Jazz and Spirituality
Why is it important to look at the spiritual dimension of music? Music Educator Anthony J. Palmer describes the importance of the spiritual dimension of music with regards to identity when he said: “All cultures … however formalist might be some of their aesthetic views on art, harbor beliefs in the spiritual power of music, that music holds some special capabilities to lift us toward a higher self.” The fact that all human families have developed musical systems that hold significance for their particular cultures underscores the communal power of music to affect human consciousness. Palmer suggested that this awareness of self-and-others is what validates being human.
Which music, then, holds the greatest potential for the spiritual growth and cultural identity of all Americans? David Ake, in “Jazz Cultures” wrote, “History isn’t collected, it’s told. Each jazz musician, critic, and listener tells a slightly different story of the music’s past and present, emphasizing this participant, ignoring another.” Ake points out that the musical relationships that occur and develop in a jazz context between players, listeners, and scholars alike present “different visions of the past, present and future.” He contends that jazz is “one of the twentieth century’s earliest and most successful activities for bringing disparate racial and cultural groups together.” In this age of diversity and cultural plurality, it would seem logical that a music that embodies individual expression through performance and continually embraces multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural histories as part of its ongoing discourse would be a prudent source of study for the advancement of America’s musical spirit, as well as its pluralistic societal goals.
Palmer, Anthony J., “Music Education and Spirituality: A Philosophical Exploration,” Philosophy of Music Education Review 3, no. 2 (1995).
Ibid.: 100, 01.
Ake, David, Jazz Cultures (Berklee and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002).