Wells explores women’s influence on jazz, its evolution

Women had a direct influence on jazz and its evolution, according to Prince Wells, music professor and black studies program director.

The lecture, led by Wells last week and organized by the women and black studies programs, took place in the MUC Hickory-Hackberry Room.

Music professor and black studies program director Prince Wells. Photo courtesy of Keenan Adams

According to Wells, students gained not only an appreciation of the significance of women in the history of jazz, but also an understanding of the integration of jazz’s evolution and the role of women and their influence in that evolution.

“This lecture engaged students to employ critical thinking skills in considering how social trends and biases affect or don’t affect women in their participation in this art form,” Wells said. “It is a worthy endeavor to educate and inform students about jazz.”

Wells initiated the discussion with a question proposed by Stephen Brown, a retired music professor and author of the textbook, “The Sense of Music.”  ‘Is there a female aesthetic in music?’

According to Wells, there is a feminine aesthetic where women hear and process sounds in subtly different ways than men, the same way they perceive smells and colors differently.

“That is what I wanted the students to take with them, [and] I would also like to see this question pursued at the university,” Wells said. “I believe it’s important, even essential.”

Wells said in music, tonality is used to express feelings, moods and ideas, but human beings are accustomed to hearing and experiencing the ways men use tonality to express the way they experience life.

“In Western music, we have 12 notes [and] I suspect that women would take those same 12 notes and use them differently and effectively in conveying the way they experience life and all human endeavors,” Wells said. “As a man, I don’t think I can contribute to this, but as a human I believe that I can hear it and recognize it.”




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