic and detached.

“Going Home” by Antonin Dvorak is the song that resembles the spiritual music genre. The tune is influenced by the traditional music of Africa and Native American music. The tune has a common time signature. It begins with D-flat major and ends in C-sharp minor. The main theme is a simple, and yet, a broad melody. It is delivered by the cor anglais (Keller). The middle section differs from the rest of the tune because of the C sharp minor passage. The tune has a nostalgic mood that does not feel like a detached one. As the major sections contrast with minor sections, the listener feels absorbed by a feeling of a hopeful melancholy.

“From the New World” by Antonin Dvorak is characterized by pentatonic scale. The rhythms are both syncopated and dotted. The main key of the tune is E minor. The four movements of the tunes are entirely different, with each of them comprising a separate work(Service). The abovementioned “Going Home” is the song based on the second movement. The first movement has a form of sonata and a slow tempo. The third movement has a distinguishing A-B-A form. Finally, the last movement returns to the form of a sonata. “From the New World” cannot be boiled down to a single feeling because of its complexity.

How Music Brings Us Together

Interestingly, in a world where many things are tearing us apart –from terrorism to drug trafficking –  music seems to continue bringing people closer together no matter their race, political beliefs, gender, religion, sexuality and any other affiliations. Moreover, despite the language used to compose the song, listening to music has been shown in many studies to directly impact the brain’s neurochemicals, leading to the situation when people start to feel close and connected to one another (Egermann, Fernando, Chuen, and McAdams 3). Thus, with reference to the video Common Practice, it is evident that as individuals listen to music, they are literally and figuratively brought together through an increase in empathy, cooperation, and social connection.

First and foremost, music is composed primarily by artist’s experiences. That is, he or she writes about what they personally experience in life. Since people’s experiences are in most cases similar – love, hate, happiness, and sadness to name a few – they tend to connect on an emotional level about what the artist experiences, or his moods at the moment. In the video Common Practice one can see that all individuals are going through their own lives with their own emotions being experienced. Some individuals in the video are sad, some happy, silent, jovial but as soon as the boy hits the notes on the violin, everyone stops and listens (Efron, Marcos). Suddenly, they all adapt to one empathetic mood dictated by the boy playing the violin. It seems as though the song reminds them of some special moment in their lives when things were calm or creates the sense of peace and tranquility. This atmosphere is so intense that all of them appear to enjoy the moment of fulfillment and have their moods change instantly. Scientifically, music has been shown to increase and activate cognitive events in different parts of the brain (Bakagiannis and Tarrant 129). These areas include the circuit of the brain, a section responsible for the developed understanding of interpersonal and intrapersonal communication – a social skill linked to empathy (Bakagiannis and Tarrant 130). As a result, when people listen to a particular piece of music composed by a fellow human being (an artist, not a machine), their “theory of mind” circuit and critical network lights up leading to an increase on empathy level.

Secondly, through music people cooperate on social, cultural, or spiritual levels. When I think of the favorite lullabies passed down from one generation to another, the national anthem, football anthems, the favorite cultural or religious songs, emotionally they are connected, and physically coordinated in a unique way. When individuals notice that someone loves the same song that we love, or enjoys the song as much as they do, it is not just about entertainment to them, but rather a means of connection (Schäfer et al, 2). In the video Common Practice people are going about their business without any care about things or other people. But then, as soon as the boy strolls along holding the violin people start taking notice of his music and the surroundings (Efron, Marcos). When he starts playing the violin, people are taken to another state of mind. Soon after the gloomy guy in the taxi begins admiring his girlfriend, the mother holds her baby tighter, two lovers continue smiling, and people in the streets talk to one another as they leave (Efron, Marcos). Studies show that cooperation and social cohesion is higher within groups that listen to familiar music pieces with the peers (Tarr, Launay and Dunbar, 1-2). The effect is also true across cultures where interdependence is not valued much as music tends to act as a “social glue”; bringing all individuals closer together.

Thirdly, people in love, as well as mothers and their babies bond even greatly through music. These groups of people attach meaning to pieces of music, and common listening increases their attraction to one another. Whenever mothers are with their babies, lovers or partners are together; they can turn to music to boost their bond levels. Once their favorite songs are playing, whether together or not, the bond of such persons between one another strengthens: That is one of the reasons people listen to a piece of music and remember their loved ones. In the video Common Practice, we see two lovers giggling and romancing at the stairways (Efron, Marcos). As the boy goes up the stairs with the violin, they follow him and sit close to his door. As soon as the boy starts playing the violin, they seem to move through a wave of emotions and love, and as soon as the song is over, they seem to have bonded over it even more and start caressing one another passionately (Efron, Marcos). In the same manner, the mother and her child listen to the music and bond on “another level.” The mother seems to love the child even more and caresses the baby as they listen to the song together (Efron, Marcos). Scientist believes that oxytocin – a chemical affiliated with sexual bond and breastfeeding – increases significantly when listening to music (Suttie). The increase in the levels of oxytocin deepens feeling of bonding, love, and trust between people in love and with the mother and child. Consequently, they – lovers or mother and child – become more attached to one another while listening to a particular piece of music together.

Lastly, the music cuts across all cultures and goes over all cultural barriers. It does not matter whether one understand the words or not, listening to a great piece of music ticks people’s senses in a way not possible by any other piece of art. The reason why some of the most listened songs on YouTube are foreign – Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, Gangnam Style (Korean) by Psy, Bailando (Spanish) by Enrique Iglesias, Descemer Bueno, and Genre De Sona as other examples. This is due to the fact that music communicates to all people in a unique way (Moloney). In the video Common Practice there is a representation of people from different cultures, genders, and races. Nonetheless, the sound of the music from the violinist reaches to them all. They all stand and take notice of the boy’s rhythm, enjoying it in their own ways. The old, the young, the men, the women, the children, all being representatives of different cultures, listen to the music with smiles on their faces as the violin soothes their ears. McGill University study on the effects of music across all cultures, the researchers found out that although various cultures feel differently about the impact of a particular piece of music – whether good or bad – their physiological and subjective response to whether the music brings excitement or calmness appeared to be universal (Egermann et al 3). Thus, it does not matter whether one comes from the most remote part of Africa, or is a hipster in Montreal, there are certain aspects of music that will touch anyone in a similar way.

In conclusion, music brings us together through bonding in a physical, social, or emotional way. Members of any specific group attracted to a specific piece of music seem in-tune with one another. Watching the video Common Practice one realizes that music cuts across all ages, cultures, and races. After listening to some piece of music, the social cooperation and cohesion levels increase tremendously. Scientific evidence points to higher levels of oxytocin and increased brain activities in the circuit area as responsible for how people respond to music. Through the increased levels of oxytocin and elevated cognitive activities, music affects people in a similar manner and leads to their responding in universal manner. The more people listen to the music, the more they become attached to one another. At a time when the world faces crisis after crisis, music is here to restore the faith, love, and unity that humans have towards one another. Thus, as individuals strive to understand and support each other, they can do so in one of the most delightful ways possible – through music.