Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jazz Age

"Jazz was such an important part of the new mass culture that the 1920's are often referred to as the Jazz Age." (America, p. 705)

A cultural transformation took place in the United States in the 1920's. Magazines, tabloids, radio, movies and phonograph records all contributed to a whole new way of life for Americans. The first movie to be produced with sound was The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, in 1927. It is significant not only for being the first "talkie", but also because had to do with the newest form of music to come along, which was jazz. The 1920's are known as the Jazz Age. This new style of music has its origins in the music of the South, particularly New Orleans, and also has roots in African and European musical styles. Most of the early jazz musicians were black, and the popularity of jazz moved northward to cities like Chicago and New York. Some of the best known jazz musicians of this era were Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, and "Jelly Roll" Morton.
Jazz is an improvisational style of music, meaning that musicians don't follow notes written on a page, but rather, improvise as they play and sing. Related to jazz are styles such as the blues and ragtime. It was, and still is, a very free style of music. Some of the main themes of the songs from the Jazz Age were women's freedom to enjoy their sexuality, and black opposition to white mainstream values.
The invention of phonograph served to spread jazz to a wide audience, not only in the United States, but in Europe as well.
Much like any new form of music, for example the rock and roll of the 50's and 60's, jazz was controversial and labeled by some as "the devil's music". It was liberating and sensual and broke the rules musically and socially. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, criticized it by saying that sounded better played backwards.

German Unification

The late 1800's and early 1900's were turbulent times in Europe. One of the driving forces of these uneasy times was nationalism. Nationalism, or love for ones nation or homeland, had led to two different types of events in Europe. This great love for ones country led to unification or it led to the downfall of empires as countries sought their freedom and own identity from foreign rule. The force of nationalism acted as a magnet or a explosion, either pulling people together or breaking them apart. This force of nationalism eventually would be one of the causes of World War One as countries wanted to show their strength and dominance. Before the war nationalism also led to German Unification. The Prussian Empire in the 1800's controlled many of the German States, and within these states were people who shared the same culture, the same religion, language, national origin, and history, which led to a feeling of unity, of nationalism. These feeling of nationalism led to the desire to unify the German States under Prussian rule, and then create a German State. This was led by Otto von Bismarck, who was appointed by chancellor by King William I of Prussia. Bismarck used the idea of "real politik" or the politics of reality, a direct and realistic view of the world, this view was the need for power. He strengthened the army using his idea of "blood and iron" the need for a strong military. Within the next decade Bismarck led Germany into three wars, gaining land and control over the rest of the German states. Bismarck annexed lands, made alliances with Austria to gain land, and then eventually attacked Austria to gain even more land. When Prussia had gained control over the German states, and defeated Austria the French became very worried of this growing power and soon the Franco-Prussian War started in 1870, the power of the German "blood and iron" mentality defeated the French, thus leading to an even stronger feeling of nationalism in the German states. After the war the remaining German states not under Prussian rule encouraged King William to unify the states, and form the Second Reich or great empire of Germany, and thus in 1871 Kaiser William I unified Germany.