Ontmeta0. What is the philosophy of jazz?
All topics are inter-related just to varying degrees. Which questions a field of study, such as philosophy of jazz, focuses on are influenced by adjacent concerns. It is easier to start with an example to get this point across, then afterwards analyze the principles and features involved. So, the concretish example is where a philosopher makes a claim that challenges perceived wisdom had by actual jazz musicians in the field as being flawed, wrong, false, or not even wrong.
It isn't that the majority of jazz musicians couldn't all be mistaken about some aspect of jazz since there are many plausible scenarios that easily come to mind proving that the majority's opinion can be false. Consider, for example, if a famous jazz musician was believed by most not to be a homosexual, but later reliable and convincing evidence showed otherwise.
Of course, the majority of jazz experts could easily be wrong about some historical facts, just like they all might believe that the Hundred Years War lasted exactly one hundred years, which it didn't (116 years), so they are all wrong. But what about the majority's opinions about the nature of jazz? Surely they couldn't all be wrong about some essential component of what makes jazz be jazz!
But, first, why not? Of course too much philosophical weight is being put on the phrase "essential component." Is there any such thing in jazz as something essential? What exactly is that? Is essential here a sufficient condition? Is it a necessary condition? Which is it?
Without some explication of what is meant by "essential component" the question asked using it is empty and cannot possibly be answered, nor need it be addressed until it is known which essential component, how it is essential (sufficient or necessary), and justify why it is essential to jazz?
Second, scenarios are easy to envision where the majority of jazz musicians could have flawed judgments about a musical performance. Imagine that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are transported back in time to 1910 New Orleans. Ragtime is all the rage. How would Parker and Gillespie's Bebop performances be judged by the majority of Dixielanders? We know the answer to this question because as sophisticated musically as Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong was, one of the music's greatest and renowned improvisers in the 1960s, and not 1910, is reported to have said that Bebop sounded like Chinese music to him. Presumably what this meant was well described by Stephen Sweeney in his blog BeBop is Vulgar Music:
“We have associated Eastern music with something that is different and, often, strange. Bebop was a strange form of jazz, and it was easy for listeners to describe it as Chinese with a negative connotation, labeling it strange and foreign, and perhaps unpleasant to listen to.”
Topics and concerns for a field of study are going to overlap other disciplines basically far afield from each other's interests. Hence, what determines the field are to what extent do these interests overlap and especially interact.
If a philosopher of jazz argues that two jazz songs can each be performances of the very same musical work, or of the same musical score, or that two improvised performances can be of the same song, then any theories that dispute this need to be confronted and the arguments commence. That's why philosophers of jazz concern themselves about issues of song identity.
Regardless of any particular position taken on song identity the interest remains for a philosopher of jazz because jazz musicians play songs. It can be as simple as that. The concepts and theories that include and consider major components of Jazz and its performances are going to be philosophy of jazz areas of investigation.
What are foundational concepts of jazz music if song counts as one of them:
- work of music
- nature of improvisation (spontaneous composition)
- flow state while playing jazz
- embodied cognition and distributed cognition and performance in duos, trios, quartets, quintets, septets, octets, duodecahedronets, etc.
- playing music
- what is music?
- how does culture come into play in music production?
- how does culture relate to the evaluations (good or bad) of qualities in music?
- when not to play
- good and bad ways to improvise
- types of jazz and their relationships to each other
- what is jazz? Can it be defined, why or why not?
A key recommendation made by the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas white paper on successful higher education policy was to make philosophy graduate student's intellectual work made public: White Paper on the Future of the Ph.D. in the Humanities
One way to rethink graduate education is by way of this Kantian idea of the inherent public character of scholarship. We propose that students’ work should become more public and more oriented toward the world. Publicity confers a measure of relevance and permanence on the work students do. Their most accomplished research should be able to move beyond the seminar room and the library into a potentially innumerable readership and into a space of discourse oriented toward futurity. The work should, in principle, join with other work in ongoing conversations about matters of public concern.
A possible way to achieve this goal is to write and edit for PhilosophyOfJazz.net (poj.fm)! Although it is harder to prove that you, a particular person and actual author, produced this work because no names of authorship are permitted on poj.fm pages. Nevertheless, for the purposes of resumes, C.V.'s, seminars, and so forth, one CAN establish and justify authorship by the following means. First, you claim that you were the original author of this particular section or sections of poj.fm. Furthermore, because the software keeps track of each and every editor and when that person wrote what every minute of the day by looking at this history one can establish one's authorship of any content in new sections at that time and put it into a report, if necessary.
Robert Kraut, in his seminal paper, "Why Does Jazz Matter To Aesthetic Theory," explains that jazz is a musical art form. Aesthetic theories, whatever they are, must include in their theorizing all artforms. Therefore, aesthetic theory must include jazz in its purview.
He points out that we need both to know what aesthetic theory is supposed to explain and what kind of music jazz consists of:
“So we need to know more about what an aesthetic theory is supposed to do—what sorts of questions it is intended to answer, what sorts of explanations and/or justifications it is supposed to provide. We also need to know more about what sort of music counts as jazz.”
So, right here we have a justification in aesthetics for investigating the philosophy of jazz.
Why do we need to find out "what sort of music counts as jazz"? Kraut justifies this investigation by explaining that "Jazz performances are part of the data, and thus part of the tribunal by which aesthetic theories must be tested and evaluated."
Furthermore, it is the music of jazz we wish to investigate. What makes it tick musically and how does it relate to all other forms of music? What's so special about jazz as a form of music?
- "Why Does Jazz Matter to Aesthetic Theory?," Robert Kraut, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Winter, 2005), p. 3. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1559135.