Eli Siegel

(16 August 1902 - 8 November 1978 / Latvia)

Hymn To Jazz And The Like

Poem by Eli Siegel

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
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
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
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.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poem Edited: Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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