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The Microtonal Beauty of Jazz.

by:Viraaj

First celebrated on April 30th, 2011, International Jazz Day, a day that highlights Jazz and its role in uniting people all across the globe. But what really is jazz? What makes it different from other forms of music?

By definition, Jazz is a genre that has its origins in the African-American communities of Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America. It has its roots in 19th and 20th century Blues and Ragtime. It is characterized by blues notes, swing, complex chords, poly-rhythms, microtones and above all Improvisation.

But, to me, jazz is a form of music that gives the player freedom to play whatever, freedom to interpret the music in their own way, meaning that no two performances, even by the same musician are never the same. Each performance changes with the performer’s mood, their interactions with their bandmates and their experience, this means that melodies, harmonies, solos and even the time signatures change with each performance. Jazz truly represents the diversity of the individual, and as a result of this freedom, we have multiple sub-genres or forms, each varying slightly from the other. This is in stark contrast to Classical Music, staying true to the source is important. Any and all deviation from what is written on the sheets of music in front of you is not perceived well.

Jazz bands usually have a soloist that is supported by a rhythm section that have instruments such as a piano or guitar, or both, a double bass and drums.  The rhythm section supports the soloist, giving them a solid base to build off of and often responding to the changes that the soloist makes, ensuring that the soloist is able to stand out to the crowd. In comparison to this, forms of jazz such as Free Jazz and Avant-Garde reduce this separation between the soloist and the rhythm sections, giving the other instruments a license to move away from the source based on their mood.

In Jazz, there is this requirement for the players to abandon classical notions of sticking to a scale or a time signature and explore the possibilities of what can and will sound good. As someone who had just completed what seemed like the basics of music theory, Jazz seemed like this over-the-top, complicated genre that only experienced players attempted. The complicated chords and the quick scale changes, were all too difficult to comprehend. And while I still find these techniques complicated, it hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the songs.

Jazz takes you away from the 4 chord monotony that is present in a lot of modern songs (take for example Dusk Till Dawn by Zayn)  and stretches the limits of what is perceived as possible. Compared to other genres such as Pop, Rock and Punk, the variety in Jazz is what I find appealing, though Linkin Park is and always will be my favourite band. And this, at least in my opinion, separates the average album pop or rock song from songs like ‘Boy’ and ‘L.A. Girls’ by Charlie Puth and Bruno Mars’ ‘Leave the Door Open’, all of which are amazing songs. If you’re into anime like I am, then background scores produced by Studio Ghibli have some amazing songs that while not necessarily Jazz, do have a lot of influence from Jazz music. And if you like to waste time on YouTube or Instagram or even on Reddit, go look up Charles Cornell, Adam Neely and their likes.