9th Nordic Jazz Conference – Keynotes

Dr. Pekka Gronow: Was jazz invented in Paris in October 1932?

Jazz is one of the forms of American popular music which arrived in Europe since the beginning of the 20th century. They include music from North and South America, the Caribbean and even Hawaii, just annexed to the United States.

Much writing on the history of jazz in Europe has had a teleological character. It has looked at the development of jazz as a linear progression from “prehistoric” forms towards the music which is taught in the jazz departments of music schools today. But it can be argued that before World War Two, and certainly before 1930, there was little consensus on the definition of “jazz”. Even the most ardent supporters of the new music called it variously “hot dance music”, “rhythmic music”, and “swing”. Much of the music labeled “jazz” in the 1920s would not be accepted as jazz today.
I would argue that the evolution of the idea of jazz as a distinct form of music, different from other types of modern popular music, also needs to be studied. The idea of jazz first appeared in Francophone countries around 1932, marked by the publication of Robert Goffin’s Aux frontiers du jazz and the founding of the Jazz Club de France. Jazz became the first form of modern popular music whose supporters saw their music as a new art form. Similar movements soon emerged in the United States, United Kingdom, and other European countries. The success of the jazz movement can be measured by the appearance of numerous periodicals devote to jazz in many European languages, the first discographies, and reissues devoted to the documentation of jazz history.

I shall trace the development of the jazz movement and its ideology, which emphasized the character of jazz as a musical genre distinct from western art music and commercial popular music, and the importance of its African-American roots jazz. I shall also argue that after World War Two, the ideology also began to influence the practice of music, which can be seen both in the modernist movement and its counterpart, European traditional jazz.


Pekka Gronow is adjunct professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Helsinki. He has written extensively on the history of the recording industry and is a contributor to Ethnomusicology, Popular Music, Grove’s Dictionary of Jazz and other publications.



Prof. Bruce Johnson: The Redemption of Jazz

In almost all its diasporic destinations jazz was initially regarded as deeply disruptive to the traditions, myths and power relations on which local identity was built. Yet within a matter of decades jazz was being made to feel fully at home in these diasporic sites, and by the late twentieth century it is certainly arguable that they had overtaken the US as the new ‘centres’ of jazz innovation. How was this radical reversal achieved?

My presentation focuses on Australia, but because the pattern is global, it will cast explanatory light on all diasporic jazz. On its arrival in Australia in 1918 jazz was immediately situated as un-Australian, but by the early 1930s it was already becoming ‘Australianised’; this general process of adopting the local ‘cultural camouflage’ was found in other countries. But there were also changes internationally, including economic lessons of the Great Depression, especially in countries that had not yet become fully industrialised, which made it necessary to reassess pre-modern traditions. I will also argue that the coming of sound to movies was a significant factor in the global ‘redemption’ of jazz, illustrating the point with Australia’s earliest silent and sound jazz footage.


Bruce Johnson, formerly Professor in English, is now Adjunct Professor, Contemporary Music Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney; Honorary Professor, Music, University of Glasgow; Visiting Professor, Cultural History, University of Turku. Author of The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz, his recent publications include, with Martin Cloonan, Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence (2008) and an edited collection, Earogenous Zones: Sound, Sexuality and Cinema, 2010. His current research field is acoustic cultural history. Jazz musician, broadcaster and record producer, he was prime mover of the Australian Jazz Archive, and co-founder of the International Institute for Popular Culture in Turku.


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