Jazz no longer corrupting young people

A study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at the link between music preferences at age 12 and adolescent delinquency – finding that an early liking for ‘rebellious’ music predicted small scale anti-social behaviour like shoplifting, petty theft and vandalism.

Rebellious music turns out to be defined as variations of rock, hip-hop and electronica. But one of the interesting findings was that kids who liked jazz music were slightly less likely to be antisocial:

Although some music preferences were positively associated with delinquency, liking jazz at age 12 correlated negatively with delinquency (r = –0.12), but did not relate to age 16 delinquency.

Historically, this is interesting because jazz, at the height of its popularity, was widely linked to delinquency, drug-taking, insanity and sexual promiscuity:

Dig this:

The human organism responds to musical vibrations. This fact is universally recognized. What instincts then are aroused by jazz? Certainly not deeds of valor or martial courage, for all marches and patriotic hymns are of regular rhythm and simple harmony; decidedly not contentment or serenity, for the songs of home and the love of native land are all of the simplest melody and harmony with noticeably regular rhythm. Jazz disorganizes all regular laws and order; it stimulates to extreme deeds, to a breaking away from all rules and conventions; it is harmful and dangerous, and its influence is wholly bad.

That’s from the August 1921 edition of the Ladies Home Journal, one of the most widely read magazines of the time.

You’ll notice a lot of racism around the ‘jazz is bad’ vibe. This was picked up at the time as it happens.

However, I would guess that 50’s jazz, like modern rebellious music, could have had a statistical link to minor delinquency, but like today, it was probably not causal. Rebellious people gravitate toward rebellious music.

Jazz, however, aint no longer rebellious. In the popular imagination, it’s a soundtrack for beard-strokers, and the days of banging up a quarter gram of snow and downing a couple of bennies before losing it in a sweaty jazz joint are long gone.

In fact, it’s so no-longer-rebellious that it was the only type of music to predict lower delinquency.

One thing hasn’t changed though. The slightly awkward tone that sounds like your dad lamenting the death of proper music. With a tune. And lyrics. You know, proper lyrics, that tell a story.

The opening sentence of the Pediatrics study:

During the 1980s and 1990s, the loudest and most rebellious forms of rock (eg, heavy metal, gothic), African American music (hip-hop, particularly gangstarap), and electronic dance music (house, techno, hardhouse) were labeled by adults as “problem” music and perceived as promoting violence, substance use, promiscuous sex, blasphemy, and depression

Can I get a nice cup of tea from the massive tonight?

Link to study ‘Early Adolescent Music Preferences and Minor Delinquency’.

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