Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr on Jazz

Trent Austin sent this to the Trumpet Players International list yesterday. I have yet to "check my sources" on it, but I have no reason to doubt its provenance.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Opening Address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz
Festival, WPFW News (Washington), [23 August 2002]

God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures
with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet
songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment
and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and
if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest
realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new
hope or sense of triumph.

This is triumphant music.

Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more
complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning,
the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which
flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American
Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists
and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world,
musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring
within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from
this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began
to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.

And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of
the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of
modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody
needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy.
Everybody longs for faith.

In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping
stone towards all of these.

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