Photos taken at the Fifth International Rhythm Changes Conference. Various photographers (Susanne Abbhuel, Francesco Martinelli, Beth Aggett, Walter van de Leur, Tom Sykes), in no particular order. Click on thumbnail for high-res version.
The Rhythm Changes team is hugely looking forward to welcoming all delegates from all academic areas interested in jazz studies, as well as the music and creative sectors, to the latest in our international conferences on jazz, which opens at the Conservatory of Amsterdam on 31 August. Our theme, in this centenary year for recorded jazz music, is Re/Sounding Jazz.
The organising committee met at Amsterdam Conservatory in late September 2016 to reflect on the Birmingham conference at Easter, and to discuss the theme and call for papers for our 2017 conference… Announcement imminent, but do note the 2017 dates below! The committee consists of (L-R in photo) Dr Loes Rusch (BCU), Dr Christa-Bruckner-Haring (Graz), Prof Tony Whyton (BCU), Prof Nick Gebhardt (BCU), Prof Walter van de Leur (Amsterdam) and ace photographer Prof George McKay (UEA).
The only jazz utopias we can know are the ones we have lost” – Krin Gabbard
More’s Utopia rests on an underclass, which resonates with jazz history, slavery” – Alyn Shipton
At the wonderfully rich and varied (as well layered, nuanced and intermittently Guelphian) 4th Rhythm Changes international conference in jazz in Birmingham a number of different versions and glimpses of what might be thought of as the idea or problem of utopia in relation to jazz have been offered. Here are ones I heard and thought of from the four brilliant days. Others that you heard/spoke/glimpsed/played? There must be. Please do contribute! Together they give a sense of how utopian thinking can inform jazz studies, perhaps of the limits of utopia thinking, perhaps of the limits of utopian thinking in jazz and musicology.
- Space of jazz (especially in repressive regimes) for instance, jazz happening in underground clubs, multiracial spaces in racist societies, jazz dance floor as site of pleasure and freedom. Also jazz and festivals, and the utopian possibility of transformation at festival.
- Jazz challenges in its early days: the music’s reception in the early 20th century in for example European countries to national categories of identity and national (cultural) institutions. Jazz changed what it meant to be German, French, British, say.
- Jazz as diasporic cultural practice and its relation to utopia (utopia = no place = transit culture, rooted in initially Atlantic middle passage). Also other later nomadic narratives.
- Related social cultural practices and metaphors of sociality (food, dancing, though I didn’t hear much about sex, which I thought strange).
- Jazz as music for social justice: the radical as well as liberal politics of the music. From civil rights to Breathless, as well as the music’s place in activism in countries outside the US.
- Jazz as transnational music, exploring and making dialogue between and across nations.
- Jazz and childhood: innocence (?), playfulness (we saw merry-go-rounds and swings at jazz festivals–yes, jazz swings!), toy pianos.
- Utopia not as perfect but as imperfect: flaunted imperfection of (instrumental) technique in some musics (some free improvisation, some trad jazz).
- Jazz as dystopian sound: one early reviewer described it as possessing ‘the buzzing rattle of a machine gun, only not so musical’.
- Utopian strands in the music itself? Something utopian in the sounds themselves, the dialogic process of the bandstand, the collective, and in the (live) music’s improvisational impermanence.
- & magic? Black magic?
And I thought of this too: what about the conference itself as a utopian intellectual (social, cultural) compressed time-space – we here at Rhythm Changes are in a “good place” for jazz research, one we thought up (dreamed) then made with you over the past 6-7 years. (OK, I am writing this at the very end of the conference so am both bleary-eyed and wearing rose-tinted glasses: such a view needs qualifying by reminding ourselves that utopia is also functionally exclusive; we need to acknowledge the event’s dominant whiteness and the notable male presence of delegates.)
The fourth Rhythm Changes conference, Jazz Utopia, will take place at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom from 14 to 17 April 2016. We are delighted to have received well over 100 proposals from around 25 countries for papers, panels, and various creative events. Today we are meeting to evaluate abstracts. If you submitted one, you will hear from us very soon. And, thank you, by the way! Judging by the quality and range of abstracts, it”s going to be a great conference. Here is the organising committee at BCU today, led by Dr Nick Gebhardt (right).
The fourth Rhythm Changes conference, Jazz Utopia, will take place at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom from 14 to 17 April 2016. The deadline for paper submissions is 1 September 2015; this is a reminder so you don’t miss the deadline!!
