Songs that used to start in the head and fill the heart had dropped on down, down to places below the sash and the buckled belts. Lower and lower, until the music was so lowdown you had to shut your windows and just suffer the summer sweat when the men in shirtsleeves propped themselves on window frames, or clustered on rooftops, in alleyways, on stoops and in the apartments of relatives playing the lowdown stuff that signaled Imminent Demise.

Alice Manfred worries about the primitive pulse of the era's jazz and blues music because she is afraid about what it drives Black people to do and to feel. No longer regulated and tightly composed, the notes take on a life of their own and explore irrational combinations that may or may not produce pleasant, harmonious sounds. Morrison's narrator works like the music, digging below the conscious thoughts of her characters and exploring the associations and inner thoughts that defy systematic organization. Alice fears that women are most susceptible to the harmful consequences of the new music; suggesting that while the men can enjoy it, the women must protect themselves behind locked doors.