stop all that jazz

… It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.A fantastical rigidity and outright antagonism to Jazz and its corresponding swing variant in the Nazi era. The critique tended to flatten out the contradictions of this musical form and de-humanize it, vilifying it to a-historical status. It was basically a negation of the internal dynamics of jazz, yet the critique was equally vociferous from the left; the Frankfurt school of Adorno contended as well it was not worthy of the status of real music due to what he felt was the standardization and interchangeability of composition. Jazz was felt to not be stylistically distinct. Even Heidegger, had ambivalent and ambiguous feelings towards jazz was not unfavorable towards it within the context of “being” as part of an architecture or dwelling, as long as the jazzmen stayed out of the main house.

But many of these criticisms were simply leisure class comparative judgements leveraged by conspicuous taste comparative preferences that a Veblen critique could pierce. In fact, the critique from left and right may have less to with aesthetics and form, than with racism and the paranoid sense of biological reproduction that was so anxiety inducing. Veblen’s categorization of “high culture” or the higher arts was placed correctly, as just another form of conspicuous consumption, very much an irksome issue with Adorno who responded by a variety of long scholarly pejoratives that seemed to confirm Veblen’s premise.

Otto Dix. Read More:

…Set in Baltimore, Berlin and Paris, Half-Blood Blues spans from just after the Great War to the 1990s, but centres on the months leading up to the occupation of Paris. It chronicles the increasingly deadly trials of an interracial jazz band in which the lead musician, a German of African descent, is arrested by the Nazis.

Half-Blood Blues can be compared to a jazz symphony with discrete movements, shifting moods and a complex chorus of human and instrumental voices: It swings between present and past, North and South, East and West, black and white, art and violence, war and peace.

---The Nazi authorities considered the dance craze of the Swing scene a particular menace. Swing was viewed as a very dangerous foreign import, because it was rooted in immoral Black ”jungle music” with accompanying allusions to wild, indiscriminate sex. Even worse, as far as the Nazi officials were concerned, Swing was a deliberate product of Jewish media moguls in America that, if spread to Germany, could contaminate the blood of its own youth. Youngsters caught up in a possible invasion of Swing would revert to more primitive forms of African-inspired behavior. Their blood would become contaminated as they bred babies of uncertain parentage as a result of sexual relations with multiple partners --- Read More:

In 1939 Berlin, Sid Griffiths, an African-American bass player, and his friend, Chip Jones, belong to a popular jazz band. Composed of African-American and German musicians, the Hot Time Swingers play the city’s clubs and cabarets. Eventually, Hieronymous Falk, a brilliant Afro-German trumpeter, joins the ensemble. He is the son of a French African soldier and a white German mother, a member of a despised population known as the Rhineland bastards. As the Nazi threat grows, Hiero’s racial heritage places him in constant danger. To make matters worse, the Nazis label jazz the degenerate music of blacks and Jews.

After the band is involved in a fatal brawl, and the Nazis deport their Jewish piano player, Chip, Hiero and Sid flee to France. In Paris, where they believe they will be safe, they audition for Louis Armstrong. It is their dream come true. But French officials have already started rounding up Germans, and after the occupation, Nazis begin rounding up undesirables. Both developments place Hiero at risk….

Eva Braun, dressed as Al Jolson. 1940.---By the mid-1930’s, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Marian Anderson—who all enjoyed adoration across Europe—found themselves banned from performing in Germany. This hostility extended to Jews associated with jazz and swing, such as the big band leader Benny Goodman. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Culture, launched an assault on African-American and Jewish music as “Negrodom, the art of the subhuman.” He officially banned the playing of jazz live, recorded, or via radio in 1937. However, Goebbels’ attempts to stem the craze for degenerate music proved laughably unsuccessful. Nazi propaganda films meant to villainize jazz often backfired, attracting swarms of music fans otherwise banned from seeing footage of American stars perform. Illicit jazz clubs sprouted up across Germany, and Berlin maintained a lively music scene throughout the 1930’s.---Read More: image:

…Edugyan illustrates how the Germans treated blacks according to their nationality. African Americans – mainly artists and diplomats – could move about with t

roper documents, while Hiero, a native of Germany, is considered a despicable outsider.

Canada exists far from the landscape of this novel, represented only by Delilah, from Montreal, with whom Sid falls in love. Nevertheless, key themes of black Canadian literature surface throughout, including the international nature of racism, the unpredictable treatment of blacks, the conundrum of biracial identity and the anxiety-inducing issue of passing….

---Jean-Paul Sartre from his article I Discovered Jazz in America from 1947, after listening to jazz musicians play at Nick’s pub, New York: … they are speaking to the best part of you, the toughest, the freest, the part that wants neither melody nor refrain, but the deafening climax of the moment. ... Jazz is like bananas – it must be consumed on the spot. God knows there are recordings in France, and some sad imitators. But all they do is give us an excuse to shed a few tears in pleasant company. Like everyone else, I really discovered jazz in America.--- Read More: image:

…Sid is a light-skinned black from Baltimore whose Virginia relatives have decided to pass for white. In Berlin, however, Sid’s olive complexion makes him more suspect than the band’s blond, blue-eyed pianist, who is Jewish. Still, Sid’s light skin guarantees him greater privilege than either Chip or Hiero, both dark. Edugyan shuffles the race cards to illustrate the dizzying implications of various permutations of shade, nationality and ethnicity. At the same time, she subtly implies that the poignancy of Chip’s and Hiero’s racial experience informs their superior musical gifts.

