Event Title

Watching Swing Music: Visual Culture of the American Dance Orchestra, 1935-1941

Presenter Information

Brian Peterson, Shasta College

Location

Panel 24: Kearney 310

Start Date

27-10-2012 1:15 PM

End Date

27-10-2012 2:45 PM

Description

This paper examines the role of visual culture in American popular music before World War II. In particular, this inquiry identifies the development of a standard protocol in the observable presentation that existed among commercial big bands. This target of this performance practice (i.e. the cultivation of optimal consumer appeal) created a visual norm or language (Jay, 1998) that served to cue expectations of entertainment and convey assurances of pleasure among audiences through the standardized arrangement of how a swing band looked and its “society” image. This case study considers the role of marketing and popular visual media in the codification of a homogenous template that became fundamental to popular dance orchestras not only in this context but in the enduring understanding by subsequent generations about what constitutes a swing orchestra in American music.

This research presentation, finally, examines historical documents in order ascertain the swing visual performance practice. Key to this enumeration are precise examples of period orchestras led by Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller, that reveal the significant “conventions” in the American dance band (Berger, 1972). A closing evaluation of selected secondary sources underscores the importance of accounting for visual culture in order to yield an accurate understanding that acknowledges the “seen” along with the “heard” in comprehensive sense of swing music true to its historical context.

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Oct 27th, 1:15 PM Oct 27th, 2:45 PM

Watching Swing Music: Visual Culture of the American Dance Orchestra, 1935-1941

Panel 24: Kearney 310

This paper examines the role of visual culture in American popular music before World War II. In particular, this inquiry identifies the development of a standard protocol in the observable presentation that existed among commercial big bands. This target of this performance practice (i.e. the cultivation of optimal consumer appeal) created a visual norm or language (Jay, 1998) that served to cue expectations of entertainment and convey assurances of pleasure among audiences through the standardized arrangement of how a swing band looked and its “society” image. This case study considers the role of marketing and popular visual media in the codification of a homogenous template that became fundamental to popular dance orchestras not only in this context but in the enduring understanding by subsequent generations about what constitutes a swing orchestra in American music.

This research presentation, finally, examines historical documents in order ascertain the swing visual performance practice. Key to this enumeration are precise examples of period orchestras led by Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller, that reveal the significant “conventions” in the American dance band (Berger, 1972). A closing evaluation of selected secondary sources underscores the importance of accounting for visual culture in order to yield an accurate understanding that acknowledges the “seen” along with the “heard” in comprehensive sense of swing music true to its historical context.