The Invisible Armstrong
Music: a form of sound entertainment which can influence the accompaniment of emotional securities from the surrounding life. Beginning from the early twentieth century, one form of music, jazz, was to live completely dependent on the musician’s mood and personal experience to interpret a tune. Louis Armstrong was one of the most influential jazz musicians of the early twentieth century. Armstrong, born August 4, 1901, grew up in a poor family from New Orleans, Louisiana, establishing his love for music, beginning his career in 1917. After the start of his career, he went on to becoming one of most famous men in America, leading bands such as the All-Stars, featuring in the film Pennies from Heaven, producing many hit singles. Even in the dying years of his life, Armstrong continued to make music to finally pass away July 6, 1971. Ralph Ellison, author of The Invisible Man, shows various points of racial discrimination, existentialism, and modernism throughout his novel by the influences of Louis Armstrong.
In the prologue of The Invisible Man, the narrator continuously refers back to the music of Louis Armstrong. More specifically, while hiding in a basement full of lights and under the influence of marijuana, which Armstrong once got arrested for because of overwork and stress from his managers, the narrator listens to Armstrong’s song, “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue.” This song most notably transforms the conveying image of a dark-skinned woman grieving over the loss of her lover to a lighter-skinned woman to describing the hardships of living in such an absurd society in which the most common form of dissent is racial inequality. This song sets the narrator for multiple conflicts of racism throughout the novel. “I’m white inside, but that don’t help my case,” is a verse from the song. Ellison provides subtle reinforcement for the novel’s central tension between white racism against blacks and the black struggle for individuality. Armstrong once remarked in accordance to racial controversy, “It’s no crime for cats of any color to get together and blow.” (Woog 8).
... . Also Baptist churches and non-denominational churches sing gospel songs. In black culture gospel music is rarely sang in non-religious settings. Some ... became quite common in black churches. The songs are sung with enthusiasm and spiritual inspiration. As people sing gospel music in churches, it ...
Although every man can appear to be the same human race on the inside, no one is able to see past his exterior to view what really constructs him as a person, and in being an African-American, the narrator believes himself to be invisible, forced to submit to regulations of society within the black prejudice barriers in order to fit into his world.
Existentialism plays a role in which the narrator of the The Invisible Man searches to find his human existence, his identity, to understand the meaning or purpose of life. “Perhaps I like Louis Armstrong because he’s made poetry out of being invisible. I think it must be because he’s unaware that he is invisible. And my own grasp of invisibility aids me to understand his music.” (Ellison 8).
The identity the narrator has for himself is one of being invisible, and with that awareness and confidence of invisibility, comprehension of his life will soon come after. Because of the many successes Armstrong was able to accomplish throughout his life despite the color of his skin, the narrator was able to analyze over his own life for his better understanding of identity and purpose. “Invisibility, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you’re never quite on the beat. Sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around. That’s what you hear vaguely in Louis’ music.” (Ellison 8).
Jazz, including the music of Louis Armstrong, relies on improvisational sounds which serve as a metaphor in the search of black individualism. The thoughts and actions of the narrator are also improvisational which creates the effect that the structure of the novel was written with the description of jazz as the narrator journeys on the quest to search for himself. Being an existentialist in search of identity and purpose is not easy unless there is a realization and acceptance of one’s self and surroundings.
... playing an important role of music, when we talk about Jazz, Louis Armstrong will be best fit to call him! SS the father ... corners at night to sing for coins." Louis Armstrong was the greatest of all Jazz musicians. Armstrong! SS defined!" or! SS explained!" what is ... only person that much influence on the history of Jazz as what Louis Armstrong did. At age seven, he has his first cornet ...
Louis Armstrong’s jazz music demonstrates an expression of Modernist art with originality and innovation. The acknowledgment that Armstrong, starting from Armstrong’s Hot Five, was one of the many musicians to recreate jazz in interpretations within its genre is the beginning of learning to comprehend Modernist art. The Modernist aesthetic of jazz is deeply influenced by the energy provided by black individuality. The drive for innovation in the characteristics of jazz becomes an analogy for the need of individuality and identity of the narrator. “Modernism gave jazz its penchant for innovation; yet, jazz like many products of the new capitalism could easily have ended in sterile commodification, if it weren’t for an irrepressible ‘African’ element in it, a disruptive, antinomian vitality.” (Bloom 166).
Certain aspects that create the effect of jazz music to be completely new every time it is heard, again, relates to the improvisation of the obstacles the narrator overcomes as he searches for identity. An example of this Modernism is the “New Negro Movement,” also known as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement mostly centered in Harlem, New York where African-American artists and intellectuals explored own culture and identities. Armstrong started his musical career through this movement in Chicago in 1927. This movement influenced many artists for exploration especially in Ellison’s The Invisible Man on the theme of existentialism about the quest to find identity.
Jazz became a very famous form of musical entertainment in the early twentieth century with Louis Armstrong remaining as one the most influential jazz musicians through the generations. He has caused a great impact upon the narrator of The Invisible Man, centering on the theme of existentialism. The narrator was searching for his identity, ending up discovering that his identity was the state of invisibility. Armstrong’s music provided support in the narrator’s quest with his song “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue” describing the absurd society upon which humans live in. Louis Armstrong influenced Ralph Ellison’s novel through the use of allusions of racial discrimination, existentialism, and modernism.
... united to the same organised body. If you place the identity of man in anything but this, you will find it hard ... physical objects, the identity of living entities and ultimately the identity of man and the identity of person. Locke viewed the identity of physical objects ... views regarding animals and machines, Locke shows that the identity of the 'same man' deals with the physical aspect of a being ...
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