Is Jazz Still a Public Health Crisis?

Olson_jr

Active Member
This was a pretty interesting read.

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When Jazz Was a Public Health Crisis
In the 1920s, jazz music was thought to cause physical illness or even disability.

By: Jessie Wright-Mendoza
February 5, 2019

In 1923, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a ruling shutting down a dance hall that featured jazz music. The opinion, shared by many in polite society, made clear that jazz was considered not just a mere nuisance, but a danger to health and public safety. The court stated that the music

"..is not only disagreeable but it also wears upon the nervous system and produces that feeling which we call “tired.” That the subjection of a human being to a continued hearing of loud noises tends to shorten life . . . is beyond all doubt.."

Historian Russell L. Johnson traces this early twentieth-century theory that jazz, with its discordant rhythms and off-beat timing, could cause physical illness or even disability. He finds the theory’s roots in the seismic shifts transforming American culture in the 1920s.

Doctors described jazz enthusiasts that were “nervous and fidgety,” with “perpetually jerking jaws.”

Theories about the connection between music and health have persisted throughout history. Instances of music being used to soothe maladies feature in the Bible and in Greek and Roman mythology. Johnson writes that Beethoven was criticized for the “deafness and madness” contained in his compositions. The recurring theme is generally that the “positive vibrations” produced by rhythmic sounds are associated with nature and good health, while discordant sounds like jazz music are antithetical to nature and could, therefore, have a negative effect on health.

For critics, jazz symbolized the chaos of a society that was changing and modernizing at warp speed. American life was literally becoming noisier, as electric appliances moved into homes and automobiles took over the roads.

What’s more, young people, disillusioned by war, were turning their backs on the uptight social mores of the Victorian Era. They gathered in speakeasies where people from different genders, races, and social classes mixed freely and they danced the Charleston, itself described as resembling an epileptic fit.

All this external stimulation was thought to cause neurasthenia, a neurological condition that caused headaches, agitation, and depression. Extreme cases could manifest physically: doctors described jazz enthusiasts that were “nervous and fidgety,” with “perpetually jerking jaws.” Milwaukee’s public health commissioner claimed that the music damaged the nervous system, and a Ladies’ Home Journal article reported that it caused brain cells to atrophy. In Cincinnati, a maternity hospital successfully petitioned to have a nearby jazz club shut down, arguing that exposing newborns to the offending music would have the effect of “imperiling the happiness of future generations.”

It’s probably not a coincidence that concerns about jazz-induced disability arose at the same time that conventional thinking about the nature of disability was changing. The focus moved from removing the impaired from society to the notion that people, once disabled, could be rehabilitated into productive members of society. The war had drawn attention to the effects of shell shock, and to potential treatments that could rehabilitate returning soldiers. One of these remedies was music therapy, which came into common usage in the 1920s. Isa Maud Ilsen, one of the founders of the National Association for Music in Hospitals, asserted that “the vital functions of the body are all rhythmic when in a perfect state of health.” Therefore any music that provided a therapeutic effect must be rhythmical as well. Jazz was decidedly not therapeutic.

According to Johnson, there was good news for those afflicted with jazz-induced illnesses: their condition wasn’t terminal. Rehabilitation was possible. Jazz was divided into two categories: hot jazzand sweet jazz. Hot jazz was the loose, syncopated rhythms played mainly by African-American musicians who’d brought the style from the South to the cities of the North in the years following World War I. Sweet jazz, on the other hand, referred to the musical style as it was interpreted by mainly white musicians to appeal to a wider commercial audience. This rendition traded the spontaneity of hot jazz for a sound that was precise and controlled. Jazz fans were told they could mitigate the damage done by trading the primitive, untamed (read: black) beats of hot jazz for more acceptable rhythms of sweet jazz.

When Jazz Was a Public Health Crisis | JSTOR Daily
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
I could see listening to certain flavors of jazz and driving as perhaps contributing to serious accidents due to drivers dozing off at the wheel.

(Marky ducks and runs for cover)
Oh, god, yes. Some 'smooth jazz' is worse than Quaaludes. Give me hard bop any day.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I like jazz and am happy to be more infected with it as I get on in my years. But not all jazz.

I think I could stomach audio shows more if they weren’t infected so much with the exact type of jazz pathogen that makes my skin crawl. Which has much to do with a name that sounds a lot like “crawl”.
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
Yeah, some jazz does make me ill. Musical masturbation, with 4 guys, each playing a different tune.
Bet you're not a big Grateful Dead fan :)
They had, typically, six guys... and sometimes a woman, too... and playing a tune wasn't always an accurate assessment of their hijinks.
;)
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
I like jazz and am happy to be more infected with it as I get on in my years. But not all jazz.

I think I could stomach audio shows more if they weren’t infected so much with the exact type of jazz pathogen that makes my skin crawl. Which has much to do with a name that sounds a lot like “crawl”.
You mean Mrs. Elvis Costello?

;)
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
You know...
Come to think of it...

Jazz Pathogen would be a great name for a band.

I could either see it as some sort of 1970s fusion thing fronted by Joe Zawinul or some kind of punk/New Wave thing... maybe featuring Wendy O. Williams or someone along that line.
 

SPL db

Junior Member
"..is not only disagreeable but it also wears upon the nervous system and produces that feeling which we call “tired.”

In my book, I call that "relaxed" ;)
 

Olson_jr

Active Member
You know...
Come to think of it...

Jazz Pathogen would be a great name for a band.

I could either see it as some sort of 1970s fusion thing fronted by Joe Zawinul or some kind of punk/New Wave thing... maybe featuring Wendy O. Williams or someone along that line.
Joe Zawinul and Wendy O Williams might have to remain in that "Jazz that is Dead" group. They don't get around much anymore.

How about John Zorn (Naked City) and Courtney Love (Hole) fronting your Jazz Pathogen group?
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
Well, there is that. I mean, it could've been a 70s, or even 80s, thing, you know?


Yeah. Courtney Love. Maybe with that Crawl lady, too, tinklin' the ivories?
"We" (in the editorial, if not royal, sense) might be on to something here!

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about Zorn to comment intelligently ;)
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
"..is not only disagreeable but it also wears upon the nervous system and produces that feeling which we call “tired.”

In my book, I call that "relaxed" ;)
A fine line,
I would opine
between relaxed, torpid, and dead.
or Dead
as the case may be.


1549641995053.png

Full disclosure -- this topic led me, no kidding, to pull out and spin Blues for Allah.
 

Olson_jr

Active Member
Full disclosure -- this topic led me, no kidding, to pull out and spin Blues for Allah.
Which reminds me, did Courtney Love ever find out if Phil Lesh was really her godfather?

Enquiring minds need to know! (Sorry, but David Pecker is all over the news today)
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
Any Jazz associated with the word Fusion makes me run away, fast!

Hard Bop, Bop and “some” Contemporary Jazz is wonderful. Some Smooth Jazz is OK. Any Contemporary or Smooth Jazz with any hint of Fusion is automatically disqualified and has me scurrying to find some Oscar Peterson or RayBrown as an antidote.

As an aside, wasn’t evil rock and roll long hair hippies the next “end of civilization”?
 
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