Constructing a history from fragments: jazz and voice in Boston, Massachusetts circa 1919 to 1929


Constructing a history from fragments: jazz and voice in Boston, Massachusetts circa 1919 to 1929
For insofar as the impact of jazz music on social,political, and economic climates in cities such as New York, New Orleans, and even Kansas
have been recorded, the music’s impact on and significance in Boston is yet to be addressed in any great detail. Simply put, the history of jazz in Boston, and with it an important period for black development in the city, exists in fragments such as discographies, newspaper listings,musical handbooks, potted witness accounts among others. Therefore, the principle aim ofthis thesis is to piece-together these fragments to form a mosaic history that reveals instancesof black struggle, resistance, and progress during a period of heightened racial (Jim Crowsegregation), political (the Red Scare), and economic tension. Essential to this process is not
only the need to locate the voices of Boston’s black past, whether in text, testimony, sound and
beyond, but also to create the conditions to hear them on their own terms. In order to achievethis, emphasis here is placed on tracing instances of voice, and as a by-product heritage, inmusical form from the arrival of the first slaves to Boston in the first-half of the seventeenthcentury and analysing the ways in which these voices were perpetuated through methods ofadaptation, appropriation, and evolution. This approach would ultimately assist in enrichingthe Jazz Age with a black art form that was not only unique but a distinct form of expressionfor a race lacking a significant voice in America at the time. In this respect, this thesis looks atthe ways in which homegrown Boston musicians, such as Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney,and frequenting players, such as Duke Ellington, used jazz music as a way to oppose standardforms of white dominance, cultural elitism, and economic subjugation.
Keele University