Tag Archives: academic research

New chapter on Winnie Atwell

BBJ cover imageI’m very pleased to be part of a new book, Black British Jazz: Routes, Ownership and Performance, edited by Jason Toynbee, Catherine Tackley and Mark Doffman, in which I go back to look again at the 1950s pianist, chart-topper, and television presenter, Winifred Atwell. My chapter is called ‘Winifred Atwell and her “other piano”: 16 hit singles and “a blanket of silence”, sounding the limits of jazz’. You can find information about all the chapters for the entire collection at the Black British Jazz contents page, while below is the book’s blurb:

Black British musicians have been making jazz since around 1920 when the genre first arrived in Britain. This groundbreaking book reveals their hidden history and major contribution to the development of jazz in the UK. More than this, though, the chapters show the importance of black British jazz in terms of musical hybridity and the cultural significance of race. Decades before Steel Pulse, Soul II Soul, or Dizzee Rascal pushed their way into the mainstream, black British musicians were playing jazz in venues up and down the country from dance halls to tiny clubs. In an important sense, then, black British jazz demonstrates the crucial importance of musical migration in the musical history of the nation, and the links between popular and avant-garde forms. But the volume also provides a case study in how music of the African diaspora reverberates around the world, beyond the shores of the USA—the engine-house of global black music. As such it will engage scholars of music and cultural studies not only in Britain, but across the world.

And here is a link to the Google Book version of the collection:

[Extract from introduction to my chapter] … From Tunapuna, Trinidad, Winifred Atwell (c. 1914-1983) was a classically trained ragtime and boogie-woogie style pianist who gained quite remarkable popularity in Britain, and later also Australia, in the 1950s, in live and recorded music, as well as in the developing television industry. In this chapter I outline her extraordinary international musical biography as a chart-topping pop and television star—innovative achievements for a black migrant female musician which are arguably thrown into more dramatic light by virtue of the fact that Atwell has been Wiinifred Atwell and her 'other piano' with rhythm accompaniment (no. 1, 1954)and remains a neglected figure in media and popular music (let alone jazz) history. I pay particular attention to her performative tactics and repertoire, developing material I introduced first in Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain. But our interest in Atwell should stem not only from her position as a significant figure neglected by history, for she speaks also to definitional issues of jazz. The chapter progresses into a discussion of the extent to which Atwell is a limit case of jazz in the developing pop world of the 1950s on….

Atwell topped the British singles charts twice, with 14 other top-30 singles during the 1950s, and she was also the first black million-selling singles artist in British pop history. Most of these achievements were the result of her playing jazz-derived instrumental music (solo or with a trio or quartet: piano-guitar-bass-drums). (Here you can read an interview I did with her drummer from the period, Colin Bailey.) Hers was a striking early example of a multiplatform media and music success: prestigious live performances and international tours, hit records, pop-jazz and classical repertoires, radio broadcasts, sheet music and piano instruction book sales, television presenter fronting her own series (on both main British channels and in Australia), and film appearances on screen and in the soundtrack….

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AHRC Carnivalising the Creative Economy project

Well not quite a project perhaps, but funding for an event and to make a short film. I have been awarded a small grant (£7270) to support a contribution to what sounds like a terrific day at the cool spaces of King’s Place, London, on March 12. This is the AHRC’s Creative Economy Showcase, where research projects that collaborate with the creative sectors, in processes of knowledge exchange, are being showcased.

London Jazz Festival logoThe event I’m leading has a panel discussion of academics and leading jazz festival organisers, the academics having been funded by AHRC for their jazz and festivals-related research, and the organisers coming from festivals that value including academic content.

We are also producing a short film, by filmmaker Gemma Thorpe, featuring interviews with both sets of people.

Our academics:

  • Prof Martin Cloonan, Culture & Creative Arts, University of Glasgow, PI/Co-I live music and jazz festivals projects
  • Prof Tony Whyton, Music, University of Salford, PI Rhythm Changes project
  • Alison Eales, University of Glasgow, CDA PhD candidate.

Our festival partners:

Our filmmaker:

  • Gemma Thorpe (made the wonderful film of Cumbrian hill-farmers, A Break in the Clouds, for Connected Communities archaeology/heritage project in 2013).

Glasgow JF logoWe draw on five research projects across music festivals funded directly or indirectly (HERA) by AHRC, and all of which have a central impetus around knowledge exchange / co-production:

  1. Developing Knowledge Exchange in the Live Music Sector project (2012-13)
  2. AHRC Connected Communities Leadership Fellowship (2012-15)
  3. 25 Years of the Glasgow International Jazz Festival: Urban Regeneration, Regional Identity, and Programming Policy CDA (2011-14)
  4. HERA Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities project (2010-13)
  5. The Promotion of Live Music in the UK: a Historical, Cultural and Institutional Analysis project (2008-11).

These projects represent a significant investment by AHRC in at least five current or recent jazz and related music festival-centred research projects, including one of the world’s the leading jazz festivals (according to The Guardian), London. Also included in the events is an AHRC strategic partner (Cheltenham Festivals). They are high-profile organisations. The festivals featured have very different organisational structures and yet each has an established track record of working with universities on KE projects.

