Space and Place in Jazz

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Book Chapter

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Over the past twenty years, the study of space and place has become a core part of the humanistic disciplines. Scholars studying art through analytical lens of space and place have generated large bibliographies in diverse fields: art history, English, anthropology, cultural studies, and history. Musicologists and ethnomusicologists, including jazz scholars, have only recently begun incorporating these ideas into their work. Given the centrality of cities to the emergence of jazz, the music’s rapid assimilation across the globe, and its current-day cosmopolitanism, it is surprising that there has been so little writing about the ways jazz represents, defines, and challenges the spaces and places of modern life. After defining terms and briefly surveying the key theoretical works, I will briefly survey how theories of space and place have generated new work in musicology and ethnomusicology. Jazz studies has largely avoided a direct engagement with this theoretical literature, and when it has, scholars have frequently fallen back on essentialist notions of place and deterministic models of its influence on music. Place and space are processes, not things; they are always becoming. Their relationship to social life is complicated—a process of mutual constitution. Music too is process-—a dynamic activity and art form created and experienced over time and in these dynamic spaces and places. The real challenge for scholars remains how to connect these two phenomena in ways faithful to the fluidity and complexity of their changing interactions.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Space and Place in Jazz, in N. Gebhardt, N. Rustin-Paschal & T. Whyton (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies, Routledge, chapter 15

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