This chapter sets the stage for the book, framing its inquiries into democratic civic life, jazz as civic model, and Kenneth Burke’s aesthetic rhetoric using Burke’s concept of constitutions with the concept of constitutions. For Burke a constitution is rhetorical as it prompts people to work “to substantiate an ought”--to make what they think will be a better way of life tangible, visible and, in the case of jazz, audible. The chapter develops a concept of jazz as constitutional in that sense. Both in the way it is made and in the experience of hearing it played, this music constitutes individuals as a participants in a common project where they can combine their separate gifts toward an end with which each one comes, throught the process, to identify. The chapter then locates this concept in the context of relevant scholarly literature on music and aesthetics, jazz, American civic life, and Kenneth Burke.
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