The meaning of swing | Summary and Q&A

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November 6, 2017
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Harvard University
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The meaning of swing

TL;DR

Swing is a metaphor for compromise and finding common ground in music, leading to deep coordination and powerful moments of unity.

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Key Insights

  • πŸ› Swing in music is a metaphor for compromise and finding common ground, prioritizing the interests of the community over individual desires.
  • ❓ The rhythm section, comprised of bass players and drummers, constantly negotiate and adjust to create a swinging rhythm.
  • πŸ’¨ Swinging requires deep coordination and unity, inspiring musicians to come together in a powerful and connected way.
  • 🫚 Compromise is at the root of our national personality, with famous historical examples such as the great compromise and the three-fifths compromise.
  • πŸ₯° The art of swinging in music helps musicians embrace the process of compromise, allowing integrity and truth to shine through in every moment.
  • πŸ‘» Swing creates a perfect balance between aggression and acceptance, allowing the most powerful to seek communion with the weakest.
  • πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ The United States of America transformed into the United States of America is through embracing swing, creating a sense of unity and connection even after the Civil War.

Transcript

the art of swing is the art of balance of constant compromise and assertion compromise is at the root of our national personality so much so that our compromises themselves become famous from the great compromise to the three-fifths compromise to the Missouri Compromise right on down to the reason compromise on the 2011 budget I don't think that's ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does swing in music exemplify the art of compromise?

Swing in music requires constant compromise, where individual interests are given less importance for the sake of the community's interests. This means adjusting and finding common ground in every beat and moment of a song.

Q: Why is the rhythm section, particularly bass players and drummers, constantly compromising and adjusting?

Bass players and drummers in the rhythm section have contrasting roles in terms of volume and register. This requires ongoing negotiation to find a balance so they can play together on every beat, creating a swinging rhythm.

Q: Why is swinging considered a deep form of coordination and unity?

When a band is swinging, the motion is felt by the entire group, inspiring them to chase the direction of deepest coordination. It creates a sense of unity and inspiration for musicians to come together in a powerful and coordinated way.

Q: How does swing in music connect with the concept of compromise in society?

Swing in music serves as a metaphor for the importance of compromise in society. It shows that even in the toughest of situations, compromises can lead to unity and a shared sense of direction, just like in a swinging rhythm.

Summary

In this video, the speaker explores the concept of swing as not just a musical style, but as a metaphor for compromise and finding common ground. He explains how compromise is deeply ingrained in our society and shares examples of famous compromises throughout history. The speaker emphasizes the importance of valuing the interests of the community over individual interests and compares the constant negotiation in the rhythm section of a band to the process of compromise. Ultimately, he argues that swing is about finding people and staying connected, and that it allows the most powerful to seek communion with the weakest.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the art of swing?

The art of swing is the art of balance, compromise, and assertion. It involves constantly finding common ground while also asserting oneself. Swing requires giving less importance to individual interests and valuing the interests of the community. It is a practice of ethics, choosing not to have your way in order for a collective path to be found.

Q: How does compromise play a significant role in our society?

Compromise is deeply rooted in our national personality. Our significant compromises have become famous, such as the great compromise, the three-fifths compromise, the Missouri Compromise, and even the 2011 budget compromise. It reflects our willingness to negotiate and find mutual agreements, even though some compromises may not become famous. Compromise is essential in maintaining harmony within a society.

Q: How does swing relate to the process of compromise?

Swing is a metaphor for the process of compromise. Just like musicians in the rhythm section of a band, who compromise on every beat, swinging involves a lot of adjusting and tension. Bass players and drummers constantly argue, criticizing each other's timing and sound. Despite their differences in volume and register, the rhythm section is forced to play together on every beat. The great rhythm sections teach us how to embrace the compromise process, where the only real win is one that satisfies the deepest truths of a moment with absolute integrity.

Q: Why are bass players and drummers polar opposites in volume and register?

Bass players and drummers are polar opposites in volume and register because the bass is played at a much lower register and softer volume, while the drums have a wide range and can be very loud. The cymbals, in particular, are played at a much higher register. Their differences in sound are much greater than the differences between Republicans and Democrats. However, the pursuit of swing forces them to work together and find a balance despite their contrasting qualities.

Q: What do we learn from great rhythm sections about compromise?

Great rhythm sections teach us how to embrace the process of compromise with the goal of satisfying the deepest truths of each moment. They demonstrate that compromise is not about sacrificing one's own interests entirely but finding a way for multiple interests to coexist with integrity. This notion is why Duke Ellington's famous rhythm section was called the All American rhythm section and why their own rhythm section is named the equal-opportunity rhythm section.

Q: How does swing inspire a group to chase coordination?

When a band is swinging, the motion is felt by the entire group, and it inspires them to chase the direction of deepest coordination. Swing is not just about finding people who are in sync but actively staying connected and remaining aware of each other's movements. It creates a sense of unity and inspires individuals to move together towards a common goal.

Q: How did the United States become the United States of America after the Civil War?

After the Civil War, the United States of America, which was previously referred to as "ourselves," became the United States of America. This implies a shift from individual interests to collective interests. The speaker suggests that swing is a reflection of this change, where the most powerful seek communion with the weakest, emphasizing the importance of finding strength in unity.

Q: What did master drummer Billy Higgins say about swing?

Master drummer Billy Higgins once called swing "if you give me enough to follow, I will find you." This quote highlights the importance of providing a solid foundation for others to rely on. Higgins suggests that when there is enough stability and consistency, individuals are more likely to come together and create a cohesive swing rhythm.

Q: How does swing go beyond discussion?

While discussing swing can provide an understanding of the concept, it is fundamentally an experiential practice. Swing cannot be fully grasped through words alone. It requires active participation and engagement. Swing is its own definition, and it can only be truly understood and appreciated by immersing oneself in its rhythm and energy.

Q: How does swing allow the most powerful to seek communion with the weakest?

Swing is a moment that allows the most powerful individuals to seek communion with the weakest. In the context of the music world, swing creates an opportunity for different musical elements to come together harmoniously. Similarly, in society, swing allows those with more power and influence to connect and empathize with those who are more vulnerable. It is through this connection that a sense of unity and collective strength is achieved.

Takeaways

Swing is not just a musical style but a powerful metaphor for compromise and finding common ground. It showcases the importance of balancing individual interests with the interests of the community. The constant negotiation and adjustments in the rhythm section of a band exemplify the process of compromise. Swing inspires unity, coordination, and a pursuit of the deepest truths in each moment. It reflects a shift towards collective interests and provides an opportunity for the most powerful to seek communion with the weakest. Ultimately, swing goes beyond discussion and can only be truly understood through active engagement and participation.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Swing in music is the art of balance, compromise, and assertion, where individual interests are less important than the interests of the community.

  • The rhythm section, consisting of bass players and drummers, exemplify constant compromise and adjustment to create a swinging rhythm.

  • Swing is about finding people and staying connected, creating a sense of motion and inspiring coordination in a group.

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