Black Music in Toni Morrison's Jazz Essay

1728 Words 7 Pages
“With the writing of Jazz, Morrison takes on new tasks and new risks. Jazz, for example, doesn’t fit the classic novel format in terms of design, sentence structure, or narration. Just like the music this novel is named after, the work is improvisational.”

“As rich in themes and poetic images as her Pulitzer Prize- winning Beloved…. Morrison conjures up hand of slavery on Harlem’s jazz generation. The more you listen, the more you crave to hear.”-Glamour

Toni Morrison’s Jazz is an eclectic reading based on elements of African American culture that produce, surround, and are an integral part of literary text. As we know, African American culture is distinguishable from other American cultures by its
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Jazz musicians appropriated the musical structure of such blues. (Hitchcock, 222)

Jazz retains several blues qualities, such as ”call and response, repetition, and most importantly, signifying: thoughtful revision and repetition of another’s work”
(Andrews, a review). In addition, jazz relies on syncopation and improvisation. Syncopation, which the combination of weak and strong beats, or short and long durations that produces uneven percussive sounds, affects the rhythm of a musical piece by moving the strong beat off the even counts of the “time.” In improvising, musicians use a set melody or recognized tune but vary it, responding to the makeup of their combo during their performance, or to their audience. No two performances of a jazz piece, even by the same musicians, will be identical. (Breckenridge)
Looking at Jazz we can assume that

Morrison sees the novel as another form that can mirror what happens with black music and perhaps takes that work further. In creating her work, she attends to the participatory nature of music – the way it makes listeners respond through singing or dancing. Morrison aims for her fiction to touch those same nerves, to make readers not only speak back to the text, but also recognize their responses as part of the text. (Obadike)

The author herself says that while writing Jazz she “was very deliberately trying to rest on what could be called generally agreed upon
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