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October 19, 1936 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1936-10-19

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY

&a

~""1

IN

THE

WORLD

OF

BOOKS

V

'Swing' Under The Microscope
Of -Hot Music's French Critic

AUSLANDE.R

Stein's

Tongue-!n-Cheek Attitude

Believes Poetry To
Thy Only Oracle
Of Truth

Be

Again Established In

New

Book

HOT JAZZ, by Hugues Panassie.
Translated by Lyle and Eleanor
Dowling. M. Witmark & Sons:
$5.
By TUURE TENANDER
Although not without fault, the
English edition of Hugues Panassie's
Le Jazz Hot is an invaluable book
to persons who really want to know
a little more about what this elusive
thing termed "swing" -really is.
Not that one will find an accurate
definition of swing in so many words,
for Panassie joins all the other critics
and musicians who have met their
nemesis during the past year in an
attempt to define swing.
Since this book was originally writ-
ten in 1934, before the teri "swing"
wasscommercialized and applied by
press agents to any band that im-
provised at all, no matter how little,
it is rather strange that Panassie
does not approach the definition of
swing from the purely rhythmic point
of view. Instead he attacks the prob-
lem almost simultaneously from the
rhytlmic and the melodic approaches
causing his definition to become al-
most meaningless. He says in part
that "swing is a sort of 'swinging',
of the rhythm and melody which
makes for great dynamic power. Often
this power, this vitality is not ap-
parent; often it is more or less held
back; but it is always there." We
think that Down Beat's definition,
"swing is collective improvisation
rhythmically integrated," comes much
closer to the real thing than does
Panassie's, provided you understand
it.
After his opening chapter, Panassie
really gets under way in his discus-
sion of the hot style of playing, ex-
plaining that in addition to the
necessity of rhythmic swing, there
must be in hot playing a definite style
of improvisation that produces a mel-
odic line that can be classified as
hot. This improvisation, in order to
be classified as hot, for there are!
improvisations that are not, depends
upon the intonation of the musician,
the phrasing of notes and passages,
and the attack of the notes them-
selves.
The author, while not having space
to give a history of the birth of hot
jazz, bases his treatment of the styles
of various musicians on the assump-'
tion that the origins of jazz came;
from the Negro race, and of this there
does not appear to be much doubt, al-
though some critics maintain that
the white race is equally responsible
for the development of this new art
form.
Accordingly, Panassie devotes an
entire chapter to Louis Armstrong,
whom he describes as "the greatest
of all hot soloists, the man whose in-
fluence has dominated the whole;
field of hot music." Undoubtedly one
of the greatest figures in jazz, Arm-
strong is highly praised by the author
for his tonal quality, his intelligentI
use of short phrases to build his)
melodic line and his technical ability
which has made it possible for Louisl
to attain heights never attained by'

other hot musicians. Panassie, how-a
ever, is ready to admit what has' MORE THAN BREAD. MacMillan.
been recognized by every follower of $1.50. Joseph Auslander.
hot jazz, the decline in Armstrong's By MARY SAGE MONTAGUE
performances since 1931. Most of Here is a poet steeped in philoso-I
the records made by Satchmo since phic thought, technical exercise, and
this date have consisted largely of the experiences of life both disillu-
piercing sky-high notes that serve sioning and inspiring. Mr. Ausland-
only to show this black trumpeter's er, in this new group of verses, shows
prowess on his instrument and have ++ ,-

no warmth of feeling in them. The
author believes, however, that Louis
has not lost his ability to improvise
in a truly hot manner, but that he
is merely playing "commercial" in
order to attract the customers who
because of lack of understanding
must see and hear a heterogeneous
carnival before they are satisfied.
In this chapter- on Armstrong and
in the subsequent chapter on the
other improvisors, one appreciates the
astounding knowledge of the author
in this field and more amazing for the
fact that Panassie has had very little
contact with the musicians of whom
he is speaking, but has acquired his
knowledge through the medium of
records. Incidentally, he is reported
to possess one of the most extensive
hot record collections in existence.
In his remarks concerning the hot
musicians who have achieved great
results in the field of hot jazz, Pa-
nassie is at his best, although his en-
thusiasm runs away with him at
times, despite his statement in his
foreword that he plans to approach
his treatment objectively. For in-
stance, he declares that "Teschmaker
is considered by everyone to be one
of the two or three best clarinets, but
he is actually a hundred times better
than any of the others, white or
black." And another case of ex-.
treme occurs when he is discussing
the peer of all women hot singers,
Bessie Smith. "But to speak of Bessie
as she should be spoken of," he says,
'one would have to be as flawless
as she is; she is so perfect that she
defies all description and all praise."~
But for these occasional instances
where the author is carried out of!
this world," to use the parlance of'
the avid swing fan, he treats the in-
dividual peculiarities of the hot mu-
sicians very intelligently and clearly.
In speaking of Bix Beiderbecke,
generally conceded to be the great-
est hot man of the white race, Panas-
sie states in part: "he projects (his1
personality) in his playing by means
of his tone, which was strong and ex-
ceptionally pure . . . by means of his
vibrato, which was restrained but pas-
sionate, faster than the usual vi-
brato but slower than the usual Negro
vibrato-a vibrato no one has been1
able to imitate,' so subtle is it, for
it seems to come not so much from
the lips as from the heart itself; and
above all by the means of his musical
conceptions which the sequence of
his full and powerful phrases, so fine
as to be almost transparent, em-i
bodied with utmost fidelity."i
Certain critics have claimed that
Panassie is unduly biased in his opin-

