How do you explain "swing" to someone who has never heard jazz? You don't, says jazz violinist Hsieh Chi-pin (謝啟彬). You play it.
And this is exactly what Hsieh and his fellow musicians are doing in a series of lectures aimed at introducing jazz to general, non-musician audiences.
The lectures, a precursor to this summer’s Taipei International Jazz Festival, started on Thursday at the KHS music store (�?嶺絳秶U) on Fuxing South Road in Taipei.
Hsieh and his wife, pianist Chang Kaiya (張凱雅), started the lectures three years ago, partly in response to a common reaction they received from concert audiences.
“They were interested and curious [about jazz] but felt frustrated … they didn’t know what records to get, or how to enjoy the music,” he said.
Hsieh and several musicians begin each lecture by playing a song in a particular style. Then they explain what defines the style, replaying parts of a song to illustrate their point.
Playing the music live helps, Hsieh says, but so does appealing to “local humor.” He demonstrates the concept of swing by telling the audience to imagine street-vendors yelling out “Daw-lap” — the Hoklo word for the southern Taiwanese city of Douliou (斗六). He then started chanting “Daw-lap, Daw-lap, shoo-bee-do, Daw-lap,” in a playful swing rhythm.
The audience laughed, but even better — they came away with a good understanding of swing, said Hsieh.
The lecture format has helped novices in telling the differences among the many styles of jazz, says Hsieh. “All the terms are scary at first, but after one hour, they understand,” he said. Students quickly learn how to identify “cool jazz” or “post-bop.”
There are a total of 10 two-hour lectures, covering basic jazz forms and instrumentation, and a chronological overview of jazz styles: from New Orleans and swing to avant-garde and fusion.
What: Introduction to Jazz: Course of Lectures, held by the Taipei International Jazz Education and Promotion Association (TIJEPA大眾爵士樂欣賞講堂)
When: Every Thursday from 7pm to 9pm, through July 10
Where: KHS music store, 12F, 322, Fuxing S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (功學社音樂廳 臺北市復興南路一段322號12樓)
Details: All lectures are held in Chinese; course fee is NT$2,000; for registration and contact details, visit taipeijazz.com/tisja2008/introduction.html#1
Final details have yet to be announced for the camp and summer performances. Visit taipeijazz.com/tisja2008/index.html for the latest information.
One basic lesson taught early on is concert etiquette: the audience learns to express their appreciation more freely — as opposed to a classical concert — by clapping after solos during a song.
The lectures are just the beginning of this year’s jazz season in Taipei. The organizer, the Taipei International Jazz Education and Promotion Association, is also holding a one-week summer camp for jazz musicians at Shih Chien University (實踐大學).
The courses at the camp will be taught by musicians and teachers from the US and Europe, who will also hold performances this summer as part of the Taipei International Jazz Festival. Such “exchanges” are important to Hsieh who teaches at the camp and hopes Taiwan can develop its own jazz scene.
Hsieh says with the camp and the lectures, the association hopes that “more people will appreciate this art form” and understand that jazz is a life-long endeavor for musicians.
The first lecture has already been held, but registration remains open. The lectures take place once a week through July 10, from 7pm to 9pm every Thursday, at the KHS music store on Fuxing South Road. The registration fee is NT$2,000. All lectures are held in Mandarin. Check the association’s Web site for details on the summer camp and jazz festival performances, which take place in June and July.