Cheltenham JF 2014 announcementKey aims are to explore these issues and to produce the following:

  • International perspectives to KE: working with European festival agencies and the benefits of networking and collaborating with pan-European networks, HERA leading A&H KE practices across EU.
  • Co-production: how useful are academics to festivals, and festivals to academics? What knowledges can they bring for each other? Evaluation (including Qualia), intellectual content for festivals, creative links with music departments, public engagement …
  • Articulating policy / regeneration / urban dialogue between researchers and leading festival organisers.
  • Working with an (AHRC-)experienced filmmaker to produce and show a short film about festivals / HEI collaborations, to be also made available on festivals’, HEIs’ and filmmaker’s websites.
  • Creative KE: where’s the (jazz) music here? How might or do musicians / composers engage in this (new) dialogue?

AHRC-logo-croppedWho will it be of interest to?

Festival and events managers, policy makers, regional and national arts administrators, media organisations, academics and evaluators, music and arts journalists, musicians, the festival-going public.

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Short film of reading from Shakin’ All Over

In this ten-minute video, I read from the final section of my new book, Shakin’ all Over: Popular Music and Disability.  It’s a brief conclusion, of sorts, section entitled ‘Shaking’s all over’.

SAO box of books… Well, I have volunteered myself to disability studies to contribute to this important task, from my existing research field in cultural and popular music studies. The fresh dialogue here and elsewhere between disability studies and popular music can only enrich both.

In A History of Disability, Henri-Jacques Stiker writes in passing of the idea of ‘social contagion’, that the love of difference (let us not even stretch love, but talk more modestly of simply the tolerance by the currently non-disabled of those with disabilities) could be socially contagious. What about cultural contagion? Stiker continues: ‘there is only one recourse beyond the ethical imperative, and that is to make it part of our culture’. Sheila Riddell and Nick Watson put it more straightforwardly: ‘[t]he struggle for social justice, then, involves a quest for cultural recognition as well as economic redistribution’.

One of the aims of Shakin’ All Over has been to map the sonic history and tracks of that quest for cultural recognition, to discover that cultural expressions and explorations of disability have been the already heard of pop since its foundations were both established and shaken on day and night one, whenever they were….

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Rhythm Changes 3: Jazz Beyond Borders conference, Amsterdam, September 2014, call for papers

Amsterdam ConservatoryCall for papers

The Third International Rhythm Changes Conference, hosted by the Conservatory of Amsterdam. The event is delivered in partnership with the University of Amsterdam, University of Salford, Birmingham City University, Open University, and Amsterdam World Jazz City 2014.

Keynote speakers

Steven Feld (musician, filmmaker and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music at the University of New Mexico)

John Gennari (Associate Professor of English and Director, ALANA U.S. Ethnic Studies Program, University of Vermont)

Conference outline

Jazz Beyond Borders (and: Beyond the Borders of Jazz) seeks to critically explore how borders – real and imagined – have shaped, and continue to shape, debates about jazz. Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities (www.rhythmchanges.net) sought to question traditional ways of understanding and articulating jazz history and the concept of moving beyond borders – whether geographical or aesthetic – has played a key role in the project’s research strategy. Borders can be multifaceted and fluid, from geographical boundaries, to disciplinary fields, there can be theoretical or institutional borders, which permeate discourses relating to the cultural, social, political, national and ethnic as well as artistic, performative, canonical, aesthetic, stylistic and genre-related understandings of jazz. Because of the music’s inherent hybridity, jazz provides an excellent lens through which such borders, and border-policing processes, can be questioned and analysed. The music is ideally placed to think about the dividing lines between, for instance, academia and journalism, popular and art music, ‘new jazz studies’ and ‘traditional musicology’, the sonic and the visual, and so forth.

RC 2014 conference_logoJazz Beyond Borders is a three day multi-disciplinary conference that brings together leading researchers across the arts and humanities and is the largest event of its kind world-wide. Based on our previous conferences (Amsterdam 2011 and Salford 2013), we expect well over 100 participants. The Conference committee invites papers and panel proposals that feed into the Conference theme and is interested in featuring perspectives from a range of international contexts. Although not restricted to specific themes, possible topics could include:

  • Exploring borders: framing, understanding and policing borders; transnational, transcultural, postcolonial, and global perspectives; jazz and its musical others; jazz beyond jazz (jazz as lifestyle from cooking to comedy); genre politics; “frontier” myths; reconfiguring gender, race, ethnicity, disability
  • Challenging binaries: questioning perceived antonyms such as Afrological/Eurological, composition/improvisation, professionals/amateurs, musicians/audiences, theory/practice
  • Jazz historiographies: exploring origins, mythologies, cultural memory, and the different constructions of jazz history
  • (Re-)Mediating jazz: evaluating jazz in film, advertising, literature, art, journalism, criticism
  • Jazz futures: questioning disciplinary boundaries; new directions for jazz research; changing status jazz studies within musicology

The Conference Committee welcomes individual papers and proposals for panels and round table discussions. For individual papers, abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted. Panels and round table proposals should include a session overview, participant biographies and description of individual contributions. Abstracts and proposals (as well as event queries) should be sent to Professor Walter van de Leur (W.vandeLeur@ahk.nl) by 1 March 2014.

Conference Committee

Walter van de Leur (Chair, Conservatory of Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam), Nicholas Gebhardt (Birmingham City University), George McKay (University of Salford), Loes Rusch (University of Amsterdam), Catherine Tackley (Open University), Tony Whyton (University of Salford)

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