that he has lost none of the poetic
skill which characterized his earlier
volumes, and has indeed achieved an

intensity of feeling which raises the
often commonplace subjects far
above mediocrity.
Recurrently through the book can
be heard the theme of the forgotten
poet, hic debt to truth and the strug-
gle that must be made for it against
the world's disinterest.
"The poet hunts his hope,
His blinding vision,
Proud as the antelope
Cold as derision."
And he feels again the fear which
is as old as poetry, time's supremacy
and the poet's attempts to make him-
self heard.
"Yet out of time, time past and
time to come,
The poet builds against time's pon-
derous curse
His anger like a delicate little
bomb
To explode the universe."
But he does not hold with the left-1
wing poets, and in several verses ad-
dressed to them he makes quite clear
what he thinks of their "gnashing and
braying," although he acknowledges
sympathy in the need of all poets to
speak from a common grief, pot
Many of the verses are dedicated

"THE GEOGRAPHICAL HISTORY
OF AMERICA OR THE RELATION
OF HUMAN NATURE TO THE
HUMAN MIND," by Gertrude
Stein; (Random House).
THERE are two introductions pro-
vided for Gertrude Stein's latest
nonsense book. One is a rather windy
one by Thornton Wilder, who has
fallen heir to the job of trying to tell
the customers what Miss Stein is sup-
posed to be saying. The other is not
in the book itself, but (of all places)
on the jacket.
This is what Bennett Cerf, one of
the publishers, has to say:
"This space (on the jacket) is us-
ually reserved for a brief description
of a book's contents. In this case,
however, I must admit frankly that I
do not know what Miss Stein is talk-
ing about. I do not even understand
the title.
"I admire Miss Stein tremendously,
and I like to publish her books, al-
though most of the time I do not
know what she is driving at. That,
Miss Stein tells me, is because I am
dumb.
"I note that one of my partners
and I are characters in this latest
work of Miss Stein's. Both of us wish
that we knew what she was saying
about us. Both of us hope, too,
that her faithful followers will make
Who Is Freya Stark?
There have been many inquiries
as to the life and background of
Freya Stark, whose "Southern Gates

more of this book than we are able
to!"
Mr. Wilder knows all about it, of
course. It seems that Miss Stein is
writing a metaphysical treatise, if one
can disentangle her text, interpret it,
and think the bother worth while.
This may be true, but oncetagain
this reader must admit that to him
the product seems to be a collection
of incredibly dull platitudes which
has been deliberately scrambled for a'
joke on the faithful Steinites.
Miss Stein is said to have admitted
that her famous "Four Saints in
Three Acts" was a spoof. It at least
was funny. This latest one seems only
childish-witness such kindergarten
monkey business as writing the text
in tiny so-called chapters, and then
deliberately numbering the "chap-
ters" wrongly.
Some will feel that Miss Stein
is sure to bite her tongue if she keeps!
it constantly in her cheek.

Gaily The Troubador
If you feel you can't possibly last
much longer in a world which seems
bent on certain suicide, what you
need, we believe, is the tonic in Ar-
thur Guiterman's new volume of
verse, "Gaily the Troubadour." How's
this which Mr. Guiterman titles "Pure
Perversity":
Notwithstanding epidemics,
Wars, political polemics,
Fevers, doctors, coughs and 6neezes,
Microbes, unexplained diseases,
Earthquakes, shipwrecks, conflag-
rations,
Avalanches, inundations,
Droughts, volcanoes, frosts,
tornadoes,
Autos, airplanes, desperadoes,
Comets, famines, revolutions,
Treaties, mandates, constitutions,
Kings, democracies, dictators,
Oligarchies, legislatures,
Still the human species blunders
On! And why? One often wonders.
Or how about this one addressed to
the "Great Ones" of the earth-
The Great Ones brood aloof in calm
benignity.
With book and pen;
We've thrust aside the scholar's
cloistered dignity
To live with men.

