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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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)
- In Making Jazz French author Jeffrey H. Jackson claims that French jazz musicians intentionally strove in the 1920's-30's to make their jazz be "more French" and reflective of French music with a French national identity.
“The late 1920s and early 1930s were the years when a new, self-consciously French jazz community emerged in Paris. Musicians fashioned for themselves an identity not simply as jazz players but as French jazz players—no longer the contradiction that such a notion had seemed in the early 1920s when jazz was thought to be unquestionably foreign. These musicians demonstrated the continuing ability of French artists in the interwar era to absorb elements of other cultures and make those expressions their own. They wanted audiences to realize that French musicians could play just as well as the foreign bands that had been so popular in Paris since the end of the Great War. They removed many (if not all) of the associations of jazz with the United States and Africa, replacing them with connections to France. Players like Ventura rooted the interpretations of jazz in the French tradition by performing chansons that were part of an older French musical repertoire. Many others reinvented the chanson format by bringing jazzy musical elements to it. Doing so gave something of a nostalgic twist to a music that so many critics had charged with being a modernist assault on French culture. But such nostalgia was not for a purely traditional France. Rather, these performances suggested that what was perceived to be an authentically French music need not die with the modern age of jazz, nor did it necessarily emerge only from the French soil itself. (bold and bold italic not in original)
- Indonesian jazz history from 1960's to the present is considered in "The Ambivalent Freedoms of Indonesian Jazz," Andrew McGraw, Jazz Perspectives, Vol. 6 , Iss. 3, 2012.
ABSTRACT: “The paper presents an historical outline and discusses the contemporary meanings of Indonesian jazz. Transformations in the jazz scene following the transition from Indonesia's first to second totalitarian regime (1964–1967) are linked to market reforms that opened the nation to increased Western investment and media. Jazz later played a conspicuous role in the tumultuous dissolution of dictatorial rule and the introduction of democratic reform. For some Indonesians, jazz embodied the complex and ambivalent transformations of freedom itself as Indonesia emerged as the world's third largest democratic state at the turn of the twenty-first century. During the reform era Indonesian jazz has been marked by a tension between adherence to American models and efforts to localize it through hybrid experiments that embody new collectivities in the reintroduction of civil society.” (bold not in original)
- "Media Review of Jazz in Norway, , Vols. 1-5," Jazz Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 2, August 2010, pp. 239-246.
OPENING PARAGRAPHS: “As jazz has spread and taken root worldwide, its role as a form of cultural expression has become an important topic in academic discussions on globalism and Afro-diasporic culture. Among such jazz-centered examinations of cultural globalization, European scholars, writers, and musicians have had an ongoing debate about the question of continental or national identities among jazz musicians in their corner of the world. Central to this debate has been questions of whether European jazz musicians have continued to emulate and participate in American jazz traditions, or whether they have moved beyond this latter legacy. Such arguments are raised, for example, in interviews with the German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff in the 2006 film, "Play Your Own Thing: A Story of Jazz in Europe." Similar concerns are further found in Ekkehard Jost's 1987 book Europas Jazz. Here Jost vigorously argues his view that while Europeans first copied American jazz traditions, they have subsequently been emancipated from such models by creating something new based on European cultural heritage. Jost suggests that just as the emergence of free jazz opened up the American tradition to new possibilities for the music, this development also had a role as a important catalyst for a range of new, Europeanized "free improvisation" traditions.
While such arguments have been central to recent attempts to sort out European identities in jazz, these concerns have a much longer and more complex history. Indeed, it could be argued that the whole story of jazz involves a history of cross-cultural exchanges, interactions, and divergences. When viewed from this broader vantage point of continuous cross-cultural interchanges, the conception of jazz as both a cultural and musical expression suggests that such international cultural dialogues around the arts of improvisation and jazz musicianship reinforce the idea of jazz as a highly fluid and porous genre that has been routinely reshaped by its ever-fluid interactions with its varied cultural surroundings. Thus, it can be argued that jazz is not a static musical form and expression limited by the genre definitions of a singular tradition. Rather, it involves continuous change where interaction with its surrounding is an important, vibrant part of its core identity as a music.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
- "The Norwegian Jazz Archive: A Centre of Authority, Finn J. Kramer-Johansen (Head of the Archive), Fontes Artis Musicae, Vol. 51, No. 2, Special Norwegian number (April-June 2004), pp. 262-266.
