Keynote: History or Histories?

Why it is so difficult to draft a European jazz history

If European jazz has developed an own identity in recent years and decades, it is an identity of diversity. Yet, diversity in European jazz is quite different from diversity as present in American culture. It is a diversity based on century-old cultural traditions, differences and cross dissemination. The word "glocalization" has been used to describe this specific idea of a regional dialect within a seemingly globalized musical idiom. I will ask about the implications of glocalization for the drafting of a European jazz history. The paper will also discuss how a European archival network could help with the drafting of such a European jazz history.

Dr. Wolfram Knauer, JazzInstitut Darmstadt

How do we understand jazz history in Norway?

Jazz history might be represented and informed by different kinds of narratives.

This papers addresses the question of writing national jazz histories, and is partly based on an ongoing project “Contemporary Soundspaces: Acoustemology and Musical Agency” at the University of Oslo. The relevance of this project lies in its theoretical and empirical investigation of agency and decision making related to auditory processes involving negotiations between “natural sound” and “culturally produced sound”. The project deals with the aesthetic and social significance of sounding processes and aims to map out and analyze agency (sound actions) and the discursive values ascribed to these processes. In general, the project will gain new knowledge in an area that seems largely relevant to ubiquitous and rapid changes in society. There is little actual research done in this area, and we expect that empirical investigation also will inform the theorization of the field, in the sense that preunderstandings mediated for instance by earlier “soundcape research” will be challenged. Our analysis of the role played by technology in contemporary sound mediations may certainly be expected to challenge some of the categories of discourse and dualisms upon which many of these practices rely as well as constructs enhanced by earlier research. In this project a case pays particular attention to aspects of the Norwegian jazz scene from the early 70s, and in particular the development, aesthetics and representation of the ECM sound, featuring central Norwegian jazz performers.

Part of the presentation moreover is based on the author’s article “Historiography and complexities: why is music ‘national’?” published in the British Journal Popular Music History vol. 2.2, 2007 (cf. Weisethaunet, 2007.) This article examines key issues in attempts to construct popular music and popular music histories in terms of ‘nationality’ and ‘national’ identity. Moving from historiographical issues to an in-depth discussion of the uses and problems of ‘nation’ as an overriding category in music history writing, it draws on a number of theoretical sources, including historiography, social theory, popular music studies, music anthropology, postcolonial theory, and current questions in cultural theory concerning globalization and cosmopolitanism. As pointed out by Homi Bhabha and others, our understanding of ‘nation’ ‘is by nature ambivalent’ (Bhabha 1990). This brings into debate issues from the author’s study of music criticism in the USA, UK and the Nordic countries, and examples ranging from West African popular music (and jazz), to ideas of ‘Nordic’ jazz and journalistic and academic struggles to construct jazz and popular music as ‘American’ in the US. Why is music so easily and ubiquitously taken to represent something ‘national’? In order to account for music’s relevance in the proximity of history, the author argues that it is necessary to broaden the horizon of these writing strategies and be critical and reflexive about the ‘nation-building’ project, common linear narratives within such histories and the mythological tropes that color these writings.

The presentation argues that even though jazz histories are given their ‘local’ and/or ‘national’ representation, jazz—being perhaps one of the first truly global musical forms—must also be comprehended in terms of its ‘global complexity’ (Hannerz 1992).

Professor Hans Weisethaunet, The University of Oslo.

Bhabha, Homi K. (ed.) 1990. Nation and Narration. London: Routledge.
Hannerz, Ulf. 1992. Cultural Complexity. Studies in the Social Organization of Meaning. New York: Columbia University Press.

Weisethaunet, Hans. 2007. “Historiography and complexities: why is music ‘national’?” Popular Music History vol. 2.2, 169-199. London: Equinox.

‘On the margins’: problems in jazz archiving outside the US.

This paper presents critical reflections on some general problems associated with jazz archiving, especially outside the US, and suggests that these are linked to parallel problems in constructing regional jazz histories. At the heart of the problem is a disparity between the broad conception and the actualities of cultural diaspora in the modern period. The rapid global dispersal of jazz coincided with and was conducted through modern mass mediations. This process exemplifies the collapse of centre/margins models of cultural lines of force. Yet within jazz discourses the idea of the US as the defining centre of the music persists, as is illustrated in non-US jazz education, historiography, and cultural policy. Underpinning these discourses is the idea that jazz was invented in the US then exported, while in practice, as an internationalised ‘world music’, jazz was largely created in and through the diasporic process itself.

This tension between theoretical model and practice has, in many ways, made diasporic jazz communities their own worst enemy. The construction of local jazz histories has to contend with perennial subordination to the US ‘original’, according to which the local profile is regularly assessed as an inferior copy, rather than a valid form in itself. The point can be illustrated in the case of both nordic and antipodean regions. The trajectory of development of the Australian Jazz Archives through the 1990s, for example, was shaped by a deeply embedded public conviction that diasporic jazz was ‘second-hand’. One of the most difficult tasks was reversing this mind-set and demonstrating that jazz outside the US has its own form of ‘authenticity’

In arguing that diasporic jazz has its own integrity, the paper will also present some suggestions for stronger linkages between archiving in the Nordic region and Australasia.

Bruce Johnson, Universities of Turku (Finland), Macquarie (Australia), Glasgow (UK). Founding Chair, Australian Jazz Archives National Council.

(Examples of) 'Race' Consciousness in Danish Jazz Reception.

Jazz music is historically an American music. And its roots in African-American culture are generally acknowledged. The history of its reception in Danish music and culture after WW2 shows how ’race’ is usually ignored, yet the superior genius of African-American musicians continues to be used as benchmark. Race seems a necessary concept as long as originality or authenticity of expression is used to distinguish jazz from other musics.

Christen Kold Thomsen, lektor emer. Center for Amerikanske Studier, SDU

Jazz i Norge på 1960-tallet (i tresserne)

Det vil handle om gullaldertoppen i norsk jazz omkring 1960, om endringene i jazzens stilmangfold, om den nye musikken og hvordan den ble mottatt, om påvirkninger fra popindustrien, konkurransen om ungdommen, hvordan de norske jazzklubbene forsvant mot midten av tiåret, hvordan musikerne måtte skifte beiter, hvordan de selv måtten skaffe seg spillesteder, hvordan jazzen langsomt kom tilbake på dagsorden mot slutten av tiåret og om de nye utfordringene før 1970-tallets kommende oppgang.

Bjørn Stendahl

From a local jazz club to the best venue in the world

In the light of the new book on Montmartre Jazz House (1959-1976), I will give a reading of its history and influence on Danish jazz and jazz musicians. During the 1950’s, Sweden was ahead of Denmark jazzwise, but this changed in the following decennium, thanks to the Montmartre and its vast supply of mostly American jazz musicians.

Frank Büchmann-Møller, Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek, Danmark

Jazz into Art Music in 60’s Sweden – Structures and Strategies

In the 1960’s, Swedish jazz musicians tried hard to raise social status for jazz and to get jazz accepted as part of the (state-funded) art music scene. Writing music including classical musicians and ensembles, cooperating with other established art forms as modern stage dance and poetry, and attempts to get into schools and churches were among the strategies used. This in turn also had consequences in what was played and what music-structural forms that were used.

Alf Arvidsson, Professor i etnologi, Inst för kultur- och medievetenskaper, Umeå Universitet, Sverige


Center for Dansk Jazzhistorie