Category Archives: Knowledge Exchange

UK Disability History Month, launch

The theme of the 2018 UK Disability History Month (19 November-22 December) is Music. I am delighted to have been invited to speak at the national launch, in Parliament (Portcullis House) on Monday 19 November. My topic is jazz and disability. 

There is a useful and free downloadable resource about music and disability produced by UKDHM, here. This draws quite extensively on my research on the subject over the past decade. Also, below, for further reference, is the bibliography of my forthcoming chapter, ‘Jazz and disability.’

[From the end of my short talk] At its best, we can think of jazz as a generous, inclusive form which has wanted and been able to accommodate the differently embodied or minded, because jazz was capable of flexibility and sought novelty, and because jazz was a music forged in the experience of oppression, resistance and liberation. In its concern with the individual voice of expression, its fetish of the desire for the musically unique in tone or approach, jazz was open and welcoming to those who could, as Laurie Stras has put it, ‘sing a song of difference’ (2009).

This embrace of its inner crip was there in the fundamentals of the music—its freak noises and effects, its syncopated rhythms that are alla zoppa, its out-of-control dancing body, its acceptance of alternate techniques or voices. And—this is Disability History Month, after all—the embrace of its inner crip is also there in jazz music’s history and innovation, from the very start, in the United States (Buddy Bolden) as well as in Europe (Django Reinhardt).

Davis, Miles. 1989. Miles: The Autobiography. With Quincy Troupe. London: Picador, 1990.

Gioa, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. 2ndedition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Givan, Benjamin. 2010. The Music of Django Reinhardt. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Hogan, Eileen. 2010. ‘“Earthy, sensual, devilish”: sex, ‘race’ and jazz in post-independence Ireland.’ Jazz Research Journal 4(1): 57-79.

Johnson, Russell L. 2011. ‘“Disease is unrhythmical”: jazz, health, and disability in 1920s America.’ Health and History 13(2): 13-42.

Kirk, Rahsaan Roland. 1975. ‘Freaks for the festival.’ On The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color. Atlantic Records. 12” LP.

Kirk, Roland. 1968. ‘The inflated tear’. On The Inflated Tear. Atlantic Records.  

Kun, Josh. 2005. Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Lerner, Neil, and Joseph N. Straus. 2006. ‘Introduction: theorizing disability in music’. In Neil Lerner and Joseph N. Straus, eds. Sounding Off: Theorizing Disability in Music. London: Routledge, 1-10.

Lubet, Alex. 2011. Music, Disability, and Society. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Lubet, Alex. 2013. ‘Oscar Peterson’s piano prostheses: strategies of performance and publicity in the post-stroke phase of his career.’ Jazz Research Journal 7(2): 151-182.

Marquis, Donald M. 2005. In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz. Rev. edn. First published 1978. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

McKay, George. 2013. Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music and Disability. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Pearl, Philip L. 2009. ‘Neurological problems of jazz legends.’ Journal of Child Neurology 24(8): 1037-1042.

Rowden, Terry. 2009. The Souls of Blind Folk: African American Musicians and the Cultures of Blindness. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Schweik, Susan M. 2009. The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public. New York: New York University Press.

Shipton, Alyn. 2002.  A New History of Jazz. Rev. edition. First published 2001. London: Continuum.

Stras, Laurie. 2007. ‘White face, black voice: race, gender, and region in the music of the Boswell Sisters.’ Journal of the Society for American Music 1(2): 207-255.

Stras, Laurie. 2008. ‘“Who told you that lie?” Picturing Connie Boswell.’ In Susan Shifrin, ed. Re-Framing Representations of Women: Figuring, Fashioning, Portraiting, and Telling in the ‘Picturing’ Project. Aldershot: Ashgate, 251-267.

Stras, Laurie. 2009. ‘Sing a song of difference: Connie Boswell and a discourse of disability in jazz.’ Popular Music 28(3): 297-322.

Straus, Joseph N. 2011. Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Whyton, Tony. 2010. Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths, and the Jazz Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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New research article, ‘The heritage of slavery in British jazz festivals’

This new work has just been published online in the International Journal of Heritage Studies; it will also be available soon in a special issue of the journal I am co-editing with Prof Tony Whyton, that features research on heritage and (jazz) festivals from the recently-ended EU-funded Cultural Heritage and Improvised Music Festivals in Europe (CHIME) project. 

Download a free copy of my article via this link: The heritage of slavery in British jazz festivals. And here is the abstract, that tells about the contents… I hope you find it of interest. 

This article explores site-specific heritage questions of the contemporary cultural practice of festivals of jazz – a key transatlantic music form – by bringing together three areas for discussion and development: questions of slavery heritage and legacy; the location, built environment and (touristic) offer of the historic city; and the contemporary British jazz festival, its programme and the senses or silences of (historical) situatedness in the festival package. Other artistic forms, cultural practices and festivals are involved in self-reflexive efforts to confront their own pasts; such are discussed as varying processes of the decolonisation of knowledge and culture. This provides the critical and cultural context for consideration of the jazz festival in the Georgian urban centre. Preliminary analysis of relevant jazz festivals’ programmes, commissions and concerts leads to interrogating the relationship – of silence, of place – between jazz in Britain, historic or heritage locations and venues, and the degree or lack of understanding of the transatlantic slave trade. The heritage centres clearly associated with the slave trade that also have significant (jazz) festivals referred to include Bristol, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, and Manchester.

signage to other jazz festivals, at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Montpellier Gardens (note elegant Georgian townhouses, right background)

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