I wrote this piece for Journalism class and to be honest it was provoked by the opinions of two different people: one of them claimed that she would never listen to boring jazz, while another claimed that jazz is for people who were born with special abilities to understand it. So I thought: ‘Hang on, I grew up on rock and thrash metal music! And hang on…jazz is so beautiful’.
Some people think that listening to jazz is quite challenging, as they think only chosen people were born with the natural ability to understand this music. Others swear that they would never ever listen to such dull and gloomy music. Is it then challenging to listen to jazz? Well, it might be a tough nut to crack, but why?
Real jazz is not commercially popular music, and it means that you won’t hear it in the UK top 40. You won’t see jazz performers at T in the Park or on The X Factor. The reason for this is that jazz is not a creature of pop culture, which arose in the late 20th century. Jazz’s roots are much older, and go back to the beginning of the 20th century. For some people those times might be too old to be worth remembering, and similarly listening to old music can be tiring for them.
Nowadays some people seem to forget about the written word and its value. That’s why it would be easy for many of them to swallow Mike Posner’s song ‘Cooler Than Me’, which is now no.14 in the official UK top 40 singles chart: ‘You never say hey/or remember my name./ It’s probably coz/ you think you’re cooler than me. /You got your hot crowd/ shoes on your feet/and you wear them around/like they ain’t shit’.
If we compare it to ‘I Thought About You’, composed in 1939 by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer we can see, that it’s not easy to listen to old, not so cool and not so trendy, songs: ‘I took a trip on a train and I thought about you. /I passed a shadowy lane and I thought about you. /Two or three cars parked under the stars a winding stream. /Moon shining down on some little town and with each beam the same old dream’.
Why else might jazz be challenging to listen to? Many people would probably say that it is so boring, and they might be right: jazz is not plain music. It does not usually follow a sheet of notes but is a kind of improvisational dialogue between particular musicians or between a musician and an orchestra. Let us repeat fabulous Emperor Joseph II’s fabulous comment on Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro: ‘There are simply too many notes. There are in fact only so many notes the ear can hear in the course of an evening’.
No wonder that this music is not recognized as interesting by many people of different ages. It is not just a series of dinosaur tunes; it doesn’t match the contemporary vision of a melody where a couple of sounds from a keyboard are called the music.