“Introduction: . . . From these humble beginnings jazz became part of Norwegian cultural life. It is possible to follow its peaks and troughs, stylistic developments, the pro-duction of recordings, the rise and fall of jazz clubs, visits by foreign artists, training, journalism, organisational activity, research and the international recognition of a number of Norwegian jazz musicians.
Objectives and Duties: As an institution, the Norsk Jazzarkiv is responsible for preserving for the fu-ture all aspects of Norwegian jazz. The history of jam in Norway must be seen as a part of the whole history of Norwegian music and placed in the context of our knowledge of Norwegian music. Thus the most important, and principal, objective of the Jazzarkiv's activity is "to contribute to knowledge and supply information about jazz in Norway in the past and present, through documentation and the assembly of expertise, and to make this knowledge available to as many as possible." So the Norsk Jazzarkiv [hereafter NJAI, since its foundation in 1981, has had collecting, documentation, information and research as its principal objectives.
The Collections: The Archive has, over the years, built up extensive collections of varied types of material that together comprise a unique collection of documents about the development of jazz in Norway. The most important is the recordings collection, which contains both private recordings from clubs and festivals and commercially-produced recordings. There are also collections of photographs, videos, press cuttings, magazines and books. The collections contain both familiar and rare materials. </span></ref>(bold not in original)
“A big portion of the origins of jazz, before it first began turning heads in the US in the early 20th century, came from the African continent—not only because the genre was created by African Americans but also in its general approach to rhythm, groove and instrumental improvisation. Today, however, jazz in Africa is often viewed unfavorably, seen by many as an elitist art form enjoyed by the more privileged members of society. It is also evident that younger listeners have trouble understanding or enjoying jazz. This is a pattern seen around the world, and although jazz demands listeners to listen more actively, the general view that it is too snooty or pretentious is misguided.” (bold and bold italic not in original)
“Africa has given birth to arguably some of the best jazz musicians in the world. Hugh Masekela, Mulatu Astatke, Miriam Makeba, Manu Dibango and Oliver Mtukudzi as well as younger musicians like Judith Sephuma, Kesivan Naidoo and Marcus Wyatt are just some of the names that point to a rich jazz tradition on the continent.
Africa has been widely credited as the progenitor of jazz, not only because the first practitioners of the genre were Africans living in America but also because they were inspired by their roots across the Atlantic Ocean. In the early 20th century, jazz played a crucial role for black Americans to find their own voice at a time when segregation and Western ideals were enforced upon them. In an act of defiance, they bent all known rules and created a genre that is today regarded as an absolute high art around the world. The jazz standards that were born in the US are now being combined with the many traditional musical styles in Africa, and in the process evolving the genre at a constant rate that is often difficult to keep track of. We now hear traditional beats, progressions and instrumentation from the continent informing the future of the genre as a whole. In a world defined by technological advancements we also see electronic musicians using African jazz standards from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as the inspiration for cutting-edge compositions. The future of jazz in Africa is brighter than ever; whereas other genres may come and go, jazz is here to stay as a reflection of true human expression.”  (bold not in original)
- "Champion of jazz music's African origin passes on," by [http://www.musicinafrica.net/users/house-nigeria In-house Nigeria,) September 4, 2018.
“Randy passed quite peacefully at age 92 (no lingering illness/injury/accident) this morning at his home in Brooklyn,” reads a statement on his website.
