History

Panic at the Jazz Club

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George H. Smith describes the jazz scare of the '20s, which may remind you of the rock and rap scares of later days:

Anne Faulkner—music chairperson of the National Federation of Women's Clubs, and author of What We Hear in Music and The Opera and Oratorio—was alarmed by a new type of music that was sweeping across America. She called her article Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?

Jes Grew
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Faulkner wrote her article to explain the "evil influence" of jazz on American culture. Jazz inspired a style of dancing that originated with the "voodoo dancer, stimulating the half-crazed barbarian to the vilest deeds." The fact that the syncopated rhythm of jazz, which causes "brutality and sensuality," has "a demoralizing effect upon the human brain has been demonstrated by many scientists." Jazz "almost forces dancers to use jerky half-steps, and inspires immoral variations."

Faulkner was especially troubled by the detrimental influence of jazz on the morals of women. Women who liked to dance to the music of jazz orchestras frequently availed themselves of "corset check rooms," which enabled them to shed both physical and moral restraints; and over-stimulated young women sometimes wandered off with their dates during breaks.

Look at this fucking hipster.
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Jazz, according to Faulkner, is an "expression of protest against law and order, that bolshevik element of license striving for expression in music."…The "demoralizing effect" of jazz on factory workers was also evident. "This was noticed in an unsteadiness and lack of evenness in the workmanship of the product after a period when the workmen had indulged in jazz music."

It is "universally recognized," Faulkner wrote, that "the human organism responds to musical vibrations." Marches and patriotic songs—tunes with a simple melody, harmony, and rhythm—cause us to feel "contentment or serenity" and inspire us to acts of "valor and martial courage." Jazz, in stark contrast, "disorganizes all regular laws and order; it stimulates to extreme deeds, to a breaking away of all rules and conventions; it is harmful and dangerous, and its influence is wholly bad."

To read Smith's whole article—which is mostly about neoconservatism, but there's some more about the jazz panic too—go here. To demoralize your coworkers with a Bolshevik beat, click below: