When I began my research on the impact of the Vietnam conflict on the music of jazz and Motown, I expected some fairly straightforward results. As a high school history teacher, I already spend a substantial amount of time on the protest music of the Vietnam era with my students, and I have a long list of songs that I use in class for this purpose. However, most of these songs are of the folk and pop variety. My goal with this project was to seek out examples of jazz and Motown songs and add them to my teaching materials. What I found was something quite different.
This summer, as I pored over the reading assignments and listened to the various presenters, I gradually came to realize that this Institute’s period (1959-1975) is also about African American redefinition. Redefinition is a wonderfully clear concept, but it was not the stated focus of our Institute this summer. The focus, as stated by Professor Early at the opening reception, was a question: “What is music?”
- Frank Kovarik
Even though I consider myself an American first, my father was born and raised in Hungary, coming to the US during the 1956 revolution. His family name, “Klausz,” is a Hungarian spelling of the German given name “Claus”; it most likely became a family name because in Hungary the family name is stated first and the given name second.
I came to this Institute with an eye towards Hungary and a desire to learn about what, if any, connections there were between American jazz and popular music and the Soviet Union and its satellite countries.
- Jesse Klausz
The jazz of the time period we studied, especially that which was labeled “free jazz,” had always been fascinating but bewildering to me. I didn’t really understand its purpose or why people listened to it. I had a hard time defining its target audience. It was interesting to learn in the Institute that many of the jazz records were used as status symbols, and that possession of certain records was considered evidence of intellectual elitism. Some were intended to be displayed perhaps more than they were meant to be listened to, which is why there was so much emphasis on cover art and label awareness.It was interesting to learn in the Institute that many of the jazz records were used as status symbols, and that possession of certain records was considered evidence of intellectual elitism.
- Karen Helseth
What did I learn this summer? For me at least, it has come down to three ideas: simplicity, liberation, and authenticity. Greg Allman once said something to the effect of “if you want somebody to muddy up the chords in some blues, then just give the song to me and it’ll get muddied up real good.” So I’ll try to muddy up these three simple ideas real good.
- Loren Preuss
On August 11, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the keynote address to the annual convention of the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers (NATRA). This organization, which originated as a social club for black radio personalities, by the mid-1960s had become an organization dedicated to asserting greater black influence in the radio industry. In opening this speech, which he entitled “Transforming Neighborhoods into Brotherhoods,” King praised the assembled African American radio personalities for their important roles as civic leaders. “For better or worse, you are the opinion makers in the community…[even though the establishment] has not been ready to acknowledge all of the positive features which grow out of your contributions to the community.”
- Steven Schwartz