2016 conference, Birmingham: Jazz Utopia call for papers

The fourth Rhythm Changes conference: Jazz Utopia will take place at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom from 14 to 17 April 2016.

Keynote Speakers
Professor Ingrid Monson (Harvard University)
Professor Raymond MacDonald (University of Edinburgh)

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 utopia conference logoJazz 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: jazzutopia@bcu.ac.uk

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: Christa Bruckner-Haring (University of Music & Performing Arts, Graz), Nicholas Gebhardt (chair; BCU), George McKay (University of East Anglia), Loes Rusch (University of Amsterdam/BCU), Catherine Tackley (Open University), Walter van de Leur (University of Amsterdam/Amsterdam Conservatory) and Tony Whyton (University of Salford).

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.

International symposium: Jazz Cosmopolitanism from East to West

Jazz Cosmopolitanism from East to West is 3 day symposium hosted by Ningbo University College of Arts in partnership with the School of Arts & Media, University of Salford.

Date and Location
9-12 January 2015, Ningbo University College of Arts, Ningbo, China

Call for Papers

“Jazz is so much more than music: it is a lifestyle and a tool for dialogue, even social change. The history of jazz tells of the power of music to bring together artists from different cultures and backgrounds, as a driver of integration and mutual respect.” Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO

Jazz Cosmopolitanism from East to West will focus on jazz as both a national and transnational cultural practice, comparing the uses and representations of music in different international contexts in order to explore questions relating to the development, assimilation, appropriation, and exchange of culture. Jazz plays a complex role in the cultural and sub-cultural life of different international scenes and this event will examine ways in which jazz scholars, musicians and fans interpret and interact with the music, the ways in which jazz networks are constructed and established in various cultures, how music is translated, and serves as a driver for social and cultural change. Jazz Cosmopolitanism from East to West will investigate ways in which the music can challenge established stereotypical distinctions between national settings and regions, including concepts of East and West.
The organising committee welcomes proposals for presentations which focus specifically on the following themes:

  • Jazz as a tool for social change and/or cultural understanding
  • The relationship between jazz, national cultural values, and transnational influences
  • Jazz in translation: the cultural meanings of jazz in different international settings
  • Challenging dominant representations of jazz as evidenced in the attitudes and practices of critics, musicians and audiences as well as representations in film, television and literature. This could include the exploration of established mythologies and stereotypes distinctions between East and West

Conference organisers
Professor Yu Hui (Ningbo University College of Arts)
Professor Tony Whyton (School of Arts & Media, University of Salford)

Deadline for proposals
12 September 2014

Proposals of c.300 words should be sent to Professors Yu Hui (hui.yuu@gmail.com) and Tony Whyton (t.whyton@salford.ac.uk)

English / Chinese

Accommodation / Fees
There will be no conference fee but travel, accommodation and subsistence costs must be met by individual participants. The symposium host will provide a limited accommodation allowance and one-day free local sightseeing for international participants.

Ningbo City
Ningbo is a seaport city in the northeast of Zhejiang province, China holding sub-provincial administrative status with a population of 7.6 million. It is one of China’s oldest cities, with a history dating to the Hemudu culture in 4800 BC. The city was known as a trade city on the silk road at least two thousand years ago, and then as a major port for foreign trade since the Tang Dynasty. It enjoys both historical culture atmosphere and the dynamic economic development of modern China.

Carnivalising the Creative Economy

This 15-minute film, entitled Carnivalising the Creative Economy, was funded by the AHRC and launched at the AHRC Creative Economy Showcase on 12 March 2014 at King’s Place, London.

Led by Professor George McKay, the film brings together academics and festivals directors from 5 recent / current AHRC-funded projects (including Rhythm Changes), who discuss the benefits and findings of such collaboration.

The film was made by Gemma Thorpe.

Transnational Studies in Jazz

We are delighted to announce the creation of a new monograph series with Routledge entitled “Transnational Studies in Jazz” The series will present interdisciplinary and international perspectives on the relationship between jazz and its social, political, and cultural contexts, as well as providing authors with a platform for rethinking the methodologies and concepts used to analyse jazz’s musical meaning.

We therefore encourage proposals that challenge disciplinary boundaries, that find different ways of telling the story of jazz with or without reference to the United States, and that are sympathetic to jazz as a medium for negotiating global identities. This does not exclude artist biographies or close analysis of musical works, but rather, we ask that authors reconsider how they address their subjects and from what perspective they do so. Transnational Studies in Jazz explores the complex cultural and musical exchanges that have shaped the global development and reception of jazz.

We have launch publications planned for 2015 which include texts on jazz and advertising, post WWII jazz collectives, and the discourses of jazz, but we are now welcoming new proposals for monographs to appear in the series.

