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Music is regarded as a means of illustrating how culture in society is changing. America had many difficulties in the 1960s, including racial prejudice, and musicians like Miles Davis had to speak out on behalf of society. For instance, Davis' race—African Americans—were the ones most impacted by the societal issue he revealed in his jazz compositions. Because his father was involved in local politics, he grew up in a family that was well-respected by other black people (Davis and Quincy para 1). In his youth, their family moved into a wealthy neighborhood dominated by white people, and he remembers one time being chased down the stretch by a white man with a shotgun, as a confession of his experiences with racial issues. Miles was referred to as the trumpeter and composer, with his powerful tone and dynamic styles he topped on the jazz charts for more than four decades before dying at age 65 (Pareles para1). Generations of jazz musicians have emulated his way of performing be it jabbing on the beat or ruminating on a whispered ballad tune. He formed music groups that he nurtured by changing styles periodically to capture the attention of their audience (Davis 8). Mile is considered a cornerstone in the evolution of various kinds of jazz music and movements which include the modal jazz, the cool jazz, and bebop.
The Development of Jazz by Miles
Jazz music is considered a vehicle for instrument player and melody singers to improvise consistently in their production of music. The instrument players are expected to listen to the singer and adjust fast to the sound. However, miles was not contented with this and wanted to more for the jazz music as he worked to offer the modern jazz (Veal 2). He was controversial and revolutionary in his jazz music since 1945 when he arrived in New York. He took part in the activities of bebop movement and very instrumental in the initiation of the cool jazz movement. After his first and second quintet music, he started to integrate electric elements and instruments of the popular songs into his jazz music in the late 1960s. This situation spiked a hot debate among musicians, critics, and scholars among other people on the relationship between jazz and other popular music. Some people thought it was a commercial strategy while other thought it was a chance in traditional change that he wanted to introduce. As a result, free jazz was introduced, and one of the products was fusion music. Since the initiation of this form of jazz the traditional style has been abandoned and used rarely.
Additionally, the theories of the origin of fusion jazz suggest that when Miles started to change sounds in his music in the late 1960s, the member of teams, he led such the second quintet changes their styles too. This led to a widespread of the fusion jazz attributed to the creativity of miles. The fusion jazz was well accepted by their audience and consequentially successful commercially. Unfortunately, miles was not able to enjoy the success of fusion jazz like some of his sidemen like his pianist, Herbie Hancock who commercialized this kind of jazz. Mile was not introducing the changes in the jazz for commercial success but as a contribution to his artistic skills and consideration of his audience. However, those who adopted his style did it on a commercial ground, and that is how they were able to succeed on ideas that originated from miles. Agharta is one such album that inspired the follows of miles in his Afro-funk style of music. The fusion music was meant for aesthetic purposes to reveal a culture of the African American, while acoustic music was made on commercial grounds by calculating the market demand such as the youth culture. These differences led to the various type of music such as the pop music and the easy listening jazz (Veal 3). Stuart Nicholson, who was a British jazz historian considered the creators of the fusion jazz as aesthetic. However, the lack of vision for the music and aggressive commercialization that jeopardized the progress of fusion jazz.
Another jazz music style that is attributed to the creativity of Miles Davis is the modal jazz. Kind of blue is considered one of the best-selling records of jazz that was performed by miles, also falling under the category of modal jazz. The record was released in the late 1950s and with its modality musicians got a new inspiration for doing solos (Peretti 3). Some theories state that modal jazz was founded on the static harmonies while others which are considered analysis of this kind of music thoroughly suggest Mile established this kind as a quest for freedom in melody. Previously, formulaic solos were common among players although it had harmonic constraints which miles hoped to relieve by introducing a relaxed tune. Modal jazz allowed composers to have flexibility in their rhythm and composition and innovation in the melodies. Despite mile being considered the innovator of this kind of jazz, it is in collaboration with George Russell who was the brains behind kind of blue which allowed Miles to use his dynamic voice. He composed the song and so despite being given minimal credit he is also considered pivotal in this new style of jazz that inspired many artists. Russell had brilliant ideas on tonality that was particularly influential in designing modal tunes. When miles was starting his musical journey, he realized that jazz music general had straining melody and the discovery of modal jazz solved his concern. Through this achievement, he was able to share the light which musician in the industry which revolutionized the jazz being played for a commercial and aesthetic purpose (Peretti 5). This way the definition of modal jazz was introduced to mean a rhythm in the music playing a single melody for a longtime allowing the soloist to improvise based on a mode produced by the chord. That definition provides the uniqueness of the modal jazz that is the moment for improvising and the harmony. While growing up mile was introduced to the ii-iv-l changes in harmony, which he changed to single harmony. This was a major revolution in the jazz music. Despite Russell being the designer of the chords that led to the modal jazz, it was miles needs to avoid the over changing chords and so he asked Russell to help him deal with that challenge. He was willing to change the conventional jazz progression of the harmony that favored particular modes and subsequent sounds.
