Jazz Prelude

Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.

Today’s post features the music of George Gershwin (1898-1937). Gershwin, one of our great American composers, was fascinated with the new musical language emerging in early-20th century America: jazz. His music is rooted in the classical tradition, but we see him playing with jazz-infused dissonance in his melodic and harmonic palette, and using dance-hall syncopation, with its percussive energy, as a rhythmic backbone.

Today’s piece is the second of Gershwin’s three Preludes for Piano. The two “bracketing” preludes are both fast and energetic, but this middle piece is quieter: a peaceful stroll rather than a dance. In the opening measures, through the piano’s left hand, you’ll hear an alternation between a minor (darker) sound and a major (brighter) sound. When the melody comes in, it’s a lilting tune, suggesting a person humming or whistling as they walk down a country road.

Gershwin’s music has an especially strong “time capsule” feel, calling up images of 1920s America. As you listen today, if you’d like, think about where and when this music takes you in your imagination, and let yourself linger in that space. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

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