“somebody played a wrong note …… and jazz was born”

We can find many metaphors from the natural world with which to compare the creation and development of musical styles. A tree (or a river), with its multiple branches is quite good, but the concept of evolution is even better.

When Scott Joplin, Afro-American composer and pianist, created his new “Ragtime” musical style in the early 1900s, little could he know that this tiny new branch that he had placed on the tree of music would later not only grow into a huge and beautiful tree, but would also multiply and diversify, creating ultimately the whole new magnificent musical world of 20th century popular music. Jazz, rock, pop – and all their multiple offshoots and variants – are like new species that developed from a common ancestor. The fundamental musical “mutation” that allowed this new branch to start developing develop was rhythmic. We can thank the Afro-American culture not just for jazz, but for the whole tree.

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