UCLA » College » Social Sciences » Anthropology
March 7, 2018
12:00pm to 1:45pm
Haines 352 Reading Room
Spencer Chen

In this article I engage with three magazine articles that in 2014 declared jazz to be an art form that had run its course. The articles are by no means identical in their contents or stance. The first, by someone who later declared that he likes jazz, is satirical. The second, by someone who admits that he does not understand jazz, is dead serious. The third, by a musician and educator, is culturally more informed but critical about the lack of political engagement by contemporary jazz musicians. My delayed and, by definition, “academic” comments, are meant to highlight the problematic assumptions and expectations that seem to motivate and explain some aspects of the criticism.  In particular, I am here supporting the view of jazz as a hybrid genre born in and sustained by African American communities. This implies that the appreciation of jazz does not come “natural,” but requires a process of acculturation and socialization into its own particular aesthetics. Finally, I question the expectation made explicit by the author of the third essay reviewed here that jazz players today are required to define themselves as political or countercultural in order to continue to be appreciated in both the art world and society at large. 

Discourse Lab provides opportunities for faculty and students to share their ongoing research, to present original work-in-progress, such as conference papers, thesis or dissertation work, and to get commentary. 

The Lab also provides a professionalization series for all graduate students—from proposal writing, to fieldwork method discussion to the last years of writing the dissertation and applying for jobs.