Mistdork

All that Jazz

7 posts in this topic

I meant to bring this up like a few months back, but then forgot...anyway, let's talk music! (And speculation brought to you because a tumblr fan asked questions; also because she's made of awesome.)

 

 

 

theravenchilde: And I was trying to figure out how jazz could possibly develop on Scadrial in Alloy of Law.
B: How what?
Q: How Jazz could develop on Scadrial.
B: Jazz? Okay.
theravenchilde: [audio obscured] Would it be appropriate to compare the Steel Ministry to the Catholic Church? Not so much in doctrine but...
B: Sure, that would be appropriate. I mean when I’m writing Alloy of Law era they are only hitting big band stuff.
theravenchilde: That’s what I figured.
B: Their music would lag behind ours.
theravenchilde: ‘Cause big band stufff started around the 1920’s
B: There not even quite there yet. In the second or the third… anyway one of the Alloy books Wax hears someone and they’ve added to a band brass and he’s like “that’s not right” he’s expecting violin concertos or a pianoforte and he’s hearing brass.

 

Source

 

So, I'm a little grumpy about this. I know that jazz (and big band) popping up is awesome, but I'm not interested in the...awesome factor. I'm more interested in the "how", I'm somewhat familiar with the development of jazz (or big band) "proper" in the U.S. and (later Europe; Louis Mitchell and the Jazz Kings went to France and took Paris by storm) specifically in the 1910's and '20's. It's interesting, but deeply linked to African and African American history, the history of the African American church, African American music (and African music), the presence of New Orleans, and the history of slavery in the US; all of which were factors in its development (note that this list is not in depth, nor does it touch on everything). The thing is, jazz didn't just pop up because it's cool, it developed because of a number of historical and cultural factors that were unique to the history of African Americans and US history in general.

 

What I'm getting at, I guess, is how could/did jazz develop on Scadrial? It doesn't have these factors, the closest thing it has is the skaa and skaa plantations, but unless they have a musical tradition similar to African American work songs and spirituals ("slave songs") we weren't made aware of in the books which is possible, I guess... Did the Steel Ministry influence or did the religious influence come later through the Church of the Survivor? And also, the plantations seem...harsher and even worse than those in the American South; to me, it didn't seem like a place where talking (much less singing, chanting, and music) was even allow (at least while working), but since we didn't see that much of the plantations in the books, it's possible, I guess... 

 

My point is, I'm not sure how jazz (as we know it) realistically development on Scadrial. I know, "rule of cool" and all, but the presence of big bands and jazz in these books makes me wonder where it came from and its history in Scadrial. I know this is pretty much nitpicking, and I don't expect a full historical explanation, but I would like to know its actual origin.

 

Basically: how and why did Scadrial develop jazz (also, consider that Elendel and its surrounding territories are like France/Germany/the United Kingdom x the western US)? What are it's origins? Is it related to the history of the skaa, skaa plantations, and the Church of the Survivor and the link that those things might have with music? (It would also explain the slower development, because the religious aspects may have come later, I think). Is it (also) related to cultural developments in the "slums" of Elendel? What factors led to a jazz-like (or big band) music to develop and why?

 

(Also, I agree that I might be being a bit too nitpicky about this topic, but I've always found the historical and cultural developments almost as interesting as the magic systems. I'm a dork! Also, written when I had caught a nasty cold, so if anything's seems off, that might be why...-.-)

Edited by Nymp
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Ahoy, fellow music nerd!

 

You lay out a lot of really good points.  However, I think that most of them could just as easily apply to any other genre of music / instrumentation.  Who on Scadrial invented the pianoforte?  How did stringed instruments like violins evolve?  Do they have oboes?  Saxophones?  Tubas?  Are their trumpets pitched to Bb like ours?  It's an entirely different planet, why would they have any instruments that we recognize at all?

 

It really all boils down to the fact that Brandon has paralleled a lot of the social and technological development of Scadrial to ours.  There are probably a lot of reasons for it, not the least of which is that it's easier.  And it gives the reader some threads of familiarity to link back to.  Is it really all that likely that an entirely different culture would manage to create an instrument identical to the violin?  No, but Scadrial has them, because Brandon said so.  Even as a musician, the notion of inventing an entirely new set of instruments is a daunting task.  Down that road lies madness and left-handed sewer flutes.

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Though I am in no way familiar with the development of jazz, it should be of note that jazz is pleasing to the ear. Most music that does well is pleasing to the ear. As a result, even if Scadrial lacks the very specific details that brought about jazz in the real world, is it so hard to imagine the people of Scadrial enjoying the raw sounds of jazz? You bring up brass instruments, and in a world in which metal is so desired and useful, is it so hard to believe they would craft instruments from them and enjoy what comes out? To me, jazz is the one style of music I would expect from Scadrial. From the metal based instruments, to the importance of improvisation. To add to that, Skaa history is somewhat similar to the African history which birthed jazz, which you note.

