Neil Leonard Jazz: Myth and Religion

ISBN 13: 9780195059243

Jazz: Myth and Religion

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Early critics condemned jazz as profane--even diabolic--labelling it "the Devil's music" which threatened the very fabric of not only American life but also Western civilization as a whole. Simultaneously, however, other people discovered meanings in jazz more significant than those in any other music or art form. For them, jazz provided ecstatic experiences not found in any concert hall or church. These experiences--along with the charismatic personalities of such jazz heroes as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane--generated strong communal feelings and sect-like groupings which created rituals and myths to uphold the jazz mystique.
In this study of the relationship between music and religion, Neil Leonard uses the work of Max Weber and his followers in order to explore how listeners have come to regard jazz as sacred or magical and have created myths and rituals to sustain this belief. Leonard argues that in a time when conventional religions have fallen into a state of flux, jazz has provided a focus for spiritual impulses tempered by the anxieties and alienations of the twentieth century. Leonard's Jazz tells us not only about music and society but also about religious behavior in a secular time.

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About the Author:


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.

From Library Journal:

Jazz musicians and audiences are participants in an activity that follows patterns of religious behavior, according to Leonard. His thorough documentation draws on the commentary of sociologists of religion such as Mircea Eliade as liberally as that of critics such as Nat Hentoff. Terms such as "ritual," "convert," "prophet," and "sect" describe the reaction of jazz to the "church" of traditional 19th-century music. At times this work takes a perspective reminiscent of the author's earlier Jazz and the White Americans (Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1962). Leonard's juxtapositions of religion and jazz illuminate both, but will certainly appeal more to the sociologist than to the musicologist. William Brockman, Drew Univ. Lib., Madison, N.J.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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