Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture between the World Wars

By Joel Dinerstein | Go to book overview

3
AFRICAN AMERICAN
MODERNISM AND THE
TECHNO-DIALOGIC
FROM JOHN HENRY TO
DUKE ELLINGTON

Gilbert Seldes identified a conundrum about jazz in a 1926 Dial article. If jazz reflected the American tempo—its energy, its machines, its restlessness—then how could an ethnic group perceived to be lazy, childlike, and primitive produce music that expressed the powerful, reckless spirit of American life? Seldes began his argument from the minstrelderived theory of blacks: “The Negro … holds to a pace and a rhythm different from those of our large cities; he still loafs, is carefree, avoids business a little.” But, he wondered, how would this stereotype “explain the snap and surprise of current jazz?” 1

“It is a rough generalization that the rhythm of jazz corresponds to the rhythm of our machinery, ” Seldes wrote, restating a truism of the 1920s. Yet if black musicians managed to absorb machinery into their musical traditions, “we cannot say that a simple civilization (the African) by accident hit upon a complex one (our own).” Seldes had been reading the most recent analyses of African American music, as well as European studies of African art. Armed with Henry H. Krehbiel's breakthrough studies of African American folk songs and West African drumming, Seldes leapt the cultural divide. “If we can hazard that the African civilization preserved for us in their art was of a high order, and that ours is of an equal intensity, expressed in the complication of machinery, we can suspect a parallel which would make the suitability of African rhythms not at all surprising.” For Seldes, machinery and West African rhythms swung together to create the jazz aesthetic. 2

For African Americans, music is the cultural form that mediates between oppositional and assimilationist trends, between resistance and accommodation. 3 Pre-1945 jazz qualifies as “modernist” art within

-105-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture between the World Wars
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 415

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.