The novel is narrated by Sid in a jazzy black vernacular full of bawdy wit and rough tenderness that may give some readers cause to quibble. Yet Edugyan’s shaping of plot through voice and dialogue resembles a painter who models her subjects from whorls of colour. At times, Sid’s voice feels limiting, for he is a slightly naive, moderately talented musician, full of insecurities and petty jealousies. Sid comes to resent Hiero for his extravagant gifts and for the special bond the young man shares with Delilah. His pettiness turns malevolent. Read More:

---Most readers are aware of Hitler's reaction toward American black athelete Jessie Ownens at the 1936 Olympic Games. Interestingly Jessie Owens was quite popular among the spectsators and other aththeletes. The NAZIs had a special dislike of blacks because the French had used African soldiers for occupation duty in the Saar which they occupied after World War. The result was thousands of German children with African fathers left behind when the French withdrew from the Saar. The children were despised by most Germans, not just the NAZIs, who considered them a blot on German honor. The children grew up thinking that they were Germans. Some were even moved by Hitler and his appeal. This is one of many examples of how even non-Aryan boys were moved by Hitler and NAZI pageantry. There were many examples of Jewish boys having the same feelings, testimony to the powerful affect that the NAZI movement had on German boys. Regardless of background, most German boys wanted to participate in the Hitler Youth movement, to wear the uniform and belong. --- Read More: image:


Later, at the height of the war in early 1944, the Reich Ministry of Justice lamented:

“(…)One of the most striking appearances among dangerous groups within the Reich is the so-called Swing Youth. They are reported to exist in many different parts of the country….These cliques begin their activities out of a selfish impulse to amuse themselves, but rapidly deteriorate into anti-social criminal gangs. Even before the war, boys and girls from the elite social set in Hamburg would get together dressed in notorious baggy or loose clothing and become entranced under the spell of English music and English dance. The Flottbecker Clique (Swing Kids from Hamburg) organized private dance parties attended by 500-600 teenagers during the winter of 1939-40. These lewd affairs included unrestrained Swing dancing. The Authorities rightfully banned such house dances, but the cliques were addicted to the English beat and continued to organize unlawful jamborees full of sexual mischief. The enormous cost of this illicit lifestyle was met by criminal resort to petty theft and music store burglaries. Needless to say, their penchant for the extravagant and self-centered wild life at clubs, bars, cafes and house gatherings comes at the expense of their support for our gallant war effort. They do not appreciate the success of our forces in the field, and even disparage the ultimate sacrifice of our men in uniform. What follows next is the inevitable and clearly discernable hostility toward any military service of their own. Clique members show off by dressing audaciously in British-style clothing. They often wear jackets cut in the Scot slit manner, carry umbrellas, and put fancy-colored collar-studs in their jacket lapels as badges of their arrogance. They mimic the decadent English way of life, because they worship the Englishman as the highest evolutionary development of mankind. Read More:
Meanwhile, the average jazz listener was threatened with penalities such as jail, the penitentiary, concentration camps, and the death penalty. Half Jews were treated bad enough, but there were “full Jews who performed jazz illegally at risk to their lives” . In order for the swing kids to play American music, they had to camouflage it. For example, Ella Fitzgerald’s “A Tisket A Tasket” became “Sans Ticket” and “St Louis Blues” became “La Tristesse de Saint Louis.” “Jazz musicians always had one foot in the organized resistence or in the concentraion camps, and once again, jazz came close to assuming its original function as protest music” . By the end of 1941, the Nazi’s decided that they need to be more tough on the German swings. On January 26, 1942, it was implimented that the swing youth “should first of all be beaten, exercised, and then put to work. Their terms of punishment should not be less then two or three years, and they should never be allowed to pursue their studies. Parents were to be examined for complicity and concentration camp and property confiscation should by no means, be ruled out” . As one Nazi said, “only if we move with brutality shall we be able to prevent the dangerous spread of such Anglophilic tendencies in a period when Germany is fighting for its very existence” .

Of all those who were imprisoned, only 5% were ever freed. The rest had to deal with heavy factory labor lasting 11 hours, minimal nutrition, corprol punishment, and punitive sports exercises. They were with hundreds of other people and guarded by 85 SS Men…..and that was in the “better” camps. “Swings who were already around 20 years old ended up in regular concentraion camps where they were charged more severly with being political criminals” .Read More:

Jazz presented the same problem for Adorno because it was seen by him to be basically dance or background music. It was not music that would be listened to intensely for its intellectual value, and he believed it to primarily be a corruption of traditional music. His main concern was with the heavily-commercialized Tin Pan Alley jazz with its standardized and repetitious forms; all spontaneity was rigorously excluded from the music. Adorno viewed jazz as a static music whose deviations were “as standardized as the standards,” but the monotony never bothered its fans who perceived the songs as new and exciting. In Perennial Fashion-Jazz, Adorno writes:

Considered as a whole, the perennial sameness of jazz consists not in a basic organization of the material within which the imagination can roam freely and without inhabitation, as within an articulate language, but rather in the utilization of certain well-defined tricks, formulas, and clichés to the exclusion of everything else.

The presence of some advanced elements such as montage, shock, and technological production techniques, did not validate jazz for Adorno. For him, “jazz, a phantasmagoria of modernity, is illusory, and provided but a “counterfeit freedom.”Read More:

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