Jazz Among the Discourses

Jazz Among the Discourses

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 7 illustrations Published: May 1995

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Music > Jazz

The study of jazz comes of age with this anthology. One of the first books to consider jazz outside of established critical modes, Jazz Among the Discourses brings together scholars from an array of disciplines to question and revise conventional methods of writing and thinking about jazz.
Challenging "official jazz histories," the contributors to this volume view jazz through the lenses of comparative literature; African American studies; music, film, and communication theory; English literature; American studies; history; and philosophy. With uncommon rigor and imagination, their essays probe the influence of various discourses—journalism, scholarship, politics, oral history, and entertainment—on writing about jazz. Employing modes of criticism and theory that have transformed study in the humanities, they address questions seldom if ever raised in jazz writing: What are the implications of building jazz history around the medium of the phonograph record? Why did jazz writers first make the claim that jazz is an art? How is an African American aesthetic articulated through the music? What are the consequences of the interaction between the critic and the jazz artist? How does the improvising artist navigate between chaos and discipline?
Along with its companion volume, Representing Jazz, this versatile anthology marks the arrival of jazz studies as a mature, intellectually independent discipline. Its rethinking of conventional jazz discourse will further strengthen the position of jazz studies within the academy.

Contributors. John Corbett, Steven B. Elworth, Krin Gabbard, Bernard Gendron, William Howland Kenney, Eric Lott, Nathaniel Mackey, Burton Peretti, Ronald M. Radano, Jed Rasula, Lorenzo Thomas, Robert Walser


Jazz among the Discourses and Representing Jazz represent something of an academic turning point in the mainstreaming of jazz studies in American academic circles. . . . [In] Representing Jazz . . . Gabbard has collected [a] dozen papers that explore the cross-fertilization of jazz in other media. Central to the argument of this collection is a challenge to the evolutionary, chronological model of jazz criticism. Instead, these critics situate jazz in its cultural moment, examining the racist and colonialist, the literary and filmic, undertaking a gestalt jazz criticism. . . . [T]hese essays provide a new dimension, another history of jazz.” — , Antioch Review

“[A] consistent sharpness, and impressively deft adaptation of both Jazz and the discursive channels that have for decades made meaning of this temporal phenomenon. Theory . . . throttles these collections into revealing that Jazz and contemporary thought are indeed compatible and mutually illuminating. Aiding and abetting the critical listener and viewer/reader, Gabbard’s selection of articles alone is worth commendation. . . . Gabbard has done a skillful service for the reader interested in collecting contemporary writings on Jazz. Likewise, those working in film studies, performance theory, and literary study will do well to peruse Representing Jazzs many facets and disciplinary hoppings.” — , Cadence

“[I]mportant for studying the interconnections between music, culture, and society. . . . [The contributors] share a commitment to understanding the complexity of the music they champion. Their efforts in opening up new perspectives for the analysis of music must be commended.” — , American Book Review

“[T]hese collections contain some real gems.” — Lee B. Brown , Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

“[T]hought-provoking, illuminating, and extremely valuable contributions reveal areas for further investigation and study. This is more than sufficient reason for these volumes to be in all academic libraries. Jazz scholarship is long overdue, and Gabbard’s collection deserves attention from those who are serious about this music because it demonstrates that there is another approach to the subject.” — , Choice

“A groundbreaking anthology.” — , DownBeat

“Both anthologies will provide valuable material for the serious student of jazz. . . . And the average reader with an interest in jazz will find some stimulating reading here.”

“Krin Gabbard, a specialist on jazz in cinema, has assembled two welcome volumes on jazz that include contributions from the fields of film, literature, dance, musicology, history, and art history. The collections share a commitment to developing an interdisciplinary vision for jazz studies that includes engagement with postmodern and poststructural critical theories. . . . Historians of American music are likely to find Jazz among the Discourses a particularly useful volume, since it emphasizes historiographic issues and collects several important previously published works.” — , American Music

“Specialists in Jazz studies will need to contend with many of the claims made in these volumes, and social historians and scholars interested in American popular culture will certainly find valuable scholarship here. . . . Reading the volumes is rather like listening to a many-layered musical call and response between contributors.” — , Journal of American History

“The essays in Representing Jazz and Jazz among the Discourses, companion anthologies edited by Krin Gabbard, seek to dismantle constricting definitions of jazz by exposing the music—as it has been played, imagined, and conceptualized—to interpretive methods in critical theory and cultural studies.” — , Voice Literary Supplement

"A most valuable and engrossing book that will surely be read by all those who write about jazz. Fans will also seek it out. It offers a wealth of perspectives, allowing the reader to learn what people in other disciplines have to say about jazz." — Lewis Porter, author, with Michael Ullman, of Jazz: From Its Origins to the Present

"A remarkable variety of voices and perspectives, and yet the overall thrust of the collection—to establish the groundwork on which a field of jazz studies could be founded—is quite clear. Jazz Among the Discourses will have an obvious impact on musicology, simply because nothing like it has ever been attempted." — Scott DeVeaux, University of Virginia


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Krin Gabbard is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is the editor of the companion volume, Representing Jazz, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: The Jazz Canon and Its Consequences / Krin Gabbard 1

Rethinking Jazz History

"Moldy Figs" and Modernists: Jazz at War (1942–1946) / Bernard Gendron 31

Jazz in Crisis, 1948–1958: Ideology and Representation / Steven B. Elworth 57

Other: From Noun to Verb / Nathaniel Mackey 76

Historical Context and the Definition of Jazz: Putting More of the History in "Jazz History" / William Howland Kenney 100

Oral Histories of Jazz Musicians: The NEA Transcripts as Texts in Context / Burton W. Peretti 117

The Media of Memory: The Seductive Menace of Records in Jazz History / Jed Rasula 134

Jazz Artists Among the Discourses

"Out of Notes": Signification, Interpretation, and the Problem of Miles Davis / Robert Walser 165

Critical Alchemy: Anthony Braxton and the Imagined Tradition / Ronald M. Radano 189

Ephemera Underscored: Writing Around Free Improvisation / John Corbett 217

The Essential Context: Jazz and Politics

Double V, Double-Time: Bebop's Politics of Style / Eric Lott 243

Ascension: Music and the Black Arts Movement / Lorenzo Thomas 256

Contributors 275

Index 277
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1596-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1581-0
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