The Fourth Annual Interdisciplinary Jazz Studies Colloquium
University of Kansas
March 30-31, 2007
Since the late 1990s, after being marginalized and ignored by college and university jazz curricula (if not faculty), the avant-garde has apparently come to acquire a privileged place as a significant site of inquiry in academic jazz studies. Recent books and articles have explored avant-garde collectives such as the Arkestras of Sun Ra and Horace Tapscott and the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Other scholarship has focused on analyses of the political implications of improvisation and dissonance.
If the avant-garde has historically been associated with the daring, the new and that which deviates from the mainstream, what does it mean for it to become institutionalized in jazz studies? What does it mean to privilege musical culture of the 1960s and 1970s as the “avant garde” of the new Millennium?
This year’s conference will feature talks by Fred Ho and Kevin Whitehead. Ho, composer, performer, author, and activist, and founder of the Afro-Asian Ensemble (1982) will deliver the keynote address, as well as a solo baritone saxophone concert and post-concert dialogue. For Ho, musical practices are “about the present . . . and the future,” remain “highly and inescapably political” and “must be understood both sociologically and musicologically” (“What Makes ‘Jazz’ the Revolutionary Music of the 20th Century, and Will it be for the 21st Century?” African American Review, 1995).
Whitehead, jazz critic for NPR's "Fresh Air," author of 1998's "New Dutch Swing," and lecturer who teaches jazz-related courses in American Studies and English at the University of Kansas, will deliver a talk based on the viability of the avant-garde as a category. He has declared that “any label which defines an artistic movement according to its newness. . . inevitably becomes obsolete.” (“Death to ‘the Avant-Garde,’” The Voice, 1994).
For the Fourth Annual KU Interdisciplinary Jazz Studies Colloquium, we seek presentations on the theme of the avant-garde. Such papers would address a variety of themes related to the avant-garde as it is understood today as well as in its historical manifestations, including, but not limited to:
What does it mean when institutions embrace the avant garde?
What does it mean to periodize the avant garde in the 1960s? Or to use a term associated with the 1960s to new music in 2006?
Interrogations of definitions such as “avant garde,” “jazz,” “new music,” “improvisation…”
Presentations of research on major figures and ideas related to the avant-garde, including musical cooperatives and collectives
Ethnic cultures and the avant-garde
An avant-garde of the avant-garde or experimental movements within experimental movements
Avant-garde movements of various periods/comparisons of avant-garde movements from various periods
Manifestations of the avant-garde all aspects of jazz studies, including music, visual culture, literary production
Critical reception and audience consumption of the avant-garde
Marketing of the avant-garde
Dynamic between the avant-garde and the “mainstream;” avant-garde and popularity (what happens when the avant-garde sells?), avant-garde and “hipness”
Relationship between the aesthetic and the political in the avant-garde
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