The history of the jazz festival in Europe goes back to the early post-war years, when one visionary city organised a set of concerts over a few days in seafront venues round the resort. These featured both national musicians as well as a sprinkling of US headliners, including the transatlantic star Louis Armstrong. We can think of it as a gesture of cultural futurity, with the aim of sounding a better international situation after the war years. They called it the ‘festival international du jazz’, the year was 1948, and it happened in—Nice, France. Thus the European ‘jazz festival’ was born, in Nice.
In England the earliest jazz festival would be Beaulieu Jazz Festival (1956-61), while perhaps the most famous European event, Montreux Jazz Festival, was founded later still, in 1967. (A book marking 50 years of Montreux is published this year.) But it was Nice Jazz Festival, in the late 1940s, that set the template.
Within a few years Nice would do something else marvellous for jazz, for jazz’s heritage and sense of place and relation to the past: Nice located its festival of jazz, that clashing music of modernity, in the Roman amphitheatre to the north of the city. Go there today and you can see busts of famous jazz musicians who played there in the park next to the amphitheatre, a neat public recognition of that jazz moment in that great city by the Mediterranean.
This year’s festival was due to start today, hundreds of musicians and thousands of festival-goers coming to Nice, under the sun and stars, by the sea, for a celebration of a music which, at its very best, is an outernational music of dialogue and listening where we might just for a second glimpse or hear another, better world. I know that sounds like a jazz utopia but, you know, we had a conference recently on the very theme of #jazzutopia, so it’s in the air.
But the 2016 Nice Jazz Festival was cancelled yesterday, as a result of the terrible atrocity on the Promenade des Anglais on Thursday night. Nice est en deuil. We should listen to the silence of the jazz not happening there this weekend. From another festival city, Edinburgh, where a group of scholars and musicians is meeting this weekend during the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival at a conference marking ‘50 years of European jazz’, we send wishes of sympathy and solidarity, anger and love, and the desire for peace and a different sort of future that jazz can sometimes still sound, and that a festival can still capture. Vive Nice Jazz Festival.
Chime is teaming up with Wonderfeel, a three-day outdoor festival in the Netherlands that brings classical music on the estate of ‘Schaep en Burgh’ in ’s-Graveland.
The program includes over 250 musicians, 100 concerts and music documentaries, lectures, children’s activities and food trucks. On the 25 hectares of the estate, you will find six Wonderfeel stages, a mini stroll away from each other. The repertoire ranges from Mozart to Steve Reich, from Rameau to Pärt with hints towards jazz, world and pop music.Wonderfeel closely cooperates with Natuurmonumenten (Society for preservation of nature monuments in the Netherlands). As part of the Flessenpost (‘message in a bottle’)lecture series, Chimer Nick Gebhardt will read his message called ‘Playing for free (or almost for free)’.
Wonderfeel will take place on the 22, 23 and 24th of July on the estate of ‘Schaep en Burgh’ in ’s-Graveland (near Hilversum).
I’ve just returned from a field trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. True, New Orleans is not in Europe, but other than that the event ticks all the boxes of our CHIME acronym: Cultural Heritage, Improvised Music, and Festivals. Spread out over two extended weekends, Jazz Fest, as the event is commonly referred to, is fully focused on celebrating New Orleans’ and Louisiana’s cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Of course, the most obvious local music heritages are jazz and NOLA brass band culture, and despite the usual complaints that the acts on the main stages are not jazz but something else (Pearl Jam, Steely Dan, Red Hot Chili Peppers), there are many concerts on the smaller stages that are dedicated to musics that live up to the festival’s epithet, including jazz, brass band, zydeco, cajun, blues and gospel.
The main stages trumpet the names of the main sponsors (Acura Stage), yet other stages carry more descriptive names (Blues Tent, Gospel Tent), while yet others emphasize the connection with local traditions: Jazz and Heritage Stage, Congo Square Stage, Lagniappe Stage (the local term “lagniappe” refers to a gift or an extra), and Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage (a “fais do-do” is a Cajun dance party). The festival also exhibits folk crafts, arts and traditions in its Louisiana Folklife and Native American Villages. It celebrates local cuisines, too, for instance at the Grandstand, which “gives Festgoers a chance to take an intimate look at the vibrant culture, cuisine and art of Louisiana.” In addition, the festival has become a tradition itself, and many Festgoers have become regulars, who have developed their own traditions and rituals on the festival grounds.
Helen Regis and Shana Walton discuss in “Producing the folk at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival” the many tensions that center around questions of ownership, agency, race and authenticity. In Roll with it: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans Matt Sakakeeny points up similar tensions, specific to the brass bands that perform at Jazz Fest.
