The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture

Overview


By the 1930s, the radio and phonograph had transformed the experience of music in America from unique, live performances to the repetitive playing or broadcasting of records. In an age of mechanical reproduction, music was everywhere, but as Ted Gioia points out in this brilliant new volume, its impact was watered down, debased. It had become, in Erik Satie's words, "furniture music." Jazz, according to Gioia, stands opposed to this dehumanizing trend, emphasizing improvisation...
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Overview


By the 1930s, the radio and phonograph had transformed the experience of music in America from unique, live performances to the repetitive playing or broadcasting of records. In an age of mechanical reproduction, music was everywhere, but as Ted Gioia points out in this brilliant new volume, its impact was watered down, debased. It had become, in Erik Satie's words, "furniture music." Jazz, according to Gioia, stands opposed to this dehumanizing trend, emphasizing improvisation and the human element (the performer) over the work of art.
Taking a wide-ranging approach rare in jazz criticism, Gioia draws upon fields as disparate as literary criticism, art history, sociology, and aesthetic philosophy as he places jazz within the turbulent cultural environment of the 20th century. The book can be read on several levels: as a history of jazz and a study of its major figures; as a critique of major schools of thought, such as minimalism, deconstruction, and primitivism; as an attempt to define precise standards of good and bad in jazz; and as a meditation on the possibility of improvised art. Gioia argues that because improvisation--the essence of jazz--must often fail under the pressure of on-the-spot creativity, jazz should be seen as an "imperfect art" and judged by an "aesthetics of imperfection," which he outlines in a key chapter.
Incorporating the thought of such seminal thinkers as Walter Benjamin, José Ortega y Gasset, and Roland Barthes, The Imperfect Art is a feast for the thoughtful jazz afficionado, filled with vivid portraits of the giants of jazz and with startling insight into this vital musical form and the interaction of society and art.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a unique book on jazz. I highly recommend it as a bridge between the jazz musician and layman."—Stan Getz

"This is an unusual jazz book for two reasons: it deals with the music not just on its own terms but in a broader cultural and aesthetic context, and it was written by a musician....Much of what Mr. Gioia has to say is thoughtful and thought-provoking."—Peter Keepnews, The New York Times Book Review

"Gioia's absorbing collection is phenomenological and interdisciplinary, providing connective tissue for fresh perspectives of jazz and its transactions with a wide arc of cultural forces. The Imperfect Art is an important contribution celebrating jazz as a true treasure of our times."—Herb Wong, Past President, The National Association of Jazz Educators

"Well-written...a compelling primer on jazz aesthetics....Thoughtful jazz lovers of all degrees of musical literacy ought to be delighted and enlightened by Gioia's yeomanly effort. A rich little book."—Booklist

"A thoughtful book of essays about the evolution of jazz in the context of modern mass culture, its historical relation to other arts and its unique position as an 'imperfect art' of improvisation."—San Francisco Chronicle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195063288
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/28/1990
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Ted Gioia teaches jazz history and performance at Stanford University. His debut album as a jazz pianist, The End of the Open Road, will be released in Spring 1988.

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