Publisher description for Jazz : myth and religion / Neil Leonard.
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Why has jazz proved so troublesome to some and so fulfilling to others?
Early on, "respectable" voices condemned jazz as profane, even diabolical, "the Devil's music," defiling received notions of art, sex and race, and threatening the very fabric of American life, to say nothing of that of Western civilization. Traces of these feelings remain in some influential
quarters, both black and white. At the same time, some people discovered meanings in jazz more significant than those in any other music or art form. For them, jazz provided ecstatic experience not found in any concert hall or church--epiphanies and catharses carrying feelings of the sacred and
magical. And these feelings, along with the charismas of jazz heroes--the Armstrongs, Parkers, and Coltranes--generated strong communal understandings and sect-like groupings with rituals and myths upholding and extending the jazz mystique. True believers genuinely felt their music could
supernaturally alter their personal and social lives.
Examining music and religion in the broad sense, Neil Leonard uses the work of Max Weber and his followers to consider how listeners have regarded jazz as sacred or magical and created myths and rituals to implement and sustain this belief. In a time when conventional religions are in flux or
decline, jazz has provided a focus for spiritual impulses tempered by the anomie, anxieties, and alienations of the twentieth century, Leonard maintains. This book, then, tells us not only about music and society but also about religious behavior in a secular time.
About the Author:
Neil Leonard is Chairman of the Department of American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the author of Jazz and the White Americans.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Jazz -- History and criticism.
Jazz -- Religious aspects.
Music -- Social aspects.