The Music of Chicago, a Migration Product
Author: Ricardo Almada Monter
Program of Study: PhD in Chemistry, Physical Sciences Division (PSD)
Description: There is no doubt that what is usually called American Music has a great influence from many migrant groups that came from outside or even within the US. In this podcast we discuss about these influences in the music of Chicago.
Transcript (provided by author):
Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2021. I am your host, Ricardo Almada Monter and I’m currently enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Chemistry Department. Today we will be exploring the topic of the the music of Chicago, a migration product.
Nothing that says more about a city than its music. And it clear that the music that is produced and was produced in Chicago, has a lot of influence from other places from within or outside the United States. I first encountered with the music of Chicago when I started to listen to jazz and blues music, in my high school years. I then, enjoyed songs like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” from Louis Armstrong and “Unforgettable” from Nat king Cole and I also listen to other rock songs from like “Try,Try,Try” from the Smashing Pumpkins and “Thanks for the Melody” from Fall Out Boy. It was an amusement to see that many of these artists have their more prosperous years in the city of Chicago and it is even more astonishing to find out that many are not originally from the wind city. Therefore, it opened the idea to talk about how the people that has moved to Chicago has made an impact on its music.
There is one main music genre that is associated with the city: Jazz. Jazz was popular in the south, played mainly by African Americans. But at the beginning of the twentieth century many African Americans started to migrate from the south to the north of the country. According to a web article in Digital Collections for the Classroom: This period is known as the great migration, and many music African American players decided to follow it peers and migrated to northern metropolis. Artists like King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong brought its Dixieland style, but as years passed they started to develop a new type of jazz that was more in the vibe with their new home, named after the wind city: “Chicago Style”.
Chicago Jazz style is the perfect example of an idea that was brough to the city from another part and another culture and found its place in Chicago, so much that locals still continue to develop it up to this day. That kind of opens the question: should music from a culture be influenced by another one that have just arrived ?. There is no simple answer to this question but there are some ideas that might be pointed out to try to answer it: First, like Aristotle said, humans are a social animal and as social animal, there a set of factors that help us to identify us with other members of our own community. Music is, of course, one of these factors. We can confirm this idea by mentioning that primitive instruments of our cave-years have been found all across the world, as such when an individual migrates from its homeland (either a country or town) to another place, this individual will inevitable bring their cosmovision and ideas about how music should sound like. These preconceived ideas about sounds, tempos, tonality, melody, harmony, instruments etcetera will eventually meet with those preconceived ideas of the locals. Should music from a culture be influenced by another one ?, the answer Whether or not these new ideas about music will be adapted, only relies on the communities where people are migrating to. We mentioned early how jazz that came from the south was not only accepted but also adapted and even further developed, this was only possible thanks to the fact that Chicagoans were somewhat open to accept this new kind of music.
A second aspect to consider is the fact that, in general, not a single artist has created all the music by their own. All musicians have other artists from which they have taken ideas, rhythms, instruments or, even , musical styles. The people that brought jazz to Chicago, were not, the developers of this genre, they also took ideas from artists of their time or from another time. So, should the music be influenced by migration ? Yes, because with music from another culture, the music that will be influenced and the music to influence, will be completely different from each other. This means an area of opportunity: musicians can learn new concepts and can create new types of music, can experiment with different styles and by doing so, they become better artists.
Jazz is an example of how direct migration helped created a Chicago trend mark. But there are other examples in which music produced in Chicago were influenced by people who migrated to the city. According to Rory PQ, from Icon collective, one of these examples is the famous Chicago house music that was created in 80s by DJs who were seeking to energize the dancefloor in underground events. . The people who went to these events were usually considered outcast and consisted of African American and Latinos communities who were migrants of the city.
Chicago House music was not developed by these communities but rather, these migrants were determinant to make this genre and style. Here we see an interesting situation: migration influenced a culture, and that culture produced music based on new ideas brought by someone else and by doing so, we found a little contradiction. The attendants to the parties were excluded from the normal communities, but at it was the ideas of this outcast that produced music that impacted the life of everyone in the city. Here the preconceived ideas of music changed and merged with those on the local level. Like mentioned early, only the locals can decided what type of impact other cultures will have on their own.
Thank you for listening, in this podcast we have mentioned the effects that migration has had on the music of Chicago and had briefly discussed about the factors that have allowed this influence. Hopefully, you had a great time. Thank you for listening See you soon
- Digital Collections for the Classroom. “Jazz, Chicago, and the Great Migration.” Digital Collections for the Classroom, 19 July 2017, dcc.newberry.org/?p=14421.
- Newhart, Elizabeth. “A Brief History Of Jazz In Chicago.” Culture Trip, 29 Aug. 2016, theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/illinois/articles/a-brief-history-of-jazz-in-chicago.
- Pq, Rory. “The History of House Music and Its Cultural Influence.” Icon Collective College of Music, 1 Nov. 2019, iconcollective.edu/the-history-of-house-music.
The Vendetta by Stefan Kartenberg (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/JeffSpeed68/58628 Ft: Apoxode
IllustratorKev. “Poster I Made Celebrating Chicago Jazz.” Reddit, 16 Nov. 2017, www.reddit.com/r/chicago/comments/7dae2p/poster_i_made_celebrating_chicago_jazz.