Of special interest to me was the second-lining that takes place at Jazz Fest. Second-line culture in New Orleans centers around the many active brass bands in the city and the so-called Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs (SA & PCs), societies founded as black self help organizations. SA & PCs parade in their annual processions and at funerals. In a parade, the first line consists of the club members and the brass band. The bystanders who join in after the first-liners form the second line. Regis (2001, 13) points out that the term second line is ambiguous, as it refers to “multiple dimensions of the same phenomenological reality. It refers to the dance steps, which are performed by club members and their followers during parades. … [but] the term second line often is used to refer to the overall parade, including club, band and followers.”
SA & PCs parade at the festival grounds as part of the programming, but the local brass bands can mostly be heard at the Jazz & Heritage Stage and the Economy Hall Tent. Here too, second-line culture is put on display, but with the brass band on stage rather than leading the parade. As soon as the band hits an up-tempo song, the regulars at the Fest spring to their feet, open their umbrella’s–often self adorned–and start parading the tent, moving to the music. There is little here that resembles an authentic second-line parade in one of the city’s communities, yet it is as close as many of the Festgoers will ever get to this vibrant culture. Interestingly, these tent parades have become a festival tradition in themselves, and it is clear that to the participants the practice is an authentic expression. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival celebrates local traditions, but has become a locus of newly created and invented traditions itself.
Festgoers second-line in the Economy Hall Tent to the music of the Paulin Brothers Brass Band
Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, eds. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge University Press.
Jones, David M., (director). 1995. New Orleans Jazz Funerals from the Inside. Documentary film. DMJ Productions, DMJ1018.
Regis, Helen A. 1999. “Second Lines, Minstrelsy, and the Contested Landscapes of New Orleans Afro-Creole Festivals.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Nov.): 472–504.
Regis, Helen A. 2001. “Blackness and the Politics of Memory in the New Orleans Second Line.” American Ethnologist, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Nov.): 752–777.
This new report about the impact of British music festivals, launched at CHIME partner Cheltenham Jazz Festival in April 2016, is now available online. We hope festival researchers and organisers will find it of use and interest. This is what some people are saying about it already:
“This report is an irrefutable qualification of the value and impact of our sector and an amazing resource for anyone involved in the organisation of a music festival.” Steve Mead, Artistic Director, Manchester Jazz Festival
“Within festivals we need and value the criticality of academic research. A report like this helps us shape, make sense, rethink what we are doing.” John Cumming OBE, Director, EFG London Jazz Festival
“This report is excellent—a pleasure to read, and I will be recommending it to my students and colleagues.” Professor Stephanie Pitts, Head of the Department of Music, University of Sheffield
The report was produced as part of The Impact of Festivals, a 12-month project funded under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities Programme, working with research partner organisation the EFG London Jazz Festival. Professor George McKay is the Principal Investigator for the project, as well as AHRC Leadership Fellow for Connected Communities at the University of East Anglia. Dr Emma Webster is the Research Associate for the project, and co-founder and director of Live Music Exchange.
The findings are drawn from an extensive literature review of existing work in the field, from academic research to ‘grey’ policy literature, economic impact assessments to festival and industry publications. Not only that, but there is a 170-entry annotated bibliography of these outputs accessible here. We think that, taken together, the report and the annotated bibliography will be an important reference point for industry and academia alike in the future.
The report is is freely accessible here. If you would like a paper copy please contact Rachel Daniel, firstname.lastname@example.org. Do let us know what you think of it!
A report from Merja Liimatainen, University of Gothenburg
According to the members of the Classic Jazz society, Gothenburg is the New Orleans of the Nordic countries. When jazz music became known over large parts of the world in the 1920s and 1930s, it also found its way to Sweden. Jazz music probably came to Gothenburg via Svenska Amerikalinjen, the New York-Gothenburg shipping line. Gothenburg was thereby jazz music’s first port of call in Sweden.
“One important contributing factor was that we had the “America ships” here in Gothenburg and Swedish musicians took jobs on these boats purely so as to be able to get across to New York and go and listen to famous jazz musicians, buy records and bring them back to Sweden. Likewise, many of the jazz bands from the USA came over on the ships to Sweden and often played in Gothenburg when the ships were berthed in the port.” (Tom, Classic Jazz society)
Around 1920, there were several foreign bands in Gothenburg and probably local bands as well that played at underground clubs, restaurants and cafés. At that time, jazz was associated with modernity, sophistication and decadence. This part of the city’s jazz history has been very sparsely documented. The main focus has been on the 1940s and 1950s which was the heyday period of traditional jazz music in Sweden. By then, musical influences were coming from England, not New York. The Swedish term tradjazz comes from the English term traditional jazz. Referring to Dixieland, Tom explains that many influences have been exchanged between Gothenburg and London and there were strong links between jazz scenes.
