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Jazz music plays an important role in American music. Although pop music is also very popular in America, jazz is an important player in American music composition. However, in China jazz music has a totally different status. In this essay I am going to talk about the Jazz music situation in China.

From what I know, not many people in China listen to Jazz. We can also say that they don’t have the chance to listen to Jazz music, so many people don’t get a chance to determine whether they like Jazz or not. There is almost no Jazz music media in the market. Two major music styles in China are pop music and traditional music. In this essay, I am going to analyze why Jazz music cannot become popular in China, and explain why the music style is treated differently in these two countries. I think these are several factors that limit the Jazz music development in China.

One of the factors is that it is difficult for Jazz music to become popular and commercialized, due to its difficult level. Jazz music requires the players have high levels of skill. That means the player needs very detailed music training in order to perform well. A ton of practice is needed. The music foundation education in China is not very developed right now and most parents want their children learn classical music. Most children do not get a chance to know jazz, so there are not many jazz players in China.

The reason that pop music easily became popular is because the melody in pop music is usually very simple and easy to remember. The chords used are usually only major and minor chords. It is easy to catch on to the general population since most people can sing it after listening to it several times. People can go to the karaoke room and sing it to enjoy themselves. Many music stores also use loud speakers to broadcast pop music to attract people. Compared to pop music, Jazz music contains many complicated chords and more free rhythms, which make them harder to sing and remember so that they are not as popular as pop music in China.

Another factor is related to China’s history. The jazz music developed in the 1920s. At that time, China was in a revolution period. Warlords were fighting with each other at that time, which affected the jazz music development. Jazz music originated in America in the 1920s and at that time China was in a closed down state. The government limited the foreign music transferred into China. Jazz music is usually being played in night clubs or bars. Back to 1920s, most people didn’t have money to go to these kinds of areas. If they wanted to listen to music, the only choice is to pay a little bit of money and listen to the traditional music, which was played along the road or in some public squares. Because of that, most people didn’t even get a chance to listen to the jazz music.

From the 1950s to 1970s, jazz music developed into the golden age in America. At this time, jazz music developed a lot. Many great jazz players appeared, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Coltrane. Each of them have their own styles in jazz music performance and composition. This time is the bebop, hard bop and cool jazz age. Different subclasses in jazz music developed. In this time period, many jazz music players and composers put new things into jazz music which made the jazz music become more sophisticated. However, at this time in China, the new government was just set up. At that time, the leader of China thought jazz music was inappropriate for people to listen to. They thought jazz music was too free. There are too many variations. They wanted the music as strict as possible, which means the music needed to contain fewer variations and improvising. As time went on, China became more and more open to western music, but since there were not a good jazz music foundations in the nation, jazz music was not very popular in China. Currently, however, more and more people are starting to listen to jazz music. But it still takes time for jazz to spread out in China.

Chinese music is very different from jazz music. We know that China has many unique musical instruments that are suited for its own music requirements. Traditional Chinese musical instruments are very different from western musical instrument. Not only are they different by their shapes, but also by their scale range. In traditional Chinese music there are only 5 notes — which are do, re, mi, sol, la — and usually contain less than three octaves. Now, some Chinese music instruments notes such as erhu, pipa, dizi, etc. They already have the same range within one octave like the western musical instruments. However, the origin of Chinese traditional music of five notes are the standard octave notes. Right now there are still some Chinese musical instruments that only contain five notes within one octave, such as guzheng. For the music performance style, concerto is the most common music style in traditional Chinese music history. In the concerto there are not many chords. Most of the time each player plays single notes. There are not many chords, so there are not many variations existing. I believe this music tradition affects Chinese people’s musical preference. Nowadays, I think Chinese people’s musical preference may contain the following characteristics: the music must contain a main melody musical instrument, the melody should be simple to remember, and the lyrics should be easy to say. There are actually not many requirements for the chorus. The range is usually within two octaves. Compared this to western music styles, such as messe or choir, it is obvious that the western music are more emphasis on chords. Also, in western music, lots of songs do not have an obvious main melody instrument. The chords are generally more complicated in western music than in Chinese music. I think right now American jazz music is more or less inherited this concept. In jazz music, the chords are complicated and contain many variations and improvisations. This music style is totally different from Chinese traditional music, so I think this is another important reason why jazz music is not popular in China. It takes time for people to accept a totally new music style.

Besides the historical and tradition factors, there are also others factors that limit the jazz music development in China. The primary one is that there are not enough audience supporters for jazz music. As mentioned above, jazz music is still new to China, so there are not many audiences right now. There are also not many jazz bands in China. Compared to pop music bands, jazz music bands are struggling to survive. There are not many people listening to their music, so they cannot get enough financial support. Right now, as far as I know, the jazz band usually play in some small night bars. Only a few of them may arrange a small concert. This is a vicious circle. Jazz music bands become fewer and fewer so that people will have less and less chance to listen to jazz. Many people even do not have a chance to listen to jazz music in their lives, except in American movies. Because there are not enough people listening jazz music, the music companies do not spend time and money to propagandize jazz music. They do not think investing in jazz music will give them enough financial response. The media would more likely want to put their money into popular and traditional music since it will give them a better pay.

Although the jazz music development is not good in China. The situation is changing. The government has already realized that they need to do something to make China’s music atmosphere more versatile. The government has already taken some actions in order to make the situation better. They set up an official jazz music corporation in the capital. There are also many small jazz music corporations being set up in cities. They are trying to gather the jazz group together and give them support for their future development. There are also more and more jazz musical forums being created on the Internet, so the jazz players can communicate with each other rather than just enjoy the music by themselves. Jazz music is stepping ahead to become another important part in the Chinese musical composition.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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