(This week I'd like to turn the column over to my room-mate, Bill Hodson, who, unlike myself, is actually a musician, and knows what he's talking about. Besides, Bill is one of those rare birds who has a thorough appreciation of both Jazz and the classics, and his ideas on the relationship of the two impress me as being definitely worth the space of a column, since the subject is one which seldom gets proper treatment-Charles Miller '41.)
Much like the unhappy sportswriter who predicted that Bob Pastor would uncrown Joseph Louis '04 of Detroit, I am going to place myself squarely on the end of a limb. In short, your favorite columnist's room-mate is going on record here with respect to the unfortunate controversy which so often recurs concerning the relative values of the contributions of jazz and "classical" to music.
Here are my qualifications, such as they are, to discuss this much mooted question. I have been playing the violin (excepting only swinglanguage, a definite article precedes the name of an instrument) for nigh on ten years, and have been listening to jazz with steadily increasing interest for three.
The final answer, in my opinion, is that le jazz hot and classical music are, like Bennington and Vassar students, quite incomparable. They are in a sense parts of two separate and distinct worlds. They appeal to, or are expressions or, entirely different levels of emotion. They involve a clear dichotomy of human aesthetic response. People who have developed a sense sympathetic or responsive to classical music, and have heard little or no jazz, will argue that a swing classic is meaningless, superficial, or psycho-pathetic, depending usually on the degree to which it is hot. Such a comment is the product of unmitigated ignorance. The commenter is trying to pass judgment on the basis of his sense of classical-music values. He should be given to understand that this is an entirely mistaken standard of judgment. The only way he can possibly qualify himself to comment intelligently on jazz music is for him to listen to it until he has developed a new and very different sense, viz. one accustomed to, and appreciative of, the expression of feelings, emotions, or what have you, which he has never before heard expressed in music. The same would apply vice versa to the comment of a "jazz-man." Some few critics and musicians, of whom Goodman is an outstanding example, have acquired an understanding of both. They have done so, I am sure, with an intuitive appreciation of the distinction I am trying to make between the two types of music.
Inevitably the question arises, which form of music appeals to the higher and which to the lower level of emotion? If by "higher" and "lower" you mean better and worse, or of more value and of less value, I answer again that the two can not be compared in terms of value. There is literally no common denominator. But it can, I think, be safely said that classical music is a manifestation of a higher, i.e. more advanced part of our cultural and intellectual development. It is usually subtler, more esoteric, frequently more ethereal and (or) profound. Jazz is less restrained, more primitive, and often closer, in my opinion, to what makes us tick.