We invite paper submissions for Jazz Utopia, a four-day multi-disciplinary conference that brings together leading researchers across the arts and humanities. The event will feature academic papers, panels and poster sessions alongside an exciting programme of concerts delivered in partnership with the Birmingham Conservatoire and Jazzlines.
Jazz has long been a subject for utopian longing and hopes for a better future; it has also been the focus of deeply engrained cultural fears, visions of suffering and dystopian fantasies. In its urgency and presence jazz is now here. As improvisational and transitory, jazz is nowhere. Utopia is nowhere and now here. Jazz is utopia. Or: jazz is utopian desire. Jazz Utopia seeks to critically explore how the idea of utopia has shaped, and continues to shape, debates about jazz.
We welcome papers that address the conference theme from multiple perspectives, including cultural studies, musicology, cultural theory, music analysis, jazz history, media studies, and practice-based research. Within the general theme of Jazz Utopia, we have identified three sub-themes. Please clearly identify which theme you are speaking to in your proposal.
Jazz identities: Claims have always been made for jazz as a certain utopian practice, in which jazz has made possible a musical-social space where different, usually marginal, identities are expressed and confirmed. At the multiracial club, bandstand, or dance-floor race and ethnicity are acknowledged, difference is championed or erased. Musicians have used jazz to step out of their class. The dialogic qualities and queer sounds alike of jazz offer opportunity for the expression of gender and sexuality. New thinking around disability and music reads jazz as a crip-space. Equally, consider the way in which freedom in improvisation has been understood as a liberating utopian practice. Even in its diasporic invention jazz comes from a kind of no-place (ou-topia = no place). In utopia, jazz is the effort to sound another world into being, the only condition of which is that it must be better. Has jazz really been that good?
Inside / outside: jazz and its others What does jazz mean to its community of insiders and those that approach it from outside? For those who are deeply involved with jazz, whether musicians, critics, scholars, or fans, the genre often provides a utopian space for creative encounters. By definition, the articulation of this space through performance, writing, research and consumption also creates a community of outsiders who may seek ways to engage with the jazz community or observe it from afar. This strand invites papers that address the relationships between jazz and its “others”, defined in relation to music making, criticism, scholarship or reception, whether these interactions are antagonistic or collaborative in tone.
Heritage and archiving: This strand focuses on the different ways in which heritage practices and archival work contribute to the reconfiguration of jazz as a utopian space. Through its commitment to alternative ways of living and being, jazz offers imaginative variations on themes of history and preservation. It creates communities of collectors and music lovers, who refigure jazz as nostalgia and escape, as well as renewal and return. We welcome papers that explore all aspects of archiving practice and cultural heritage and the opportunities and tensions that present themselves for scholars, institutions and practitioners in these fields.
Proposals are invited for:
- Individual papers(20 minutes) – up to 350 words.
- Themed paper sessions of three individual (20 minute) papers – 350 words per paper plus 350 words outlining the rationale for the session.
- Seventy-five minute sessions in innovative formats – up to 1000 words outlining the form and content of the sessions.
Please submit proposals (including a short biography and institutional affiliation) by email in a word document attachment to: email@example.com
The deadline for proposals is 1st September 2015; outcomes will be communicated to authors by 1st October 2015. All paper submissions will be considered by the conference committee:
- Dr Christa Bruckner-Haring (University of Music & Performing Arts, Graz),
- Dr Nicholas Gebhardt (chair; BCU),
- Prof George McKay (University of East Anglia),
- Loes Rusch (University of Amsterdam/BCU),
- Dr Catherine Tackley (Open University),
- Prof Walter van de Leur (University of Amsterdam/Amsterdam Conservatory),
- Prof Tony Whyton (BCU/Birmingham Conservatoire).
The conference builds on the legacy of the Rhythm Changes research project. Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities was funded as part of the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) Joint Research Programme, which ran from 2010-2013. The project team continues to develop networking opportunities and champion collaborative research into transnational jazz studies.
Updates on the conference and information about travel and accommodation will be available on this site over the next few months.
We are delighted to announce the publication this summer of The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media, Culture (Bloomsbury), edited by George McKay, which features contributions from other Rhythm Changes scholars too: Anne Dvinge, Andrew Dubber, Nick Gebhardt. Altogether there are 14 essays from UK, USA, Europe, Australia (see table of contents below). The book is well-illustrated with archive and contemporary images of festival posters, ephemera, and includes a photo-essay on the British counterculture. Here’s what scholars in the field have been saying about it already: ‘nothing less than an alternate history of popular music since the Second World War’ Prof William Straw; ‘a lively, challenging, accessible and eclectic collection’ Prof Chris Gibson; ‘[in] this wonderful book, McKay assembles a series of masterful essays’ Prof Andy Bennett.
