Ep8. How could it be known that Australian jazz has a national musical identity (differing from American jazz)?
- 1 Discussion
- 2 Can there be a distinctively Australian version of jazz?
- 3 What is required for the possibility of having a distinctively Australian style of jazz?
- 3.1 What does having a national identity as a style of music mean or require?
- 3.2 Objections to the existence of a musical national identity style of music
- 3.3 Is a musical national style of music possible?
- 4 Does Australia 🇦🇺 have a distinctively Australian form of jazz?
- 5 NOTES
Can there be a distinctively Australian version of jazz?
Matthew Joshua Biden (email@example.com) from the University of Tasmania (Hobart, Australia) in his "Tom Pickering: Jazz on the periphery of the periphery" claims that “Australian jazz has at its core a distinctive sound that is nevertheless closely related to its American roots. . . . By taking Pickering as a case study, I will demonstrate the initial period of exposure and appropriation that is common to many Australian jazz musicians, which was crucial in the formation of an Australian jazz sound. Through the dissection of the developmental processes of a typical Australian jazz musician in the former half of the twentieth century, this article sheds new light on the identity of Australian jazz . . .” (bold not in original)
Latin jazz trombonist and ethnomusicologist at Columbia University in New York City, Chris Washburne, also claims that there can be a distinctive Danish national style of jazz in his article, “Jazz Re‐Bordered: Cultural Policy in Danish Jazz.”
ABSTRACT: “The small nation of Denmark has served as one of the main European centers for jazz production and consumption since the 1930s. Beginning in the mid‐1980s, a number of young Danish musicians, producers, and cultural policy makers emerged who collectively transformed jazz in Denmark. This paper investigates how state‐sponsored cultural policies, an upsurge in nationalistic fervor, broader political and economic change throughout Europe, as well as the economic prosperity of the U.S. in the mid‐1980s, are tied to striking changes in the jazz performed and produced in Denmark in recent years. The paper argues that through the efforts of both public and private institutions in collusion with creative musicians within Denmark, and through alliances of like organizations and musicians across Europe, Danish jazz has evolved out of the shadow of America, resulting in the re‐bordering of a historically marked African American music, into an independent and self‐consciously Eurocentric expression. The paper identifies key historical developments in the jazz of Denmark, tracing how the tensions between local and global identities in the context of the transatlantic jazz culture have been navigated within the backdrop of a social welfare state and have culminated in the emergence of a vibrant and uniquely inflected “Danish jazz.” (bold not in original)
What is required for the possibility of having a distinctively Australian style of jazz?
This is a complex and possibly unanswerable question. It is complex because it needs to be determined what is meant by having a national musical identity, and then whether or not Australia actually has one. The question is potentially unanswerable if national musical identities cannot exist or are meaningless or problematic in some other way that makes the idea of a musical national identity as a style of music impossible or unnecessary.
What does having a national identity as a style of music mean or require?
Objections to the existence of a musical national identity style of music
Objection 1: No National musical style, but only composers from that country that were adopted by a nation and that style of music is associated with that country's (choice of composers), but it is not the nation, rather the composers and performers chosen to represent the music of a nation.
Is a musical national style of music possible?
Yes, a musical national style is possible
Suppose a specific nation called Martianlandia used a particular style or genre of music at all their national events, Presidental addresses, hail to the chief themes, political rallies, holidays, birthdays, etc. They like the single genre of music known by the phrase "smooth jazz hip hop rap polka." So, since smooth jazz hip hop rap polka is hardly played anywhere else on the planet whenever anyone knowledgeable about the proclivities of musical style that is played at virtually all standard ceremonial and holiday events in Martianlandia, a knowledgeable person upon hearing some smooth jazz hip hop rap polka often says "Oh, there goes that Martianlandia music playing again." Because this particular genre of music frequently and consistently gets played and performed almost only in Martianlandia it is associated with Martianlandia culture and therefore is a Martianlandia form of music.
There can at least be this sort of jazz national identity. People familiar with how a particular country tends to perform jazz might remark something like, "You sound like you play from Denmark."
No, a musical national style of music is not possible
Suppose that all of the Australian jazz players who play in the 'Australian' jazz style had been born and raised in Mongolia 🇲🇳 . Would this now make the music itself be a Mongolian form of jazz? Is there something about the country of Australia 🇦🇺 itself that caused or inspired Australian jazz players to play how they do? If there was such a thing wouldn't it only be an accidental feature of the musical style so not essentially Australian, since there is no such thing as a music that is somehow essentially Australian. Whatever any music is could originate from any person from any country.
Just because the country of Martianlandia is the only country that typically plays smooth jazz hip hop rap polka music does not make the music itself be Martianlandistic music. There is no such property as music that is Martianlandistic. There can only be music that neither is nor is not Martianlandistic in itself, rather this type of music can be found in Martianlandia, is enjoyed by a lot of people from Martianlandia, but the music itself is not Martianlandistic. The music itself is smooth jazz hip hop rap polka and this music could later be adopted by the state of Maine. Suppose this happens. Is the music now both Martianlandistic and Maineish? All that could mean is that this music gets associated with a particular socio-political geographical region. That geographical socio-political region does not have any effect at all on the musical properties of any particular musical genres.
Does Australia 🇦🇺 have a distinctively Australian form of jazz?
So, when Matthew Biden claims above that “Australian jazz has at its core a distinctive sound that is nevertheless closely related to its American roots" what could he have in mind that remains true? Well, suppose that the vast majority of Australian jazzers tend to play jazz in a distinctive and recognizable format. They each use a lot of musical references to "Waltzing Matilda" whenever they play jazz. Would this be enough to count as an Australian way of playing jazz?
- "Tom Pickering: Jazz on the periphery of the periphery," quoted sentences are from first two first paragraphs.
- “Jazz Re‐Bordered: Cultural Policy in Danish Jazz,” Christopher Washburne, Jazz Perspectives, Volume 4, Issue 2, 2010, pp. 121-155. Published online: September 6, 2010. Download citation http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17494060.2010.506042.