We would be delighted to discuss monograph proposals with you and hope you consider placing your work with this exciting new series.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Editors: Tony Whyton (t.whyton@salford.ac.uk) & Nicholas Gebhardt (nicholas.gebhardt@bcu.ac.uk)

Beyond A Love Supreme blog

I’ve just published a blog on the Oxford University Press website about the cover of my new book Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of an Album. Here’s the opening- click on the link below if you want to read more:

Judging a book by its cover: recordings, street art, and John Coltrane

Created by the Berlin-based street artist MTO, a graffiti artwork was painted on a Parisian wall a few years ago and only on display for a few days before being painted over. A few photographs of the image, taken by MTO at the scene, are all that remain of the work. MTO’s image served as a perfect visual manifestation of the issues and strategies at play in my research: a graffiti version of an iconic photograph of John Coltrane which appears on the front of his 1964 album, A Love Supreme.

The influence of recordings is more than just musical or sonic in nature; recordings impact different arts and appear in different cultural contexts. In many ways, they have the potential to alter our view of the places we live in and, in some instances, can change our relationship to history itself. The temporary nature of MTO’s artwork and its subsequent use in photographic form and on the web also mirrors the changes that occur when music is recorded, disseminated, and used in different ways. Just as the recordings themselves can be understood in a number of different ways, these layers of mediation – that is, the channels through which we communicate, or the involvement of third parties in the construction and distribution of meaning – enable A Love Supreme (and other recordings) to take on infinite new lives and meanings.

Read more

In conversation with Django Bates’ Belovèd

On Sunday 16 June, I hosted a public conversation with Django BatesBelovèd before their concert at the Holmfirth Arts Festival in West Yorkshire. Bates was joined on stage by bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun and I started off the conversation with a question about the relationship between place and creativity. We moved from an examination of the differences between festivals and venues – how performing contexts shape the direction of music – to exploring how the Danish jazz scene had led to the formation of the trio. Belovèd formed in Copenhagen during Bates’ time at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory and their Charlie Parker-inspired albums developed out of an event organised by the Copenhagen Jazzhouse.

During the talk, we discussed concepts of inheritance and identity, how the “weight of history” can often hamper the creative process. In my first book, Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition, I suggested that official histories of jazz are too fixed in nature and the presence of iconic figures has spawned a number of imitative projects which can be read as too indebted to past masters. Exploring these themes with Belovèd, Bates was keen to stress the difference between love and reverence for an artist, and suggested that this was the key to his success; using Parker’s music as a springboard for his own creativity without feeling restricted by official narratives or expectations about how to draw on music of the past. The trio touched on ways in which working transnationally encourages this kind of thinking.

The conversation moved on to a consideration of what it means to be an artist and a refusal to be pigeonholed and the trio discussed their musical and compositional processes. Bates will be developing the Belovèd project for big band for the BBC Proms in August and the translation of this material has presented a number of challenges for the group. Both Bruun and Eldh have such a close working relationship with Bates, feeding off each other and taking the music in different directions, that the inclusion of additional musicians has led to the need for the clarification of ideas and the sharing of established processes beyond the trio.

We concluded our discussion by considering the dynamics of cultural influence and the flow of ideas. I asked the trio to reconsider the well trodden idea that creative influences flow in one direction – namely that musicians of the present are influenced by the great masters of the past a?? and posed the question of how Bates’ music could encourage us to think about the past in different ways. For example, I asked how does Belovèd encourage people to listen again to Charlie Parker with fresh ears and think differently about Parker? Although Bates acknowledged that all our listening is tempered by present values, he suggested that associations with his own music (ranging from compositional complexity to playful humour, from political statement to improvising in the moment) could be used as a strategy for revising our readings of the music of the past.

Rethinking Jazz Cultures Photo Gallery

If you’re still having Conference withdrawal symptoms and enjoyed the Storified Twitter feed and London Jazz Blog Conference summary below, why not check out the photo gallery of selected images from the Rethinking Jazz Cultures event here?

A big thank you to Ian Patterson, Andrew Dubber, George McKay and Walter van de Leur for sharing their images with us! Feel free to send in more images and we’ll add them to the gallery.

Paul Floyd Blake ‘Rethinking Jazz’

In 2012, Rhythm Changes commissioned Paul Floyd Blake to produce a photography exhibition based on his experiences and impressions of three leading European jazz festivals. As the 2009 Taylor-Wessing National Portrait Photography Prizewinner, Floyd Blake has gained critical acclaim for his unique studies of identity and place, and his work often seeks to challenge existing photographic practice.


The brief from the Rhythm Changes team was simple: Floyd Blake was to present an impression of music and its relationship to place in three international festival settings and to capture aspects of festival life that were either unique, counterintuitive or which captured a sense of social ambience. Rather than capturing shots of musicians on stage, we invited Floyd Blake to explore jazz from different perspectives, from the views of audiences to examinations of festival settings.

The resulting collection of 30 images on display at CUBE encourages the viewer to rethink their relationship to jazz and consider the role music plays in very different festival, and social, contexts. Click here for more images and to read Floyd Blake”s reaction to the commission.

Paul Floyd Blake’s “Rethinking Jazz” runs from 5 – 14 April at CUBE Gallery in Manchester.