The Lost Generation, Jazz and Deracination

I’m continuing to investigate cosmopolitanism, deracination and how both are connected to the growth of Modernism in 1910s and 1920s America. Why would White Americans repudiate their own ethnic identity? White jazz musicians, the expatriate writers of the Lost Generation who moved to Paris and bohemian artists who lived in enclaves like Greenwich Village in Manhattan were pioneers of this.

The following excerpt comes from Burton W. Peretti’s book The Creation of Jazz: Music, Race and Culture in Urban America:

“As Neil Leonard first argued, the white jazz musicians were among the few younger Americans in the twenties who sensed that the First World War had permanently altered the foundation. Hoagy Carmichael, recalling his days in Bloomington, noted that “it was hard for the veterans of my generation to come back from the Argonne and slow down to the prewar tempo. You get into higher gear and you never quite drop back.” In his perception, nonveterans like himself were changed as well. “The shooting war was over but the rebellion was just getting started. And for us jazz articulated.” Few other jazz musicians alluded to the war in their memoirs – the major effect it had on jazz in America was to bring like-minded musicians together at various training camps, such as Camp Beauregard near New Orleans – but the quickening tempo of their lives compared to that of their elders, and their radical revision of racial and cultural priorities, illustrated the effects of the dynamic Carmichael perceived.

The white jazz musician’s sense of urgency and need, in addition to what they did, showed their similarity to the other major group of what postadolescent dissenters of the twenties – the expatriate writers. Both groups fled mainstream neighborhoods, schools, and economic values, what Ernest Hemingway called the “broad lawns and narrow minds” of his native Oak Park. As Ben Hecht put it, “you did not [in the 1920s] plunge into the worlds of painting, music and literature. You plunged out of worlds,” and “as long as you ‘believed in art’ you remained orphaned from the smothering arms of society. You shaved only when you wanted to and you felt a contempt in your head like a third glass of wine for all that was popular and successful.” Significantly, Hemingway, Hecht, Sherwood Anderson, and other expatriates had lived in Chicago in the 1910s, and a vital avant-garde literary movement in the city had thrived for a few years, centering on the theatrical presentations of the Dill Pickle Club, Margaret Anderson’s Little Review, and Hecht’s own short-lived Chicago Literary Times. Freeman, Tough, and other young musicians knew of this activity, and mimicked it to an extent, developing their own forms of avant-gardist art and nonconformist attitudes.

The expatriate writers, as the critic Malcolm Cowley especially made clear in his memoirs, were characterized by a sense of rootlessness in the wake of the war and a desire to roam, and eventually to leave the United States. Cowley believed “that our whole training was involuntarily directed toward destroying whatever roots we had in the soil, toward eradicating our local and regional peculiarities, toward making us homeless citizens of the world.” His Harvard education instilled in him a sense of the European tradition that (along with favorable exchange rates) drew him to France. Once in Paris, as expatriate memoirs and studies make painfully clear, these Americans remained rootless, troubled, and fiercely individualistic. Their humanistic, cosmopolitan educations and their shedding of ethnic, regional, or national identity perhaps mandated that these writers would remain a fragmented, if not a lost, generation in Europe.”


“Traditionalists wanted to live the simple life, and wanted to have a wife and kids, and mostly farm. Modernists were typically younger people, and wanted more excitement in life. This is when flappers, or women wearing short dresses and dancing, were invented. Traditionalists were people who had deep respect for long-held cultural and religious values. For them, these values were anchors that provided order and stability to society. Modernists were  people who embraced new ideas, styles, and social trends. For them, traditional values were chains that restricted both individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

As these groups clashed in the 1920s, American society became deeply divided.  Defenders of traditional morality bemoaned the behavior of “flaming youth.” They opposed drinking, and supported prohibition. Old-time religion faced off against modern science. The result was a kind of “culture war” that in some ways is still being fought today.

The new values, referred to as modernism, were at the core of the youth movement and challenged the old, anti-modern, values of the generation before them. While anti-modernism valued the past, the modernists put a greater emphasis on the present and the future as the youth were always looking forward to what was next and what changes were coming their way. Urban living and fast-paced city life became a prime motif of the modernist movement while the anti-modernists stayed in small communities, farms, and villages. The ideal of community life of anti-modernism was being replaced by individuality in the sense that the self was no longer bound to the community. Even time itself was being redefined by the new modernist values with a nine to five work schedule shaping the lives of many of the city dwellers while the anti-modernists held a cyclic sense of time on their farms with the set seasons and harvest times. This modernist movement was spearheaded by the growing independence, liberation, and celebration of youth during this period. Adolescence were leaving their villages and farms to pursue lives in the city and encountered a plethora of new experiences and questions they had not encountered in their anti-modernist shelters.

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  1. HW Dixie is the epicenter of America music.

    Southern Appalachia Celtic/British Isles folk music that is ( County Music) past present and future of the genre. I might add that modern county sucks cuck with Pedal Slide Guitar lack ou use and technique!

    Niggers brought over from Wakanda infused beat rhythmic time signatures infused with western Roman music theory.

    America got?

    Jazz, Blues, Rockabilly, Rag Time, you get the the early nigger music , yep I forgot soul,

    Now it southern county white liberal trash mixed with Yankees nigger rap!

    ‘As Nietzsche would say with out MUD Music life would be but error or era?