Therefore Russell in determination to help Miles realize his goal decided to set aside his western requirement for progression in harmony to come up with something mile considered comfortable to work with. He also noticed that listeners preferred tonicization hence the need to create a harmony in the chords that would support it. His strategy was to help improvisers to create melodies which have chords within, then just using the chords to achieve a desired type or quality of harmony. This idea was creative but was just against his idea for designing harmony from the chord, but still, he had to be creative and open-minded to achieve the desired goal which was flexibility in the harmony (Peretti 13). The ultimate goals for Mile and Russell were for the soloists to have the harmonic freedom to reduce the strain that chords placed on the tone which making the music. Miles always perfumed solos that were easy to sing and memorize than those played by his counterparts. This promoted his prominence in the jazz industry. He considered this change a meaningful progress and together with Russell they understood that their discovered was going to sweep all over the Jazz music. With the new order, the improvers were allowed to create melodies with meaning with little worries on the changes that might occur. This also allowed the audience to enjoy the music which was easier to remember and singe with the artist. The melodic freedom allowed the composers and singers to create a harmony that targets any of the chords. This also led to the freedom in the rhythm which was paramount in the kind of blue record that miles created. The modal jazz excluded the diving feel which is common in the conventional harmonic progression. It also excluded the steady rhythm that confined the soloists in using a particular temple (Peretti 16). This was a tiring experience and not so enjoyable to the performers. With the introduction of the static harmony, it was convenient to play longer lyrical passages as wells the simple and short phrases while maintaining the flow of the music. While other may think miles achieved this modal jazz coincidentally, it is evident that he was always hoping to achieve this and so he considered this an accomplishment in his career. His creativity was innate which made him an inspirational jazz artist not only to the listeners but other singers.
In the late 1940s, Miles came with a nonet the birth of the cool had a very influential sound. Miles was later considered the symbol of the cool as he was notorious for neglecting the audience, declined to be onstage with other solo singers, and his contempt for European clothing and many other others. He also did not recognize other jazz creative minds, as he believed he was the only best. He was a victim of racism and hence hated it and tried to reflect it in his music. Cool jazz was considered a reflection of ghetto experiences, for instance, the numbing effect of heroin, which miles were an addict and almost lost his career due to the heroin problem. His creativity and defiance made him the face of cool jazz and its image (Morton 122). The cool jazz was defined by various authors as a reflection of culture especially in the black ghettos where despair, poverty, and sex were common attributes of the music. Cool was also a reflection of the alienation, class and racial fragmentation that the black minorities faced at the hand of the government that was majority white people. The arts in the 1950s adopted the cooling jazz which was also embraced by movies and televisions shows. The cool jazz led to the start of rock and roll including the pop music and culture which was higher celebrated by the audience. The television became the source of jazz and people lost the need to attend the social places such as pubs to experience live jazz. Meanwhile, the white and black adolescents had started to shift to another form of jazz known as the rhythm and blues later known as the “R” and “B.” Johnny Otis who was a white jazz singer was among the pioneer “R” and ”B” music as he was integrated into the black community in the loss Angeles (Morton 130). In Memphis, the white singers for the country music could not escape the revolution that had been staged by the cool jazz. These singers started to include “R” and”B” in their country music, accompanied by cool adolescent rhythm which was celebrated by the audience. Other singers considered the cool jazz as just the blues or the romantic jazz. Elvis Presley who was a gospel singer introduced the element of blues in his music to create a tremendous beat. The cool jazz conveyed youth independence, good life, and fast driving which were common habits among the American youths. The city and urban lifestyle were declining, but the youth kept having fun with the rock and roll rhythms which were created from the cool jazz. The youth never wanted to keep a culture that was common to all member of the society but decided to define their way of life. They had started a sub-culture which defined then. Rock and roll was a slang among the black people meaning sexual intercourse, and pioneers rock singers use this music to reveal the male aggressiveness in doing things. All these changes occurred in the effort of achieving coolness in the society that was signified by material satisfaction. The desired to be cool was also a reflection of the optimism that American adolescents had in their quest for chasing their dreams (Mortonn133). Dave bruecket was a very influential figure in the jazz world, but his popularity was overshadowed by the creativity by Miles who also secured lucrative recording deal. Just like in the modal jazz, mile introduced the long-playing rhythm for adoption by the cool jazz singer.
In conclusion, Miles Davis was a considered a very influential jazz singer at by the time he died at the age of 65 years he had accomplished a lot in the fusion, modals, and cool jazz among others. He was also the pioneers of to the culture in the society such as the bebop and cool culture. He was sometimes considered controversial when started to merge the rhythm of other popular music with jazz, but still emerged something that the society enjoyed and other jazz singers celebrated. Since the beginning of his music career, Mile always wanted to create a flexible rhythm and chord in the music. He was able to achieve this dream with the assistance from Russell who was a close friend.
Davis, Miles, and Quincy Troupe. Miles, the Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Print.
Davis, Miles. Kind of blue. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2000.
Morton, Brian. Miles Davis. HopeRoad, 2012.
Pareles, Jon . “Miles Davis, Trumpeter, Dies; Jazz Genius, 65, Defined Cool.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1991, www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0525.html.
Peretti, Burton W. Jazz in American culture. Ivan R. Dee, 1998. https://www.amherst.edu/media/view/91522/original/Peretti%2B-%2BCool%2BJazz%252C%2BHard%2BBop%252C%2BAffluence%252C%2Band%2BAnxiety.pdf
Veal, Michael E. "Directions; Miles Davis. Jazz in Transition, 1968-1971." Glendora Review: African Quarterly on the Arts Vol 3.3&4 (2004): 93-100.
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