I signed myself up for a Leisure Learning course at McNeese University. The class will explore "topics covering Louisiana's unique culture." How could I resist! We began today with a lecture on Louisiana music, specifically jazz and its origins in New Orleans, presented by well-known professor and musician Rick Condit.
I had not realized that jazz is the only genre of music truly original to Louisiana. Other music forms which we may attribute to this state, such as Cajun or zydeco, actually originated in other places and migrated here.
Jazz evolved from an amalgamation of many sources. Nineteenth century New Orleans was an integrated mish mash of cultures and people from around the world. In the early 1800s, slaves sang, danced, and played music in Congo Square. There, African beats melded with Caribbean melodies. Choirs in Baptist churches, brass marching bands in parades, opera houses, and symphonies permeated the air with music. One northerner supposedly said, "New Orleans is one vast and gallivanting hall." Around the 1840s and for the next eighty years, minstrel shows, a blend of music and comedy, entertained the masses.
Out of this musically diverse heritage came Louis Armstrong (1901-1971). Louie made a profound contribution to jazz, essentially creating a new musical language, a new lyrical vocabulary. He was innovative, a master at improvisation.
Next up, a look at Louisiana folklore. In the meantime, enjoy these three videos. Interestingly, even when Louie didn’t play it, he still held his trumpet.