 

I guess what I'm getting at is though jazz had very culturally specific reasons for developing, the sound of jazz is not necessarily tied to African culture. I'm sure that, given the correct metalurgy techniques and interest in music, jazz will eventually come to Scadrial. Just as I'm sure it would have eventually come to our world had the circumstances which created it been different. After all, music is just noise, and people are finding new ways to make it every day. That's my take on this, anyways.

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Keep in mind the Words of Founding. Classic Scadrial had a rich and diverse history and series of cultures stretching back at least a thousand years. The Keepers protected what knowledge they could, but it was supressed during the Final Empire. It would have been released in the Words of Founding. Now, there's presumably a lot. Maybe it's taken 300 years for someone to study enough of the books on music, try to translate the ink on paper into music in the air, craft the instruments correctly, practice until they replicated the sounds, then perform in enough out-of-the-way joints until this "new" old music finally caught on... my point is, jazz might not have developed as a result of the Final Empire. It could be something that came about because of something in Scadrial's distant past which only now has resurfaced, developed under circumstances far closer to the Earth-analogue that produced jazz.

 

Also... maybe I'm musically dumb. The person asking the question says, "Do they have jazz?" and the answer is, "Wayne hears some brass." Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit of a leap to assume that this was confirmation of the premise of the original question? Maybe Brandon intended to convey, "While obviously they don't have jazz specifically as we'd know it on earth, Wayne is about to hear a brass band replicating something that's as close to jazz as you could reasonably expect on an alien world."

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.Also... maybe I'm musically dumb. The person asking the question says, "Do they have jazz?" and the answer is, "Wayne hears some brass." Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit of a leap to assume that this was confirmation of the premise of the original question? Maybe Brandon intended to convey, "While obviously they don't have jazz specifically as we'd know it on earth, Wayne is about to hear a brass band replicating something that's as close to jazz as you could reasonably expect on an alien world."

 

It was actually Wax, not Wayne, and I think it was more to illustrate that the instrumentation could be there.  There are a lot of genres that use brass ensembles; it could be referring to anything from a classical-style brass quintet to something more bombastic like a Sousa-style band.  The point, more or less, is that people are starting to experiment more with different musical styles and instrument line-ups than your classical orchestra or string quartet.  To Wax's highborn ears, this was a strange, new thing.

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YES HELLO THIS IS MY THREAD AND QUESTION

okay so wow I didn't even know they recorded my question. So the reason I asked about the Catholic Church extends back to the early uses of syncopation in their chants, particularly Gregorian ones and other hymns. Syncopation is a key part of jazz music. It was frequently used by Bach and Handel, and Hanel was a Late Baroque composer, which I confirmed in this conversation was very roughly analogous to the Final Empire period (assuming pre-Empire was late Renaissance, and they didn't progress almost at all under the Lord Ruler). The question there was kind of blurred, but I specifically asked if you reasonably compare the Steel Ministry to the Church in terms of their influence on culture and music, which was a yes. So, if the Steel Ministry has a comparable amount of hymns, all composers in the Empire would have been heavily influenced or directly patronized by the Ministry, probably more so than the Catholic Church would censor things. So all of their music would follow similar styles to Ministry hymns.

 

There's also a quote from somewhere in the books, I don't have it on hand right now because I don't have my annotated copies with me, that talks about how the skaa got ALL of their knowledge directly from the obligators and others in the Ministry, and their whole religious life was run by them. Songs are an easy way to impart knowledge in a fashion that sticks; I can still remember church songs I haven't sung since I was little word-perfect. Why wouldn't the obligators teach the skaa hymns? And it would be easy to take the hymns from church to the field, especially ones that have a beat to them that help the work. From there, it could absolutely develop into its own forms, aka the "slave songs" of the south that birthed jazz. There would be a historical precedence for syncopation in music, and this provides the culture that really makes it. Post-HoA, it would absolutely be a working class musical style, since the nobility would still be stuck trying to move past 'proper' Baroque music. Since Scadrial's culture is a little stunted, it takes a little longer to develop from spirituals to blues and ragtime and THEN to jazz, and the nobles won't try to take over the form until right before the big band era (the difference between say, Louis Armstrong (jazz, primarily a black musical style) and Caro Emerald or George Gershwin (big band, white people trying to make it pretty)).

 

I also think that the Church of the Survivor would end up creating gospel music. It has to happen.

 

Mmm, did I miss anything?

Edited by theravenchilde
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YES HELLO THIS IS MY THREAD AND QUESTION

 
I started it for you, silly (because no one else wanted to bring it up, that's why I quoted your question)! :P
 
(I'll add more here in a bit...)
Edited by Nymp
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