Text of

"Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation"

by Anne Shaw Faulkner

Faulkner, the National Music Chairman (sic) of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, published this essay in the Ladies' Home Journal of August 1921 (pp. 16, 34). To say that she disapproves of the music is an understatement.
The original text of this essay was divided into four sections, with a heading announcing each new section. The first, second, and third sections all appeared on page 16 of the original; the fourth section began on page 16 and concluded on page 34. In addition, five illustrations appeared on page 16 in a v-shaped pattern. For presentation on the web, each section has its own site. The first section and the top two illustrations are on this site. Below it is a set of links to the other three sites, each of which includes one of the other three illustrations.

picture 1 from the article We have all been taught to believe that "music soothes the savage breast," but we have never stopped to consider that an entirely different type of music might invoke savage instincts. We have been content to accept all kinds of music, and to admit music in all its phases into our homes, simply because it was music. It is true that frequently father and mother have preferred some old favorite song or dance, or some aria from opera, to the last "best seller" which has found its way into the home circle; but, after all, young people must be entertained and amused, and even if the old-fashioned parents did not enjoy the dance music of the day, they felt it could really do no harm, because it was music.

picture 2 from the article Therefore, it is somewhat of a rude awakening for many of these parents to find that America is facing a most serious situation regarding its popular music. Welfare workers tell us that never in the history of our land have there been such immoral conditions among our young people, and in the surveys made by many organizations regarding these conditions, the blame is laid on jazz music and its evil influence on the young people of to-day. Never before have such outrageous dances been permitted in private as well as public ballrooms, and never has there been used for the accompaniment of the dance such a strange combination of tone and rhythm as that produced by the dance orchestras of to-day.

Certainly, if this music is in any way responsible for the condition and for the immoral acts which can be traced to the influence of these dances, then it is high time that the question should be raised: "Can music ever be an influence for evil?"

To proceed in linear fashion, go to section 2, "The Rebellion." If you'd like to read nonlinearly, choose from the following sections.

[Introduction] "The Rebellion" "The Elements of Music" "Its Effect"

This text is one of several being analyzed by students in the courses "Culture in the Jazz Age," taught by Nick Evans, and "The Rhetoric Around Music," taught by David Liss. Other of these texts include: Both classes have participated in a message forum on Faulkner's text, and some students in "Culture in the Jazz Age" are writing about the text in Project #2.
Student Projects Course Syllabus Policy Statement
Class Assignments Message Forums Culture in the Jazz Age