In particular essays by Anne (Detroit Jazz Festival) and George (feat. Beaulieu Jazz Festival, 1956-61) deal with the jazz festival. Here’s a short extract from Anne’s excellent study of Detroit, ‘Musicking in Motor City: reconfiguring urban space at the Detroit Jazz Festival’, which draws on her ethnographic and observational research there.
… the festival is intimately tied to the cultural and economic history and geography of Detroit. It functions as a marker of identity as well as a creator of radical space. Issues of production and economic gain, of tourism economy and commercial interests are central, but so are issues of participation and community that transcends the boundaries of the festival and its locale whilst being rooted in both place and tradition. I outline this history and development through three perspectives: the urban concept city, the role of music and the festival’s connection with both. I finally offer a reading of the festival with Christopher Small’s concept of musicking – music as a verb rather than an object – in mind. That is, a ritual that functions as “a form of organized behaviour in which humans use the language of gesture – to affirm, to explore, and to celebrate their ideas of how the relationships of the cosmos operate, and thus, how they themselves should relate to it and to one another”. Thus, the jazz festival performs a complex vernacular play and ritual that ultimately celebrates and connects Detroit with its past, present and future. Any city festival may achieve a temporary transformation of the urban; here I show how joy takes root annually in Detroit, and I also discus the specific contribution of the musical practice that is jazz to making a particular kind of festival and transformation.
The Pop Festival contents
Chapter 1. ‘The pose is a stance’: popular music and the cultural politics of festival in 1950s Britain
Chapter 2. Out of sight: the mediation of the music festival
Chapter 3. “Let there be rock!” Myth and ideology in the rock festivals of the transatlantic counterculture
Chapter 4. ‘As real as real can get’: race, representation, and rhetoric at Wattstax, 1972
Chapter 5. The artist at the music festival: art, performance and hybridity
Chapter 6. Photo-essay: Free festivals, new travellers, and the free party scene in Britain, 1981-1992
Chapter 7. Festival bodies: the corporeality of the contemporary music festival scene in Australia
Joanne Cummings and Jacinta Herborn
Chapter 8. The Love Parade: European techno, the EDM festival, and the tragedy in Duisburg
Sean Nye and Ronald Hitzler
Chapter 9. Protestival: global days of action and carnivalised politics at the turn of the millennium
Graham St John
Chapter 10. Alternative playworlds: psytrance festivals, deep play and creative zones of transcendence
Chapter 11. No Spectators! The art of participation, from Burning Man to boutique festivals in Britain
Chapter 12. Musicking in Motor City: reconfiguring urban space at the Detroit Jazz Festival
Chapter 13. Branding, sponsorship, and the music festival
Chapter 14. Everybody talk about pop music: Un-Convention as alternative to festival, from DIY music to social change
A group of us from across Europe are meeting today to look back on the previous three Rhythm Changes conferences (Amsterdam 2012, Salford 2013, Amsterdam 2014) and to plan for our next conference in 2016 at, as we announced in Amsterdam last September, Birmingham City University (BCU). You coming to it? We hope so.
The organising committee is:
- Dr Nick Gebhardt, BCU (lead organiser)
- Prof Walter van de Leur, Amsterdam
- Dr Loes Rusch, Amsterdam
- Dr Christa Bruckner-Haring, Graz
- Prof Tony Whyton, Salford
- Prof George McKay, UEA
- Dr Catherine Tackley, Open University.
We are talking about the theme(s) for the 2016 conference, its structure, how to present jazz ideas in traditional and alternative ways, how BCUs disciplinary and intellectual identity (media – music – industry) could be reflected as host of the event, potential keynotes and invited speakers, and the specific dates of course. (Early-mid-April 2016 seems most favoured at the moment.)
Some ideas for our theme and key strands we are discussing are as follows (bear in mind these are in draft and need working up, but we thought you might like a sneak preview):
- jazz identity/ies. Race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality (queering jazz, Sapphonics), disability and jazz.
- inside / outside: jazz and its others. What does jazz mean to its community of insiders and those that approach it from outside?
- heritage and archiving. The ways in which our relationship with the past enables us to imagine and construct jazz as an alternative space and practice.
