Research Seminar: 'Rhythm Changes: place and the ‘cold commodities’ of European jazz'

Wednesday 21 November 2012, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Tony Whyton (Director of the Salford Music Research Centre at the University of Salford)

‘When we listen to a jazz performance at a club like the Village Vanguard, we hear the music through the lens of history, or the space provides a kind of accompanying soundtrack to the sound itself.  Or, perhaps more accurately, we hear the club in the music, given that we can never really separate our stories of the music from its seemingly pure sonic form.’ (Ronald Radano, Lying Up a Nation, p.xii)

This seminar explores the role of narrative and place in the representation of European jazz.  Using interview data and research findings from the HERA-funded Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities project, I examine how mythologies fuel the presentation of jazz within national settings and how the narrativisation of music impacts on everyday life, from the programming decisions of summer jazz festivals to the export policies of national jazz agencies.

Focusing on the Norwegian jazz scene and the output of the ECM label in particular, I examine the way in which jazz can support social transformations and reflect the ideals of different communities of interest.   I illustrate how popular music forms part of a complex cultural ecology, where jazz myths play a significant part in the cultivation of ideas linked to civic pride, national scenes and the transformation of place.

Professor Tony Whyton is Director of the Salford Music Research Centre at the University of Salford.  His research deals specifically with music and its place within the creative industries, from the packaging of popular music to the iconic representations of jazz artists.  Whyton’s first book, Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010 and his edited collection, Jazz, was published as part of the 8-volume Library of Essays on Popular Music (Ashgate, 2011).  His most recent book, Beyond A Love Supreme (Oxford University Press, [in press]), is a cross disciplinary study of the musical and cultural influence of John Coltrane’s seminal album.   In addition to his single-authored book projects, Whyton has contributed chapters to several recent publications including Eurojazzland (Northeastern University Press, 2011), the first authoritative collection of writings on European jazz, and Popular Music Fandom (Routledge, [in press]) edited by Mark Duffett.  He also co-edits the Jazz Research Journal (Equinox). In 2010, Whyton was awarded c.€1 million from the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) to lead a three year trans-national research project involving 13 researchers in five European countries.  Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities ( is a world-leading research initiative, the first and largest of its kind for jazz in Europe.

Location: I/D003