Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Back in the Bunker

September 2nd, 2010 · 8 Comments

Sorry, but today’s all about tackling a major project, rather than scooping out a small portion of my brain to share with you good people. Please content yourself with the high-brow electronic music above, as well as the following snippet of anti-jazz hysteria from the April 11, 1921 edition of the Chicago Tribune:

Home was handicapped. No saxophones or trombones; the best he could find to smite was a bloomin’ lyre. Nero was restricted to a Stradivarius.

Both made their mistake, it seems, for jazz, we learn, is the brand of racket which best suits the destructive motif. It is Bolshevized Wagner, Carrie Jacobs Bond in a Soviet tune.

In short, jazz is wicked. Dr. Frank E. Morton, acoustic engineer for the American Steel and Wire Company and a leader in the music trades convention which is to be held in the Drake hotel next month, says it’s the black sheep of the melody family.

“Jazz,” he said last night, “expressed hysteria and incites to idleness, revelry, dissipation, destruction, discord, and chaos. It accords with the devestating, volcanic spirit that has burst forth over the world in the last six years…

“Make music virile. Put red blood into it. Associate it with two-fisted men who do things. Keep away from the jazz abominations. Restore the orderly harmonized organization of industrial and social life with good music. Bring back ‘Home Sweet Home.’

Dr. Morton, consider yourself fortunate that you shed your mortal coil before the advent of sinister-clown hip-hop. I very much doubt you would have had the fortitude to endure the sonic experience.


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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    That last bit reminds me of this guy’s ranting about pornography. It’s a good thing he didn’t live to see the internet.


    But yeah, it’s always good to be reminded that everything was new and loathed by the older generation at some point. I’m sure it’s been going on in music since the first time someone played a bone flute instead of banging rocks together.

  • ADW

    It’s hard to believe jazz was at one point hated and dismissed by critics. This comes up at various points in David Sedaris’ work – his dad being a huge jazz fan, attempting to turn his children into jazz musicians. He talks about how his father had to sneak around to indulge his love of jazz, because the grandparents hated the music, and didn’t want their son, “consorting with the negroes.”

    It seems weird, but from what I understand, not uncommon back in the day.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: Ah, the great Charles Keating. Throwing rocks in glass houses, I see…

    @ADW: Discuss this a lot in the project I’m working on today. Should be out in October; keep an eye on this space for details.

  • Ian Carey

    Man, if only I’d read this sooner, I might’ve avoided spending my whole life learning to play Bolshevized Wagner and become a two-fisted man who did things.

  • Jordan


    If you haven’t seen it, check out the movie “Swing Kids” for just how much some people hated jazz. There was also a really great TAL episode with a story about how the Czech authorities, both under German and Soviet control, tried to crack down on jazz.


  • ADW

    @ Jordan,

    Thank you, that was a beautiful essay, beautifully read.

    Goebbels and the Soviets were beyond fucking scary, sinister, and downright crazy. I didn’t think it could get weirder than, “the whining judeo, negroid music,” until it did under the Soviets, later the Czechs. Same can be said for rock, and hip-hop, which, though in a different manner, too is judeo, negroid music – jews being the biggest supporters and promoters of the genre, though largely hidden from view.

    Viewing things through the prism of my experience – my black experience – I’m used to the rejection of art forms, but sometimes forget the impact they’ve had on people so far away. I forget how people struggled to simply enjoy.

    “If anybody asks you who sang this song, just tell them he’s been here and gone.”


  • scottstev

    @ADW et Al

    It’s ironic, that the problem with jazz now is that it is too institutional, too associated with academics and settings. It’s almost impossible to make a living playing jazz commercially (a problem with all music these days, alas. But much more for jazz). Here in Richmond, the academic program has nurtured some very interesting commercial acts. Fight the Big Bull and the No BS Brass Band , but I’m not sure widespread this phenomenon is, nor how well a living these two bands (which occasionally share members) are making.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Good to know that I’m capable of spurring some discussion with a mere throwaway post…

    ADW, let me reiterate that I think you’re really, really going to dig this big project I’m currently working on. A lot of it has to do with the way in which Af-Am music was embraced by disparate cultures in the early years of the 20th century–though not always for the most admirable of reasons. (I took the Chi Trib snippet from my research–I like using this blog as an outlet for cutting-room-floor material.)

    Don’t know much about the economics of jazz these days, scottstev, but I’m sure you’re correct. I know a fair number of musicians here in NYC, and all have to participate in multiple projects just to make ends meet–and even then they often have to work freelance gigs and day jobs. The biggest money opps these days seem to be in licensing for TV/film/games–getting your track into, say, the latest VW commercial can enable an artist to devote themselves full-time to their craft for a good long while. But there are a lot of extremely gifted musicians scrambling after very few such slots.