Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 116

Celebrate the Healing Force of Jazz Tomorrow

Take the time to listen to some jazz music.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

At the upcoming annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association next month, as part of a brief presentation on the history of racism, I will be discussing how jazz historically has been an antiracism model in America. And, if that is not enough for its social psychiatric value, jazz can also be a positive force internationally, which is why 10 years ago, UNESCO declared April 30th to be “International Jazz Day.”

Historically, jazz was a foreign public relations tool for America during the Cold War. Willis Conover, the host of the Voice of America’s Jazz Hour, which was broadcast overseas, said he was introducing the world to “the vitality of this country at its best.” When he went to visit Communist countries, he was mobbed by jazz fans.

If your knowledge of jazz is minimal, it is a unique musical form started early in the last century by Black American musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. It is based on both structure and improvisation, just like how everyday life goes. As a model for our democratic process, it was a pioneering place for live integration of Black and white Americans, and by now a place for integration of all people around the world.

Just as life can be hard and complex, so can jazz. Though there is jazz music that is easy to listen to, sometimes called smooth jazz; it can otherwise be challenging, especially so in what is called “free jazz,” thereby often requiring an ongoing learning process, again like life.

The goal of International Jazz Day is to raise awareness of the virtues of jazz as a force for freedom, peace, inclusivity, dialogue, and cooperation. It does so in many ways, including:

-Jazz encourages artistic innovation.

-Jazz connects the past with the present.

-Jazz stimulates intercultural dialogue.

-Jazz has come to foster gender equality.

-Jazz is a vector of freedom of expression.

-Jazz played a critical role in ending apartheid in South Africa.

-Jazz was banned in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Many times, jazz has been called “The Healing Force of the Universe.” Maybe it is. It has been for me.

So try to hear some jazz this weekend but, if not, practice its principles.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.