On July 2, 2012, the Institute for Jazz Research at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (KUG) under the direction of Prof. Dr. Franz Kerschbaumer organized a one-day symposium, in cooperation with the Music Information Center Austria (MICA) through their representative Helge Hinteregger and held on MICA’s premises as part of Jazz Fest Wien. Entitled “Jazz in the Austrian Cultural Landscape”, the symposium dealt with the role and importance of jazz in Austria, with jazz experts from different fields of the current jazz scene presenting their views on the topic. A round table discussion concluded the event.
The symposium was opened by Rhythm Changes project associate Christa Bruckner-Haring (KUG), who presented an overview of the research project, including its main aims and contents. Michael Kahr (KUG) talked about the Graz research project Jazz & the City: Identität einer Jazz(haupt)stadt [Identity of a jazz capital], also anchored at the KUG Institute for Jazz Research. Fritz Thom, a concert and festival organizer since decades and founder of the agency Live Performance Service (LPS), in his talk “Entwicklung der Jazzfestivals in Österreich und Positionierung im internationalen Kontext” [Development of jazz festivals in Austria and positioning within an international context] offered insight into the organization of jazz events and successful jazz festivals such as “Jazzfest Wiesen”, “Jazzfestival Hollabrunn” and “Jazz Fest Wien”. The next speaker, Ines Dominik – a vocalist and teacher at the Konservatorium Wien University and KUG, as well as a freelance journalist – discussed her view of the current role of jazz and the situation of jazz musicians (principally of the younger generation), including personal experiences, in her lecture “Stimmiger Jazz” [Harmonious jazz]. Researcher and music journalist Andreas Felber covered jazz in the media, claiming “Und sie existiert doch: Mediale Berichterstattung über Jazz in Österreich” [And still it exists: media coverage of jazz in Austria]. Although Felber sees a decline in jazz coverage in traditional media (television, radio, and print media) in recent years, he emphasized the importance of recognizing the quality reportage on jazz in radio and newspapers that does still exist. The second lecture session started with musician, composer and label owner Christoph Pepe Auer, who told the story of “Session Work Records: Ein Jazzlabel aus Österreich” [A jazz label from Austria] – why he began his own label and how he managed to build it into a successful company in a rather short period of time. Musician and university professor Heinrich von Kalnein (KUG) focussed in his presentation”Universal Codes: Zur Situation des österreichischen Jazz aus universitärer Sicht” [The situation of Austrian jazz from an academic point of view] on Austrian jazz education, specifically university teachers and students.
The final round table discussion included Christoph Pepe Auer, Ines Dominik, Andreas Felber, Heinrich von Kalnein, and Paul Zauner, a musician, jazz promoter and label owner, and was dedicated to the question: Does an Austrian identity in jazz exist? In the debate with the audience it became clear that very different opinions exist in this matter: Some believed that Austrian jazz does indeed have its own identity, defined by the playing style(s) of Austrian musicians and useful for promotional purposes. Some, on the other hand, saw no evidence for such an identity, and still others saw no musical or promotional advantage in the idea of a national identity, considering the country’s shadowed past and the problematic nature of nationalistic ideas.
The different perspectives of the invited jazz experts helped frame an overall picture of the role and position of jazz in Austria during the one-day symposium; when the subject of national identity arose, the very different viewpoints of Austrian jazz experts and jazz enthusiasts came to light. Altogether, the results of the symposium are important not only for the Austrian project results, but also form a significant part of the overall Rhythm Changes project outcomes and comparisons with the partner countries.