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WHAT ARE SOME SIMILARITIES AND/OR

DIFFERENCES IN HOW CLASSICAL MUSIC AND


JAZZ OPERATE IN TODAY’S SOCIETY, AND WHAT
COULD THEY LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER TO
INCREASE PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT?

Dominic Erbacher Word Count: 1183

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ASSESSMENT 3 – EXPLORING MUSIC 1101QCM
This essay will be discussing the similarities and differences in how two, perhaps the biggest,
genres of music, classical and jazz operate in today’s society and what they could learn from each
other in order to increase public engagement. There are quite a few similarities between them, but
there are also quite a few differences in how the two genres operate in today’s society to combat
these similarities. This essay will be referencing articles, books, and websites in order to explain
these differences and to explore what they could learn from one another in order to increase public
engagement. Three main sources by Norman, Phillip, and Reimann were chosen because of their
very scholarly nature, one of them being a thesis from a graduate student from the University of
British Columbia, which shows the influence that classical and jazz have on each other. Another
is an article written by a student at the York College in America, speaking on the social aspects of
jazz, and the third is written by an academic at the Helsinki University of the Arts, which compares
the criteria in jazz and classical for aesthetical evaluation. These three sources will be very helpful
as they are packed full of information regarding both genres. There are other sources with small
amounts of relevant information, but they will still be very helpful in answering these questions.

Jazz and classical music are similar to each other in some ways, one of them being that jazz uses
some of the main features of classical music, and Zola Phillip presents and explains these
similarities in her paper on ‘the Social Effects of Jazz.’ Jazz and classical music are both performed
in a variety of venues and by a vast array of different sized ensembles such as big bands, orchestras,
small bands, small ensembles, etc. Jazz has been described as ‘black classical music,’ and this
could be due to the fact that it is the music that came from the African peoples. Classical music,
as we know it, came from western Europe, and it is simply accepted as ‘classical’ music. So, jazz,
in a way, could be seen as the classical music of Africa. It has been stated that jazz can be defined
as a combination of improvisatory styles with European form and harmony. Despite its African
roots, it also utilizes many features synonymous with western classical music such as harmony,
composition, and internal structure. Jazz has begun to penetrate music programs of schools and
universities; just as classical music has been a part of these programs for centuries. (Phillip, Z.
2016) Both classical and jazz music consist of many styles. One of the most common definitions
of jazz is that the performance contains improvised melodies and a swung rhythm. However,
classical performers have used improvisation in the past almost to the extent of modern jazz
musicians. (Reimann, H. 2003) This use of improvisation could be one of the aspects of these two
genres that draws more audiences in to engage with them; the excitement of jazz improvisation
which makes the music ever-changing; and the way classical music is often improvised to be more
collaborative. These are some of the many similarities between the two genres.

In addition to these similarities between jazz and classical music, there are also several key
differences in how they function in today’s society. Classical music can be described as
conservatory in nature due to its firm structure and western ideologies of tonality, rhythm etc.
Whereas jazz could be described as nearly the opposite. It generally has highly swung rhythms,
manipulation of pitch and tone, and has no melodic or harmonic features found in other genres,
being created mainly by black Americans in the early 20th century. Jazz uses its own unique
combination of musical features in which the performers create their own sounds, otherwise known
as self-expression. (Norman, L.K. 2002) Jazz and classical music are usually performed in very
different types of venues. Classical music is generally performed in recital halls, performance
centres, theatres, etc. which are quite expensive, and some people tend to look upon them as elitist
and ‘posh,’ and uninviting to the regular person of today. Jazz, though the big band
songs/performances are often performed in recital halls and theatres, is usually performed in
venues such as bars, jazz clubs, residential buildings, stores, and on the street. These venues for
jazz music performances are extremely accessible to the everyday music lover and far cheaper
than going to a huge theatre to listen to a solo pianist such as Evgeny Kissin. These differences in
how classical and jazz music function in today’s society can greatly impact public engagement.

Jazz and classical music both have large audiences and have a prominent position in today’s
society. A study in Austria claims to show that jazz musicians are more musically active, more
creative, and undertake a greater number of creative projects than classical musicians. The study
involved 00 music students from the University of Music and Arts in Austria, and it found that
jazz musicians perform at a greater number of concerts per semester and that they participate in a
greater number of creative musical projects. However, classical musicians participated in more
competitions than jazz musicians. The study also found that classical musicians tend to be less
open to new experiences. (Gillies, S. 2014) Because of these results of this study, it could be seen
that jazz musicians have a greater public engagement than that of classical musicians, and the
classical music scene could learn a lot from jazz. Classical musicians could endeavor do perform
at more concerts and to participate in more creative musical projects; overall, to be more open to
new experiences. However, it can be seen from another point of view that classical music is
booming and becoming more popular than ever. Classical music is everywhere, in commercials,
film scores, and more. It is arguably the most influential music genre in the world. (Funnell, A.
2018) Jazz could learn from classical music to increase public engagement by perhaps becoming
more formal in its presentation. Jazz musicians could enter more competitions, which increases
performance stamina and can lead to higher public recognition.

In conclusion, classical music and jazz are similar to each other in many different ways, but there
are also several key differences between the two genres. Improvisation, culture, programs in the
education system, and performance venues are just some of the similarities and differences the two
genres share in order to create a contrasting, although still cohesive relationship between them.
Some people sit on either side of a divide between classical and jazz, the more common idea being
that jazz musicians are inferior. However, classical and jazz are equally important and necessary
to today’s society and they both share and borrow ideas from another, such as Gershwin’s
Rhapsody in Blue, which is a classical piece, borrowing jazz ideas, and Scaramouche for Alto
Saxophone and Orchestra by Darius Milhaud, which is a jazz piece borrowing classical ideas.
(Livingston, T. 2011) There are similarities and differences between jazz and classical and some
overlapping, but that is part of what makes these two genres so important to today’s society and
creates a unique, wonderful relationship between them.
REFERENCE LIST

Funnell, A. (2018, Oct. 5). Classical music is undergoing a revolution – and you’re probably a
fan without realising it. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-
10-05/classical-music-game-of-thrones-soundtrack-revolution/10332496

Gillies, S. (2014, June 8). Are jazz musicians more creative than classical? Limelight. Retrieved
from https://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/features/are-jazz-musicians-more-creative-
than-classical/

Livingston, T. (2011, October 3). Classical vs. jazz: Crossing the great divide. I care if you
listen. Retrieved from https://www.icareifyoulisten.com/2011/10/classical-vs-jazz-
crossing-the-great-divide/

Norman, L.K. (2002). The respective influence of jazz and classical music on each other,
the evolution of third stream and fusion and the effects thereof into the
21st century (Doctor of Musical Arts thesis). Retrieved from UBC Theses
and Dissertations. doi: 10.14288/1.0099668

Philipp, Z. (2016). The social aspects of jazz: Abstract. Retrieved


from https://www.york.cuny.edu/academics/writing-program/the-york-scholar-1/volume-
6.1-fall-2009/the-social-effects-of-jazz

Reimann, H. (2003). Jazz versus classical music: their objects and criteria for aesthetical
evaluation. Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference on arts
and humanities. Retrieved
from https://www.academia.edu/950333/Jazz_versus_classical_music_their_objects_and
_criteria_for_aesthetical_evaluation