Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Many of the old jazz songs from the 1920s and '30s make references to syncopation such as in Cake Walkin' Babies where they sing about the "struttin' syncopators."

I had no clue what the term meant the first time I heard it. As it turns out it is one of the key musical devices that defines jazz music. Basically, syncopation occurs when a musician plays notes off of the beat.

This web site gives a basic introduction to the term complete with examples. For a more detailed explanation, go here.

Jazz is not easy to define as we shall soon see. Determining who is and who is not a jazz musician is not something everyone can agree on. In exploring my own musical tastes I will be looking at some musicians and singers who may not normally be identified with jazz, but who nevertheless have made significant contributions to the art form.