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Rethinking ‘European jazz’ through the work of Steven Feld December 22, 2012

Posted by wallofsound in Uncategorized.

Here’s the abstract for my paper at Rhythm Changes II: Rethinking Jazz Cultures

11-14 April 2013, Media City UK/University of Salford

Steven Feld is an anthropologist, who in 2012 published his book length study of “five musical years in Ghana”. His book takes the idea of jazz cosmopolitanism as a way of investigating the way that individual musicians in Accra have utilised sounds and discourses from American jazz in their own music making and in their interaction with Feld as an American anthropologist.


I take his conclusions and disposition as a researcher, rather than his research method, as a way to open up our thinking about jazz in Europe.  Employing a variety of examples, including Jan Garbarek, Courtney Pine and Dudu Pukwana, and the European scenes in which they made their music, I use the ideas of cosmopolitanism, cultural essentialism and re-enculturation to reimagine some of the standard approaches to thinking about the place and role of jazz in, and of, Europe.

In particular, I address the idea that European jazz may have a distinctive sound or set of practices, and that individual cultures or nations within Europe may provide an accented, or maybe even alternative, approach to jazz, distinct from those that developed in the US. I will explicitly address the relationship of Europe to the USA, and investigate the notions of influence and transnational jazz culture.  Specifically, though, like Feld I ensure that this discussion is rooted in actual examples of music-making and cultural practice. Included in this rethinking of European jazz is the role of European jazz media in representing and mediating what it is to be a twenty-first century European jazz musician and jazz fan. My position, therefore, will be that of a media and cultural analyst, rather than an anthropologist.

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