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Swing, That Modern Sound

Swing, That Modern Sound

Kenneth J. Bindas
Copyright Date: 2001
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  • Book Info
    Swing, That Modern Sound
    Book Description:

    It was for stage bands, for dancing, and for a jiving mood of letting go. Throughout the nation swing re-sounded with the spirit of good times.

    But this pop genre, for a decade America's favorite, arose during the worst of times, the Great Depression.

    From its peak in the 1930s until bebop, r & b, and country swamped it after World War II, swing defined an American generation and measured America's musical heartbeat. In its heyday swing reached a mass audience of very disparate individuals and united them. They perceived in the tempers and tempos of swing the very definition of modernity.

    A survey of the thirties reveals that the time was indeed the Swing Era, America's segue into modernity. What social structures encouraged swing's creation, acceptance, and popularity?Swing, That Modern Soundexamines the cultural and historical significance of swing and tells how and why it achieved its audience, unified its fans, defined its generation, and, after World War II, fell into decline.

    What fed the music? And, in turn, what did the music feed? This book shows that swing manifested the kind of up-to-date allure that the populace craved. Swing sounded modern, happy, optimistic. It flouted the hardship signals of the Great Depression. The key to its rise and appeal, this book argues, was its all-out appropriation of modernity--consumer advertising, the language and symbols of consumption, and the public's all-too-evident wish for goods during a period of scarcity.

    As it examines the role of race, class, and gender in the creation of this modern music,Swing, That Modern Soundtells how a music genre came to symbolize the cultural revolution taking place in America.

    Kenneth J. Bindas is an associate professor of history at Kent State University, Trumbull Campus, in Warren, Ohio. He is the author ofAll of This Music Belongs to the Nation: The WPA's Federal Music ProjectandAmerican Society, 1935--1939.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-676-2
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxi)

    Swing music has experienced a revival of sorts over the last few years. Scan the entertainment sections of the nation’s newspapers and see the advertisements for bands with swing-like names and clubs announcing swing dance lessons. Going to one of these events, you notice what these people—who obviously weren’t around in the 1930s or 1940s—have appropriated regarding swing. They are not authentic swing bands, nor are the songs they play swing by musical definition. Yet the people in these clubs are stylistically connected to the swing era. Many of them dress in period clothes, use language from the...

  5. The Swing Generation What Is Swing and How Is It the Music of Its Era?
    (pp. 3-19)

    During the spring and summer of 1935, popular memory has told us, swing was born when Benny Goodman and his band won the approval of the audience at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles after a grueling tour that began in New York City. The band’s performances in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee met with lukewarm audience response and continued through Denver, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. The tour had not gone well and the Goodman band found itself back against the wall in Los Angeles for an extended gig at the Palomar. As the band set up to play in...

  6. Machine-Age Music The Connection of Swing to Modernity
    (pp. 20-38)

    Understanding the generation that appropriated swing helps to broaden our view of the music outside of its jazz legacy. Perhaps swing’s popularity and acceptance serve as an example of the appropriation of an avant-garde, or at least oppositional, culture by the dominant society. The whole story of the naming and defining of swing, according to Marshall Stearns, signifies the replacement of the negative, racial stereotype of jazz with the more acceptable moniker.¹ The last chapter focused on swing’s generational qualities and the complexities of its defining characteristics in order to set in time and place the cultural product of swing....

  7. Swinging the Marketplace Advertising and Selling Swing
    (pp. 39-75)

    At the heart of the swing generation was its proximity to the consumer marketplace. That Goodman did not invent something new in swing and that his enthronement as the King of Swing was more a result of promotion than invention raise questions about the role of capital in the emergence of swing. Mario Bauza, of Duke Ellington’s band, believed Goodman’s success was based on “a gimmick. Swing, they called it swing. So they started commercializing the word swing. Swing, swing, they made a King of Swing, they made a picture, and then they have all these bobbysox dancing in the...

  8. The American Swing Dream The Role and Influence of Class in Swing
    (pp. 76-102)

    The generation that made swing the popular music of its time was the product not only of unique musical and modern circumstances, but also of the changing nature of America’s social construction—the American dream. Many of those who came of age during the swing era witnessed in their childhood and early occupational years, 1900–1930, the very changes affecting the definition of American society. These swing kids witnessed their parents’ labor or began participating in the economy themselves and, as a result, developed certain ideologies, regarding class and work, which grew out of their working-class backgrounds. Given the necessity...

  9. The Swing Stew Ethnicity, Race, and Gender within Swing
    (pp. 103-144)

    The swing generation was made up of a variety of types of people. Artie Shaw, for example, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City and spent his formative years among “kids with long, foreign-sounding names . . . Romanoff, Liebowitz, Carranello, Esposito, Schechter, Wiecznowski, Anzelowitz, Fiorito, O’Clanahan, Borazybski.” Maxine Sullivan recalled that while growing up in the steel town of Homestead, Pennsylvania, she lived next door to and sometimes with Polish, Hungarian, and Italian workers. “There might have been segregation between the so-called affluent and so-called poor,” she pointed out, but not “among the poor class...

  10. Swing’s Low The Decline of Swing
    (pp. 145-168)

    Swing’s popularity with the youth of America in 1935 had seemingly come out of nowhere; so, too, its decline appeared to happen overnight. In 1946,Metronomeannounced “The King is Dead” in reference to Goodman’s declining commercial appeal. While his and other bands continued to perform, record sales indicated that swing was losing its ability to dominate the industry. The reasons for this decline were neither sudden nor surprising and, in fact, trace back to the evolution of swing’s development and the ideologies that had helped it win the acceptance of the people.¹

    The Second World War usually takes the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 169-198)
  12. Index
    (pp. 199-209)