Corey Mwamba


Documenting Jazz: Everyone's Music

Conservatory of Music and Drama, Rathmines Road Lower, Dublin Dublin 6, IE

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For the second talk I'm working with GIO family! Associate Professor Guro Gravem Johansen (Norwegian Academy of Music) and I will be exploring ideas surrounding democracy in jazz+.

Everyone's Music? Documentations of the Democratic Ideal in Jazz and Improvised Music

Narratives in jazz and improvised music (jazz+) often construct various practices as democratic and collaborative by nature. The democratic ideal in jazz+ simultaneously points to individual freedom to express a personal voice, and how this freedom must be balanced against collective socio-musical negotiations. Similar narratives can be found in historically oriented jazz research; in psychological studies of improvisation processes; as well as in research on improvisation in music education or music therapy. Within these fields, there are perceived inherent benefits of improvising such as individual agency and social inclusion.

However, may idealizing notions of improvisation serve a socially exclusive function, by overlooking or suppressing voices of diverse experiences? The purpose of this paper is to contribute to a discussion about such idealizations, and more specifically to investigate notions of freedom, power, democracy, inclusion, and exclusion within current practices of jazz+. Using accounts of experiences of Eddie Prevost (Prevost 2002), Mary Lou Williams, Cecil Taylor (Porter 2000), Paul Dutton (Tonelli 2016) and Sidsel Endresen (Berge 2009) as examples, our presentation explores how a quest for a democratic “flat structure” can reveal tensions between musicians, promoters, and audiences: tensions which paradoxically could engender situations of alienation, exclusivity, and confrontation.