GEORGE McKAY APPOINTED PROFESSOR IN RESIDENCE AT THE EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL
Professor George McKay is the first academic ever to be appointed “Professor in Residence” at a jazz festival.
In conjunction with Serious and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Professor McKay will be joining the team of the EFG London Jazz Festival on 1 November 2014.
“I’m delighted to be the first Professor in Residence at the EFG London Jazz Festival. Allow me to introduce myself: I’m George McKay, Professor of Media Studies at the University of East Anglia and I’m also currently an Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Leadership Fellow for one of its priority areas, the Connected Communities Programme. My books include Radical Gardening (2011), Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music & Disability (2013) and a collection called The Pop Festival (2015). But you’ll probably be most interested in Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz In Britain (2005), a book about the development of jazz, free improvisation, political campaigns, New Orleans-style marching bands, questions of race and gender in this music of “liberation”. I’ve followed up recently with some more work on the neglected 1950s Trinidadian pianist Winnie Atwell.
One of my focuses in terms of Connected Communities is the idea of festival – how does this density and intensity of cultural activity transform its environment (whether that’s tents and soundsystems in a field or trumpets in a city street), and what is the impact on the local population and audiences.
But why should the EFG London Jazz Festival appoint a Professor in Residence right now? There’s been a real explosion of interest in what’s being called the New Jazz Studies from UK academics over the past decade. In terms of British jazz, academic books by Catherine Tackley, Hilary Moore, and me, have all explored the contribution of the UK to jazz development and history. Jazz Research Journal, edited by Tackley and Tony Whyton, publishes quality research by international scholars. A new Routledge series, Transnational Jazz Studies, is edited by Whyton and Nick Gebhardt.
And there have been notable major research projects, like Rhythm Changes: (EU-funded, led from Salford University) and What Is Black British Jazz? (AHRC; Open University). AHRC currently funds a PhD student, Alison Eales, looking at the 25-year history of Glasgow Jazz Festival, co-supervised between the festival and Glasgow University. You can watch a great film made this year about researching jazz festivals on Youtube: Tom Perchard of Goldsmiths was awarded an AHRC Early Career Fellowship for a project entitled Jazz in France, 1934-75. At the moment my university is in the process of appointing a one-year AHRC postdoctoral research assistant working across London and other jazz festivals, looking at their impact and value.
So, working with the EFG London Jazz Festival team, we thought it a good idea to try to bring some of this academic energy and insight around jazz to festival-goers. We’ve built on some work from last year, when we marked London’s 21st birthday with a day of talks at the Royal Festival Hall, and curated a programme of discussions around questions of politics, power and history. For a music that talks a lot about freedom, these are key questions to debate, and we’re bringing together academics, and some critics and musicians, to unpack them and to explore the roles that jazz musicians, activists and cultural workers in Britain have had in making their musical and political mark. Please, do join us.
Full talks programme listings
All talks are free
Saturday 15 November
South Africa 20 years on and the legacy of the Blue Notes: Southbank Centre / Front Room 12.45 & 3.30pm
Knife in the Water – discussion about the music of the film’s charismatic composer, Krzysztof Komeda: Barbican Cinema, 3pm
Way in to the Way Out: Arun Ghosh and Zoe Rahman (Part 1): Southbank Centre / Front Room 4.30pm
Sunday 16 November
Jazz Record Requests with Alyn Shipton: Barbican FreeStage 2pm
Way in to the Way Out: Arun Ghosh and Zoe Rahman (Part 2): Southbank Centre / Front Room 4.30pm
Tuesday 18 November
The Art and the Value of Commissioning New Music – with Trish Clowes and Guy Barker: Southbank Centre / Queen Elizabeth Hall 6pm
Wednesday 19 November
Jazz Rants: The Jazz Industry and The Creative Economy: Club Ingales 7pm
Thursday 20 November
Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya – Stefano Bollani: Barbican 6.30pm
Friday 21 November
Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya – Kenny Barron & Dave Holland: Southbank Centre / Queen Elizabeth Hall 6.30pm
Saturday 22 November
Improvisation and action – the legacy of John Stevens: Southbank Centre / Front Room 2pm
“the space is the place”: the art of programming: Barbican 5.30pm
Blue Note at 75 – Don Was meets Richard Havers: Southbank Centre / Level 5 Function Room 6pm
Sunday 23 November
Jazz and Gender: Southbank Centre / Front Room 12.45pm
For full details visit efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk/talks
EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL MEDIA ENQUIRIES
Please contact Sally Reeves +44 (0)1223 864710 | +44 (0)7790 518756 | firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES TO EDITORS
The EFG London Jazz Festival is produced by Serious, one of the UK’s leading producers and curators of live jazz, international and new music. Serious produces events that range from major concerts, festivals and national and international tours through to learning and participation programmes, conferences and specially commissioned bespoke events. Alongside its core role as a live music events producer, it works in artist and rights management. Alongside this exists the registered charity, Serious Trust, which has been established to support the next generation of artists and audiences through our artist development, learning and participation and commissioning programmes
The London Jazz Festival was created in 1992 by live international music producers, Serious. The Festival emerged from the long-standing Camden Jazz Week which was created in 1970; with the active support of the London Arts Board (now Arts Council England, London). Serious – who had for some years produced the Camden Jazz Week, engineered a transition that saw the evolution of the Festival. Taking a mix of international and British artists and a commitment to education activity, the London Jazz Festival began to spread its wings. The aims of the Festival still remain the same today; celebrating the place of jazz in a city which is at ease with its rich cultural diversity, and drawing in a multitude of venues across London who present the music, week in, week out, throughout the year.