Before the Great Ones'
due formality,
All Time shall bow;
We basely sacrifice our
To serve you now.

shrines, with
immortality

The Great Ones view the world with
boundless charity
From high above;
We work, we strive to speak with
vulgar clarity
To those we love.
The Great Ones greatly dream eternal
verities
Beyond our sphere;
We sing of human hearts and crude
asperities
About us here.

I

to other poets, and even in addressing- of Arabia," an extraordinary record
writers as diverse as John Bunyan of months spent among the little-
and Elinor Wylide, Mr. Auslandef known people of the Hadhramaut,
manages to retain overtones of their center in former days of the roman-
own work. Of Mrs. Wylie's poetry he tic incense trade, has just been pub-
says:
"This is the jewelled bird of fire lished. Miss Stark tells her pub-
and ice, lishers very little about herself. She
Immortal Phoenix wi'ought of ice is the daughter, she says, of Robert
and fire." Stark, sculptor, and on her mother's
Occasionally he seems to do away side she has "French and Indian
completely with unilinear composi- blood." Until she was nine she lived
tion, to write on two planes at once in Devonshire; then in Italy. Some
and interpret figures of the past in years, she says, she spent in Bagh-
terms of the twentieth century. After dad where she "helped with the edi-
a fashion he follows Mr. Pound in torial sdie of the Bagdad Times,
this, but with a greater degree of during which I learned Eastern lan-
subtlety. He sees Socrates as a man guages and travelled extensively in
who could drink Zeus under the table, Persia and the East." She was edu-
who drained his cup "as at some brave cated at London University, and adds,
carouse." Even God is for him high- "at home." Her favorite sport is
ly individualized, and the conception climbing and she has no other occu-
he holds is indpendent of time or cus- pation than writing, except "travel-
tom. ing and exploration." For her travels
"m a chlwMiss Stark has been awarded the
"As a child will stare Burton Medal from the Royal Asiatic
And rumple his hair Society, the only woman among four
And rumpb hisyes-men to receive this Award. Her
So this God sighs." honors include alsothe Back Grant
His whole idea of religion is bound from the Royal Geographical Society
up with nature, and he feels that here Royal Scottish Geographical Society.
is an inalienable bond to which man Although Miss Stark is a lady of
is blind. Again it is the poet who great scholarship she has a charming,
must lead him, for it is the poet who feminine mind, a rare and lively wit,
recognizes truth. And that truth, and sprinkles her books with gentle
that only value worth striving for, is irony. Here is a lady, writes Lewis
a love which shall be strong as steel Gannett, who would "find her pleas-
to annihilate the deceit and hatred ure in any quarter of the earth and
of the world. The demand for that communicate it to her readers.
love is made again and again through
the book, and attains cumulative perimentation in rhyme and accent
emphasis in the title poem, More which defies monotony, careful use
Than Bread.
Bread is not enoug, of technical devices to lend a musical
No matter how bland quality, and an occasional allusion
in the fullness thereof which shall give depth without ob-
We remain ill-fed. ' scuring the thought of the poem. Mr.
We areweak.Auslander sees clearly and beyond
We can hardly stand; the ordinary face of things, and he
We can scarcely speak writes with the intensity of a vivid
The iron strength of love must imagsnaion. oethnowvr gh
j keep a hand proves himself a poet worth knowing.

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"THE KIDNAP CASE"
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Rental Library 5 Nickels Arcade

ion that Negroes have been largely re-I
sponsible for the greatest improvisers1
produced in the comparatively short
history of jazz. The author discusses1
both Negro musicians and white mu-
sicians without apparent prejudice]
and states that in the case of hot1
clarinet men, the white race has pro-t
duced the superior artists.
The discussions of the principal or-
chestras that have marked important
developments in the history of jazz
is interesting. The chapter on thel
achievements of Duke Ellington is
excellent and shows that Panassie
has, a true appreciation for things
other than pure improvisation.
One of the most valuable depart-
ments in this book is the carefully
compiled and very extensive list of
the finest hot records that have
been produced. This record list is
an excellent guide for anybody who
desires to follow to any great ex-
tent the development of this art
form.

MiI

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In us, the stubborn love,
As clear as light, as clean as
wind and stronger
Than any hunger."
In feeling and philosophy the poems
form a coherent whole, and yet each
is complete in itslef. There is ex-

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