Traditional New Orleans Jazz as a Metaphor for American Life

Michael G. White, jazz musician, scholar, and professor of Spanish and African American Music, Xavier University of Louisiana, weaves a profound understanding of the meaning of traditional New Orleans jazz with the ideals of democratic life. Through his own words and live music from his four-piece ensemble, White explores the way traditional jazz foregrounds ideas about cultural and racial identity; the centrality of cultural practice as a medium for personal and political response to political realities; and the harmonies and tensions between virtuosic and collaborative invention. In this interactive Foreseeable Future, we provide online musical clips from Dr. White’s keynote address, and invite the reader to experience the impact of what is typically the ephemerality of live performance. This essay was originally presented as the keynote address for Imagining America’s 2009 conference in New Orleans.





Accompanying Audio Files:

Shake It and Break It (Weary Blues)
Composed by Artie Matthews

Kerry Lewis on Bass

Detroit Brooks on Banjo

Gregg Stafford on Trumpet

Darktown Strutters’ Ball
Composed by Shelton Brooks

In the Sweet Bye and Bye (dirge)
Composed by Samuel F. Bennett

In the Sweet Bye and Bye (up-tempo)

Canal Street Blues
Composed by Joseph King Oliver

Burgundy Street Blues
Dr. Michael White

Composed by William H. Tyers

Sunday Morning
Dr. Michael White

Second Line