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The Sign of the Blues
Copyright 1993 Joan Cartwright, M.A.

This paper takes the Marxist theory that “all art is a direct result of social conditioning” and applies it to the Blues. The paper traces the roots of the blues from the shores of West Africa to Jamestown, Virginia, where hopeless slaves cried out for freedom through music born of syncopated African rhythms, call and response, European sacred hymns and field hollers, the elements of the only legitimate communication allowed slaves. In the course of history, these elements led to a code used by the Underground Railroad, “devil music” commonly known as the blues, gospel music or Negro Spirituals, and the contemporary forms of American music, namely, jazz, rock & roll and rhythm & blues (R&B). The pioneers of these musical media are discussed, as well as the impact of American music on the international music scene with emphasis on European appreciation of American Blues and Jazz.

Jazz: The Unmasked Rhetoric
Copyright 1993 Joan Cartwright, M.A.

"Jazz sounds around the world as the gilded voice of those who have risen from the dust of bondage to take hold of the reins of the chariot moving toward universal emancipation."

(Joan Cartwright, M.A.)

This lecture traces the course of jazz music from its West African roots through slavery, the unfoldment of gospel music, the subsequent evolution of the blues and minstrelsy, as the masked rhetoric of African Americans who dared not say to the faces of racists whites what their songs could say. Behind the doors of the jazz clubs in American and Europe, African American musicians finally removed the mask of deception worn by their musical forebearers who sang spirituals, moaned the blues and painted their faces white to participate in minstrel shows for the entertainment of white supremacists. The African American musicians of the twentieth century, including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Les McCann, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Sonny Rollins, Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Betty Carter and many more, used jazz music to condemn the racist society which enjoyed not only great pleasure from the music but great commercial success from the publication and promotion of Negro spirituals, blues, minstrelsy and jazz music.

Copyright 1994 Joan Cartwright, M.A.

This thesis examines jazz music, first, as a language developed by African Americans to communicate their desire for personal freedom and community, then, as a commodity exploited by the commercial music industry dominated by European Americans. Ownership and the ideology of critics are specific problems of cultural politics that hinder African American innovators from attaining the commercial success enjoyed by white imitators, producers and critics.

Because real jazz is the creation of African American musicians struggling to have a voice in society, it is critically denounced and underexposed, lauded and rewarded far less than commercial jazz, its diluted counterpart designed for mass consumption rather than for nationalistic expression. European Americans largely determine the commercial fortunes of jazz because they control the entertainment industry that consists of publishing, recording, literature, radio, television and film.

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