EFG International is a global private banking group offering private banking and asset management services, headquartered in Zurich. EFG International’s group of private banking businesses operates in around 30 locations worldwide, with circa 2,000 employees. EFG International’s registered shares (EFGN) are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange. It is represented in the UK by EFG Private Bank, which offers a range of wealth management services in the UK (with offices in London and the Midlands) and Channel Islands.
Practitioners of the craft of private banking:A?efginternational.com
George McKay writes: I’m very pleased to be part of a notable new book, Black British Jazz: Routes, Ownership and Performance, edited by Jason Toynbee, Catherine Tackley (co-organiser of our wonderful RC2014 conference in Amsterdam) and Mark Doffman, in which I go back to look again at the 1950s pianist, chart-topper, and television presenter, Winifred Atwell. My chapter is called ‘Winifred Atwell and her “other piano”: 16 hit singles and “a blanket of silence”, sounding the limits of jazz’. You can find information about all the chapters for the entire collection at the Black British Jazz contents page, while below is the book’s blurb:
Black British musicians have been making jazz since around 1920 when the genre first arrived in Britain. This groundbreaking book reveals their hidden history and major contribution to the development of jazz in the UK. More than this, though, the chapters show the importance of black British jazz in terms of musical hybridity and the cultural significance of race. Decades before Steel Pulse, Soul II Soul, or Dizzee Rascal pushed their way into the mainstream, black British musicians were playing jazz in venues up and down the country from dance halls to tiny clubs. In an important sense, then, black British jazz demonstrates the crucial importance of musical migration in the musical history of the nation, and the links between popular and avant-garde forms. But the volume also provides a case study in how music of the African diaspora reverberates around the world, beyond the shores of the USAa??the engine-house of global black music. As such it will engage scholars of music and cultural studies not only in Britain, but across the world.
And here is a link to the Google Book version of the collection (but do buy it / order it for your library)
[Extract from introduction to George’s chapter] … From Tunapuna, Trinidad, Winifred Atwell (c. 1914-1983) was a classically trained ragtime and boogie-woogie style pianist who gained quite remarkable popularity in Britain, and later also Australia, in the 1950s, in live and recorded music, as well as in the developing television industry. In this chapter I outline her extraordinary international musical biography as a chart-topping pop and television star – innovative achievements for a black migrant female musician which are arguably thrown into more dramatic light by virtue of the fact that Atwell has been and remains a neglected figure in media and popular music (let alone jazz) history. I pay particular attention to her performative tactics and repertoire, developing material I introduced first in Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain. But our interest in Atwell should stem not only from her position as a significant figure neglected by history, for she speaks also to definitional issues of jazz. The chapter progresses into a discussion of the extent to which Atwell is a limit case of jazz in the developing pop world of the 1950s on….
Atwell topped the British singles charts twice, with 14 other top-30 singles during the 1950s, and she was also the first black million-selling singles artist in British pop history. Most of these achievements were the result of her playing jazz-derived instrumental music (solo or with a trio or quartet: piano-guitar-bass-drums). (Here you can read an interview I did with her drummer from the period, Colin Bailey.) Hers was a striking early example of a multiplatform media and music success: prestigious live performances and international tours, hit records, pop-jazz and classical repertoires, radio broadcasts, sheet music and piano instruction book sales, television presenter fronting her own series (on both main British channels and in Australia), and film appearances on screen and in the soundtrack….