Weston famously insisted on the African origins of jazz music when scholarship on the genre was hesitant on the subject. Today it is widely acknowledged that jazz has origins in the musical tradition brought to the western hemisphere by slaves from West Africa and around the Congo River.
“More than any other musician, composer, or bandleader of his generation, Weston is responsible for fusing modern jazz and African music, giving birth to an entirely new musical genre,” said the historian Robin DG Kelley.
Weston was well-respected throughout his life and often deployed elements of African music – including call-and-response techniques in his music. His sound continued to change in over six decades of making music.
Weston’s 1963 and 1972 albums, Highlife and Blue Moses, saw him use patterns derived from Ghanaian and Nigerian music respectively.</ref>(bold not in original)
- "Jams of Consequence: Rethinking the Jazz Age in Japan and China," Nichole T. Rustin, Radical History Review, Issue 90, Fall 2004, pp. 95-101. This article reviews two books: Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan, E. Taylor Atkins, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001 and Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.
“In fact, the representations and meanings of nation predominate in their discussions of what it means to produce jazz and participate in jazz culture outside of the United States. Both authors determine that the social upheavals produced by World War II provided a context allowing for more public debates among various actors about the functions and merits of jazz. National identity, cultural politics, urban life, and modernity emerge as key themes in each of these books. Though there are many interesting overlaps in their studies, there are important divergences in their analyses that center on questions about authenticity, aesthetics, resistance, and imperialism.
In Blue Nippon, Atkins examines the changes in meaning of what he calls the "strategies of authentication" created by those involved in jazz culture in Japan from the early 1920s through the contemporary period to make jazz in Japan a distinctly Japanese music. Atkins argues that Japan provides us with a context for understanding what has often eluded historians of jazz—the relationship between the politics of national identity and the question of creative authenticity. Atkins considers the problem of whether or not, and, in fact, how, cultural forms translate across national boundaries. In the face of questions about whether or not one has to be "black" in order to have an authentic jazz voice, Atkins examines what it means for a nation, continually struggling against feelings of cultural inferiority, to attempt to create music out of its own experience. He asks, "What are the expressive possibilities of an 'American' art in a non-American culture? Does a performer surrender his or her national or ethnic identity when performing jazz? Or is it possible to express that identity through the 'American' art of jazz? If so, does such expression constitute a unique national style? Can such a national style be considered authentic jazz?"” (bold not in original)
- "Play Your Own Thing: A Story of Jazz in Europe," DVD produced by Julian Benedikt, Euroarts Music International, 2006.
- Europas Jazz 1960-1980, Ekkehard Jost, Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, 1987. DOI: 10.1080/17494060.2010.506040 .
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 and performers 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.
REPLY: While it is true that the geography of a location probably has limited effects on musical styles, the culture of a geographical region or country can have an enormous musical influence and effect. As is well known, different countries have adopted different musical scales where the distinctive use of these scales has been associated with music from that country. For example in a pentatonic five note scale these countries have often used the following notes as their pentatonic scale:
Because these are distinctive pentatonic scales associated with particular regions or countries, if a jazz player synthesizes a diatonic European musical scale with one of these distinctive pentatonic scales, the music can take on at least a flavor of that country's associated music.
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.
- Making Jazz French: Music and Modern Life in Interwar Paris, "Chapter 6: Parisian Music and Jazz Fans," Jeffrey H. Jackson, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2003.
- "The Ambivalent Freedoms of Indonesian Jazz," Andrew McGraw, Jazz Perspectives, Vol. 6 , Issue 3, 2012.
- "Media Review of Jazz in Norway, vols. 1-5," Jazz Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 2, August 2010, p. 239.
- Music in Africa, Jazz theme for September 2017, by Music in Africa, 2nd paragraph.
- "Jazz in Africa," September 6, 2018, first three paragraphs.
- "Jams of Consequence: Rethinking the Jazz Age in Japan and China," Nichole T. Rustin, Radical History Review, Issue 90, Fall 2004, p. 95.