Nick mentions early on that “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights…no thin five piece affair but a whole pit full of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos and low and high drums” (Fitzgerald 43-44). Gatsby had to have the most extravagant orchestra to show off his accumulated wealth. The music played was also the most popular music of the time, Jazz.
During the party, the biggest hit that sends everyone into a frenzy is a piece called “Vladimir Tostoff’s Jazz History of the World” which in fact is an imaginary title of a song by an imaginary composer. Its effect on its listeners takes the party from mild to wild.
When the “Jazz History of the World” was over girls were putting their heads on men’s shoulders in a puppyish, convivial way, girls were swooning backward playfully into men’s arms, even into groups knowing that someone would arrest their falls… (Fitzgerald 55).
Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald adds hints and tastes of the moods and emotions of the scenes in the music that is heard or played. There is the Sheik music during Jordan’s tale of Gatsby’s past.
When Daisy goes to Gatsby’s house, she is serenaded by a song at Gatsby’s request called “The Love Nest.”
is followed by the song “Ain’t We Got Fun.”
The music acts as an instrumental and persuasive charm over those who listen to it. It sets the scene with its seductive qualities that can encourage its hearer to give into carelessness. Daisy was compelled by the rhythm of Gatsby’s music. When she attends his party, she is oblivious to all else surrounding her.
Her glance left me and sought the lighted top of the steps where “Three o’Clock in the Morning,” a neat sad little waltz of that year, was drifting out the open door. After all, in the very casualness of Gatsby’s party there were romantic possibilities totally absent from her world. What was it up there in the song that seemed to be calling her back inside? What would happen now in the dim incalculable hours? Perhaps some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely rare and to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant young girl who with one fresh glance at Gatsby, one moment of magical encounter, would blot out those five years of unwavering devotion (Fitzgerald 115).
When the future for Gatsby and Daisy seems most hopeless, the music reflects their feelings as in the memory Gatsby tells after he has lost Daisy. This memory is the story of Daisy’s grief at losing Gatsby during the war where “All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the ‘Beale Street Blues’…” (Fitzgerald 158).
The lyrics hold a sense of foreshadowing of Gatsby’s death that read it “never ceases ‘til somebody gets killed.”
Another instance where the music has a more foreboding feeling is the day Tom discovers Gatsby’s interest in his wife, Daisy. At the hotel, “…we were listening to the portentous chords of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from the ballroom below”
which soon changes. “The music died down as the ceremony began and now a long cheer floated in at the window, followed by intermittent cries of ‘Yea—ea—ea!’ and finally by a burst of jazz as the dancing began” (Fitzgerald 134-135).
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