Jazz is a musical art form with African and Western European colonial roots, which dates back to the 19th century. The birth of jazz can also be traced back to the segregation laws of 1894. These laws brought together two polar populations and musical subcultures, creating a fusion of upper-class Creole classical influences and the cathartic “blues notes” sung and played by poor, uneducated black Americans who were enduring hardship in the south. While jazz is often known for its mixture of simple and complex rhythms and beats, it is most celebrated for its’ improvisational quality. Jazz challenges listeners but also offers great rewards.
Tension and Repose
Jazz waxes and wanes between “tension” and repose, challenging the listener with unpredictability and then rewarding the listener with predictable rhythms, according to music expert Donald J. Funes in his acclaimed textbook, “Musical Involvement.” The jazz listener’s investment is greater than the pop listener’s, Funes argues, as pop music is characterized by more repetitive, predictable rhythms, while jazz contains both common blues patterns interspersed by unpredictable taunting around those notes, that increase the overall tension of the music. Pop music may be easier to listen to, but it is less gratifying, says Funes, who, incidentally, likes both pop and jazz. But if you take the effort to appreciate jazz that effort spawns greater satisfaction.
Listening to jazz is not just a satisfying and rewarding experience, studies show that it is actually good for your health. A paper in the U.K. Journal of Advanced Nursing states that listening to jazz, classical or your favorite melodies can relieve chronic pain and migraines, reduce blood pressure, accelerate post-stroke recovery, improve memory, boost immunity and induce relaxation. The paper theorizes that music helps distract patients, gives them a sense of control and also releases endorphins into their bodies that alleviate pain.
The same U.K. study documented that listening to music, in general, can boost your spirits, energy level and increase productivity. If you’re tired, listening to upbeat music can alleviate fatigue. But too much pop, rap or hard rock can also make you more jittery, distracted and less productive. Classical and jazz were found to be beneficial, without the negative side effects.
- Playing sax during a live jazz session image by Alfonso d'Agostino from Fotolia.com