  2. The more African influences became adopted into European music, the more infantilized and perverted it became. We’ve devolved from Bach down to Eminem.

  3. The dichotomy between modernists and anti-modernists is very exaggerated here. It’s not as if people prior to the development of modernism shunned all new ideas, and it’s not as if urbanism in the Western world is a recent or unique development. I also fail to see how jazz has anything in particular to do with this. Would modernism not have happened if people hadn’t been listening to jazz? What is so special about jazz?

  4. You can’t forget the Yiddish role in the spread of jazz music. Or “monkey talk, jungle squeals, grunts and squeaks and gasps suggestive of cave love” as Henry Ford put it.

    Truly, “the drivel of morons”

    • Good comment. Ford would have probably said the same about about rock, which is African-inspired. But some rock is “whiter” or less African than other rock.

      Here is one of the new coronavirus stay-at-home BBC Radio 2 perfprmances, by an American jazz, blues singer doing a classic rock version: The most African part may be when she jumps up and down, and there is plenty of African rhythm, dissonance and blue notes in it, which makes it annoying to me.

      Nashville “country” rock is the constant terrible noise that Tractor Supply staff and customers have to endure.

  5. “As Ben Hecht put it, “you did not [in the 1920s] plunge into the worlds of painting, music and literature. You plunged out of worlds,” and “as long as you ‘believed in art’ you remained orphaned from the smothering arms of society.”

    Hecht was…. a Jew. No surprise.

    It’s nice of you to condense the necessary reading, HW, for those of us who don’t have the time to research the Fall of Rome, 2020. I appreciate that. But it still boils down to Cultural Appropriation of Whiteness by Jews, and the Mischling atmosphere denounced by Hitler and the National Socialists in Germany, by Cornelius Codreneau and the Orthodox Iron Guard in Romania, by Charles Lindbergh and America First in the former USA.

    And the final degenerate ingredient? As Sunburn noted, it was Nigger ‘music’- the infamous (and satanic) ‘back beat’ that dominates like a Sound Cannon, the entire atmosphere of what passes for ‘music,’ today.

    All else is stolen patrimony from over 1800 years of organic development of Orpheus’ lyre, and the pulling back from Hades, the pagan musics of antiquity, re-consecrated and sanctified by the Church, leading to the beauty of Gregorian Chant, Polyphony, Counterpoint, Renaissance motets, Masses, Bach, the Art of the Fugue, the Classic Era, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, as well as the pendulum swing of Romanticism in works by Bruckner and Brahms. Even Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring showed what paganism truly was… and is.

    But it was the Nigger and his bestial jungle rhythm that destroyed all of that, in less than a generation.
    For the White Race to restore hegemony, ALL of that needs to be jettisoned- from Tin Pan Alley, to Jazz, to 1940’s, and everything Jews and their golem- the N-word, ‘gave’ us- from Blueberry hill forward- ALL of it must be obliterated. It is not redeemable.

    The Fathers were correct. “What fellowship does Christ have with Belial?”

    • Thats the thanks veterans get from the neo liberal zog empire for fighting in their bloody wars. Kolfage didn’t deserve this treatment he had actual intentions of wanting to build a wall. That bloated bag of pus Bannon deserved this treatment because he is a grifting parasite who actually did steal money from the fund, he was relaxing on a luxury million dollar yacht when he was arrested.

      If memory serves correct Kolfage initially started the fund with Kobach. I don’t think a guy like Kolfage is part of the grift he might be used a patsy but who knows just because you are crippled doesn’t mean you cant be corrupt. When that build the wall inc thing came out I just knew it was some kind of ponzi scheme scam

  6. As a musician I can definitely tell you that the integration of America began in Jazz, after which there came the Blues and Rock juggernauts.

    As crazy as it seems that one White Liberal after another would claim to be Black, nowadays, the fact of the matter is that long ago many White Musicians, from Bix Beiderbecke and Benny Goodman, to Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, and Ry Cooder, and Keith Richards, Dr. John, and Eric Clapton (the list is too long) were perfectly content to become completely Black, musically speaking.

    To be clear, I love the Mississippi Delta Blues myself, and deeply respect the achievement of those like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, yet, even before I was politically conscious, as I am today, I was conscious about the fact I felt very self-conscious playing Black, when I am not.

  7. Much of the early black music was rooted in the music and songs that they learned at the camp meetings during the “Great Revival” and during other later revival meetings. This they filtered through their own musical tastes and heritage to make something of their own.

    • @William…

      Yes, Sir – Western musick of the 20th century was designed by Southern Negroes who took their influences and reactions from being in The West, ran in through the grinder and came out with something entirely unique of their own – something that had neither existed in Europe, beforehand, nor Africa.

  8. Oh god not the jazz thing again, I feel this gets brought out every so often to beat on like an old rug. Some jazz isn’t so bad actually especially piano or fusion type, the horn based jazz with trumpet and sax I don’t care for tho.

  9. I really have to ask the commenters here: have you even heard any jazz music? You seem to be confusing it with rap, an unrelated genre that came much later.

    Blacks have contributed significantly to music, including genres you’ve probably never heard of, but the standards for their popular music have declined dramatically as America and Europe have become more and more Judeo-African. Art in general has declined across the Western world. This isn’t because jazz was invented.

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