Hello everyone! I am Sarah, Julianna’s assistant dramaturg for this amazing production of Tartuffe! We are so excited for you to jump into the world of the show, so to help you along the way, we’ll be posting some information for you to better understand the context of our 1920s American setting. So let’s jump in!
With cultural and political polarization going on in America during the early 1920s, we see an emergence of American music taking root in major cities across the country. The fun, syncopated music, renown for its brassy and stylistic solos, is none other than jazz. But before we can talk about the music, we have to talk about its birthplace, New Orleans. Imagine a man, working a low paying day job, going home to Storyville, the New Orleans slums, and spending his free time learning music. Jazz formed from a blend of previously existing styles, like country blues, folk hymn, and ragtime. With musicians learning the European techniques popular of the times, and combining it with the roots of African rhythm and improvisation we see an emergence of a new style entirely. Some of these genius musicians who made their start in New Orleans include Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and our Jazz symbol, Louis Armstrong. These legends help create a canon for New Orleans jazz, and led the way for younger black musicians to gain a way to fame. From this video you see the fun and charismatic style of the legend, Louis Armstrong.
Though jazz made its debut in New Orleans, its brilliant musicians were likely to find better opportunities for touring and recording in other major cities. With the Great Migration. or the major move of African Americans from the South to the North due to oppression and lack of work, musicians made their way up the Mississippi to Chicago, and later on to the Big Apple, New York City. On the road, these musicians would form small travelling bands. Unlike marching bands or classical orchestras, jazz bands would allow multiple instruments to share the melody and expanded on it through improvisation. This “call and response” between the rhythm section and the brass would later be one of the major characteristics of the style. Though jazz originated as a sinful lower class music, set in brothels and late night bars, the upbeat and fun style quickly caught on as a dance craze in the big cities. Jazz could no longer be considered the underground style from New Orleans, but the music that would define an era and shape the music industry forever.
Burns, Ken. Jazz. 2000. Video. YoutubeWeb. 21 Sep 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pimw60xGmuA&feature=youtu.be>.
Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. 2. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. 1-87. Print.