Big Band Music

Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in 1921
Spread the love

Big Band Music


Every type of music represents a step forward in reaching the position in which we find ourselves today. Big Band Music is very much the same. Whilst it’s popularity has waned in recent decades, it was a very popular musical style of it’s time, and, a massive step in the development of music. At Window Cleaning Perth, we truly appreciate the role that each style of music has contributed….

Big Band Music – A Brief History

1914 was a pivotal year in so many ways, there was World War One, the year when the world went crazy, technology continued and accelerated it’s progress, and, music moved into the modern era. Before this time, the era of social dance was heavily slanted towards the Waltz and the Polka.

Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in 1921


However, things would soon change. Jazz had begun it’s appearance in New Orleans. This soon migrated to New York and Chicago and increased in popularity due to it’s energy and accent towards intimacy and suggestiveness. The appeal of this newer style of music caught on and lasted for decades, featuring works such as the Lady Hop and the Jitterbug.

Soon, one of the identifying marks of Big Band Music appeared. A drummer named Art Hickman who came from San Francisco had a manager in 1916 named Ferde Grofe. Mr Grofe decided to combine the  jazz orchestra into different sections that were then combined in different ways. Because of the success of this method, Grofe then did the same thing for Paul Whiteman(pictured above) in 1919. This style became a defining characteristic of Big Band Music.

The next stage in the development of the ‘Big Band’ was when Swing music began it’s appearance and dominance during the 1930’s. It wasn’t an overnight success, as it took until 1936 to really establish itself. However, this had a more ‘supple’ style of music than Jazz which had preceded it. Despite the fact that Swing music got it’s foothold in 1936, it helped Big Bands achieve their status a year earlier, when the rise of it began.

Big Band Music – The Influence of Race

In the culture that was peculiar to it’s time, the 1930’s, African Americans(known as Blacks) and Whites often had a separation from each other in many areas of life. This was also true of the music at that time, there existed both Black and White Big Bands, with the White bands achieving more popularity. Since they were more popular, it comes as no surprise, then, that the biggest audiences were young adults and teenagers that were also white. The principal ways that they would keep up with the Big Bands was by attending live concerts, or by listening to the radio, and live recordings.

Big Band Music – World War 2 Ushers In Change

Due to it’s uplifting tempo and the need for a positive attitude during the awful period of the war, it comes as no surprise that the Big Bands became an important tool for morale during the second world war. Like reinforcements travelling to the troops, Big Bands were transported to different areas of the front lines in order to work their positivity. Of course, traveling in war zones can be very dangerous, as Glenn Miller found out when he lost his life travelling between shows.

And, despite the success of the Big Swing Bands, their shelf life reached it’s end by the end of the war, by which time many of them decided to go separate ways at which point BeBop filled the void.

Big Band Music – Never Say Die!


Whilst the Big Band Swing music lost it’s lofty position as leader of musical styles, it has never completely gone. If we turn on our TV’s late at night for talk shows, we still see the remains of what was once such an influential step in the development of music. In addition, the late 1990’s saw a Swing revival.

Yes, Big Band Music may not be the most popular form of music today, but, as the saying goes: Form is temporary, Class is permanent! Big Band music still survives to this day, albeit in a more backseat driver role to the music industry. However, this ‘back seat driver’ has a smug look on it’s face, a look that says to the young ones captaining the music industry today: “I’ve been where you are now, and you wouldn’t be what you are without me!”


Please follow and like us:
About Dr Music 3 Articles
With extensive experience in blogging, writing articles such as 'Don't Hire A Cleaner Until...' and, 'Should I Become A Window Cleaner?', I have currently written for, or initiated many, many blogs. In addition, my experience also includes web design and development, featuring small business sites.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.