Session 8 – Europe

Friday 2 September – 16.15-17.30 (Sweelinck)
Chair: John Gennari

Ben Bierman – Is European Identification a Blessing or a Curse?

As jazz has evolved from a commercial dance music to an art music, and as international influences, as well as those from pop, rock and “indie” sensibilities increase, there is a palpable shift in jazz, both in who is listening and who is playing and writing. In fact, the direction the music is heading is perhaps more in question than it has ever been. Drawing on myriad influences and combining them is almost expected at this point in certain circles, while in others the aesthetic and cultural connections to the jazz mainstream is of crucial significance, perhaps at least partially in response to this rapid expansion of jazz. This is a source of excitement as well as concern for some. The quickly evolving field of jazz composition is a potent area that allows us to examine this through issues surrounding identity in jazz.

A brief 1947 article and photo spread in Down Beat magazine by the jazz photographer and columnist William Gottlieb offers a fascinating look at an early example of identity issues in jazz as it presents a group of prominent progressive jazz composers posed in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art alongside European modernist works. The European modernist association around these composers appears in this context to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, the modernist connections that are alluded to seem to be intended to elevate the importance of the music, while an implied anti-intellectualism surrounding the notion of modernism and a European connection is present throughout. This paper examines this article and its associated images in relation to progressive jazz, while also tying it into the current trends of jazz composition and the reception of what is perhaps a changing, or at least expanded, concept of what jazz and jazz composition is or is becoming.

Michael Kahr – Jazz & the City: Identity of a Capital of Jazz

The city of Graz has traditionally served as an international “hub” regarding inherited and idiosyncratic forms of jazz. Since the ground-breaking implementation of academic programs for jazz and jazz research in Graz in the mid-1960s, the city has gained a reputation as Austria�s capital of jazz. Jazz bands and soloists from Graz have received national as well as international acclaim and influential jazz artists from all over the world have collaborated with the local community in Graz. In that sense, the jazz scene of Graz represents a vital aspect regarding the cultural identity of Austria.

A two-year research project at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, funded by the Austrian Science Fund, examines the historic and contemporary scope of jazz in Graz with regards to issues of identity, inheritance and local thought. The project intends to complement the international comparative studies of the Rhythm Changes project by providing detailed examinations of jazz in Graz including analyses of the music and its socio-cultural context.

This paper outlines the aims, scope, structure and methods of the project and presents first results regarding the historic role of Graz in the formation of jazz in Austria. It draws from studies of historic sources, interviews, as well as from analyses of representative musical examples. An overview of jazz in Graz since 1965 will be given and several outstanding examples of musical projects that reflect the identity of Graz on an international scope will be discussed. The presentation contributes widely to the conference theme by addressing issues of identity and inheritance, the spread and dynamics of the jazz culture as well as the role of Graz in the transformation and acculturation of American and European jazz traditions and other influences.

Ioannis Tsioulakis and Elina Hytönen – Revisiting Professional Jazz Musicians: Collectivity and Audience in Contemporary European Jazz

Howard Becker’s seminal work The Professional Jazz Musician and his Audience (1951) has been central at describing the dynamic between jazz musicians and the diverse circles of music aficionados surrounding them. In his chapter, Becker proposed a rigid dichotomy between musicians and “squares”, the latter term describing the musically unsophisticated members of the audience that jazz musicians identified as responsible for the constraint and lack of expressive freedom characterising their everyday musicking.

Drawing on ethnographic research among jazz musicians in Finland, Greece and the UK, this presentation will revisit Becker’s celebrated views and examine how contemporary musicians conceptualise their relationship with diverse types of audiences. The examination will be twofold: by employing discourse analysis, we will examine the way that jazz musicians in the three contexts speak about their collectivities and the factors that differentiate them with the spectators. Simultaneously, we will investigate the way that these divisions become manifested in performance, and specifically the spatial and sonic arrangements that facilitate or hinder the emergence of collectivity between musicians and audience members.

Ultimately, this presentation will argue that claims to knowledge and authenticity are still dominant among jazz musicians, and the rhetorics employed are surprisingly uniform across different European scenes. Divisions with the audience, however, and the way they become discursively and performatively manifest are quite more complicated than a neat dualism between “musicians” vs. “squares” can encompass. By examining some of the factors that define this cultural division, our paper will contribute to a deeper understanding of performative strategies and self-identifications among professional jazz musicians around Europe.

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