“Jazz Is For Joy”
Gary Giddins is an award-winning American jazz and film critic. His column "Weather Bird" appeared in The Village Voice from 1973 through 2003 and won six ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for Excellence in Music Criticism. He has also won a Peabody Award for writing (for the PBS documentary "John Hammond: From Bessie Smith to Bruce Springsteen") and a Grammy Award (for his liner notes to "Sinatra: The Voice"). He currently writes a music column for Jazz Times. His latest book, "Jazz," was published by W. W. Norton in 2009.
Question: Does jazz merit more academic study than other 20th-century genres?\r\n
Gary Giddins: Well, everything that is of any value merits academic study and I suppose even some things that aren't of any value, there's all kinds of popular culture courses that go into areas that I don't really see the point of. But the sad truth is that, in the 1930's or 1940's, people—me, when I was growing up in the 1960's, I listened to jazz because loved it. I didn't need anybody—I could teach about it by reading books and reviews, but mostly through listening. I hate the idea of turning jazz into homework assignments. I would never have a quiz saying, "Who's the clarinetist on the Hot Five?" I don't care. If you like the clarinetist, you'll know who it is.\r\n
But appreciation is another thing, music appreciation and how to enjoy it. I mean, I am astounded at my age with a 20-year-old daughter to discover that kids of her generation don't want to watch black and white movies. I understand that they gave up on silent films, but black and white? So, now movies have to be taught in academia because people don't know how to watch them, they don't know how to appreciate them.\r\n
It's inevitable that that's where it's going to happen, but if the class turns into something dry and academic and a question of memorization, then I say, to hell with it. If it doesn't give you pleasure, go someplace else. Jazz is for joy. It's for euphoria, it's for emotion, and anguish, and excitement, and all of the joys that great art can produce, and if it loses that, then it's lost everything.\r\n
Question: What’s the best advice you can offer students in your profession?\r\n
Gary Giddins: Well, really, my answer to that hasn't changed in most of the years I've been doing this. I think first of all, if you're a critic—I'm a critic. That means you are a writer. So, yes, you have to make yourself an authority on whatever subject it's going to be. Music, movies, literature, whatever it's going to be, but what you really want to do is learn your trade by reading other writers. I think you have to read veraciously, especially people who have done what you have done to see how it's been done in the past; what works, what doesn't work.\r\n
When I teach criticism, I'm not a great admirer of Pauline Kael. Forgive me, I know a lot of people are, but I used to use Pauline Kael as an example in my class of everything you ought not to do, from the imperial “we,” to the arrogance, to the predictability of liking anything by a certain artist, or hating anything by another certain artist; but on the other had, yes, you should read her for yourself, obviously. By reading different critics, you find out who speaks to you and what kind of voice you want to have. So, I think that's the first thing.\r\n
And then in terms of succeeding, because of who you are and what your voice is, and you have to have passion, if you don't have passion for it, why would you bother? This is not a way to make a living in any conventional sense. So you really, you need to have the passion and the belief, arrogant though it may be, to believe that you're saying something that nobody else is saying.
Recorded on November 13, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen
Yes, jazz should be studied in the academies, says critic Gary Giddins. But if its raw emotion gets "turned into homework assignments," its whole meaning gets lost.
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Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
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Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>