Aesthetic Realism Online Library Poetry by Eli Siegel

Hymn to Jazz and the Like

What is sound, as standing for the world and the mind of man at any time, and in any situation? 

Sound is an unknown, immeasurable reservoir which has been gone into and used to have chants, rituals, jigs, bourrées, sonatas, symphonies, songs, concertos: all of these show themselves, proudly saying, I am sound, I am music. 

Sound took a new form in America or somewhere, Oh, say, around 1900. 

There had been Go Down, Moses, which did new, clattering, ominous, delightful, religious, thundering, kind things with sound. 

There had been Never Said a Mumblin' Word, which did things with sound different from what occurred in Don Giovanni, Xerxes, or The Bohemian Girl—you know, The Bohemian Girl of Balfe. 

Sound is looking for new illustrations showing the might, glory, findingness, and abandon of man. 

Yah, and Oh, Lord, there was the St. Louis Blues. 

Sounds were made to fall into different places in this. 

Notes behaved otherwise. 

Something in you expected a note here, and it was there. 

Something in you expected a note to be this way and it was that. 

Ha, what Jazz does to the this and that of notes, the isness and wasness and might-be-ness of chords. 

Frankie and Johnnie was notes doing different things in America, being in front of each other and in back of each other differently, 

Being large and small differently. 

Ah, what a blessing in rowdy divinity Casey Jones is! 

She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain helped to have notes show more of what they could do. 

And there was Alexander's Ragtime Band. 

(Berlin, Irving first name, was proximate to the right wildness then.) 

And Venus Anadyomene, the Beale Street Blues, with its going  down and up and around, 

And its sassy tragedy. 

And let's mention Memphis Blues. 

East St. Louis Toodle-O, go into dark, make advanced noise there, moan with grandeur, and come out right. 

The Mooche, you come like a procession of right people at twilight saying, This is right, not that; and you walk against walls and the walls run. 

In the Mood, Glenn Miller or no, you show what repetition can do and surprise like the surprise in Beethoven's Emperor Concerto as it changes from a hush and faintness to crash. 

In the Mood, you are acclaimed. 

Fletcher Henderson, when you brought scholarship to the new joyous earth-turning in America, you did something for Jazz and destiny's certificate. 

The Music Goes Round and Round—whatever you come from, you do something for reality as center and circumstance, sober whirling, valve majesty, surprise and the heaven of brashness. 

Jazz, you have faltered, but it was you who faltered, and there was you. 

Jazz, you show that symmetry and unsymmetry, order and casualness are alike. 

The Beatles have used you somewhat to show that the whisper of one person can shout across land and water. 

Rock and Roll, you say something of geology and man's uncertainty. 

Jazz, you are amiable about Chopin's Revolutionary Etude. 

Jazz, when Mozart was most vocally bold in the Don Giovanni, you were looking on years ago, ready to be encouraged honorably. 

Jazz, you were around when the Gregorian Chant was doing things to man somewhat after Charlemagne and after the changing of France to a kingdom. 

Jazz, you have in you Homer, Marlowe, Coleridge, Kipling, 

Swinburne, Hopkins, Rimbaud, also the person who wrote 

Sir Patrick Spens. 

(I am not being careless.) 

Jazz, you deserve another hymn.