“That is perhaps why the music that is called traditional or classical jazz has been somewhat more firmly anchored here in Gothenburg than in Stockholm and many musicians here play in the same way as this kind of jazz was played in England.” (Tom, Classic Jazz)
The 1940s: the wave of traditional jazz
The 1940s saw the start of the era that Ingemar, another of Classic Jazz’s mainstays, calls the revival period. The young musicians of that time went back to the roots of jazz music in order to rediscover the original and genuine style of jazz and revive the music that black musicians played in New Orleans in the early 20th century. It was during the revival period that modern jazz, bebop, came to Gothenburg. This was also a reaction against “commercial” swing music. Ingemar explains that bebop changed jazz from dance-friendly popular music to innovative art, the music of musicians, that is to say, music to be listened to which was regarded even then as being of a better and finer class than the old, traditional jazz. Both camps believed they were “tremendously hip” in the early 1950s. At the same time, people were not so obsessed with different styles initially. There were several jazz competitions where the same musicians could perform in both the modern and Dixie categories.
Today, there are no active bands from the 1940s anymore. My informants and many of the Classic Jazz society’s active musicians and members were born in that decade. They were not active on Gothenburg’s jazz scene until they were teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s.
The 1950s: the golden era of school band jazz
“This is for those of you who remember the school dances of the 50s and 60s” proclaimed one of the members of Peoria Jazzband from the stage at a jazz evening on S/S Marieholm, organised by the Classic Jazz Göteborg society. In the 1950s, most musicians and traditional jazz bands got to know each other at upper secondary school and they started out by playing at school dances. Later, new constellations could arise via meetings and jam sessions at jazz clubs.
It was almost exclusively young men who played in these bands. Most of the traditional jazz musicians were self-taught and after upper secondary school and then studies at university/college, some of them continued to play in their spare time alongside their professional careers. For most of them, music-making has never been a job; it’s been a hobby that has been pursued together with the people they socialised with. Several of the people who started playing in school bands at the end of the 50s and in the early 60s are now members of the Classic Jazz Göteborg society.
In 1950, Gothenburg’s most talked about and famous traditional/ revival jazz band, Landala Original Red Hot Stompers, was started up (1950-1969). The band is described as being a collective of art students and Valand pupils who played New Orleans/revival jazz and lived together in Kåken, a large, dilapidated house in an old part of Gothenburg. The house became a meeting place for art students, artists, writers, actors and bohemians in Gothenburg. It no longer exists today, nor are there any recordings of Landala Original Red Hot Stompers. The band played for the last time at the end of the 1960s, at a time when pop and rock music had begun to take over more and more of the music scene and had become the new popular music in Gothenburg. Jazz began to be increasingly seen as being highbrow culture and art music. Very few traditional jazz bands survived but Peoria (1960) and Tant Bertas Jasskapell (1963), founded in the early 1960s, are two of the oldest traditional jazz bands in Gothenburg that are still active today.
1970s and 1980s: a new chapter
In the 1970s, school band musicians from the 50s and 60s had grown up and many of them had left the jazz scene or gone over to other forms of music. In 1977, the Tradjazz Göteborg society was founded; it later changed its name to Classic Jazz Göteborg. The Jazzhuset club organised many activities including jazz evenings several times a week. In 1988, the owner of Jazzklubben, Ulf Albrektsson, organised the first jazz festival in Gothenburg, Tradjazzfestivalen i Göteborg, which was the predecessor of today’s Göteborg Classic Jazz festival. In the 1990s, Jazzhuset was struck by the recession, the changing tastes of the general public and declining audiences which led to 1960s rock music coming back and taking over the scene. By the end of the 1990s, there was no longer any jazz at all in Jazzhuset. Since the 1990s, traditional jazz has been called “rocking chair jazz” and is viewed as “no longer being culture” in the media and by reviewers. Nevertheless, every year Classic Jazz organises a handful of activities that are linked to classical/traditional jazz in Gothenburg: jazz evenings on S/S Marieholm, jazz cruises to Denmark, summer jazz in the city’s parks and church concerts. Little attention is paid to these activities by the “official” Gothenburg and the city’s cultural elite. There is also a new generation of young musicians and bands, such as The Gentlemen & Gangsters. This band plays traditional New Orleans hot jazz with a touch of swing. Playing mainly for the lindy hop community, they perform all over Europe on a regular basis.
An interesting closing comment is that up to now, the jazz history of the city has been written almost exclusively by men and about men, but women have always been present as dancing partners, listeners, mothers, wives, girlfriends and daughters with their own memories. From the perspective of cultural history, people who have been on the side-lines of the traditional jazz scene should also be given their fair share of space in the history of jazz.
Translated by Helene Brembeck
Wågerman, Ingemar (2010) Down by the Riverside: den traditionella jazzen i Göteborg med omnejd. Hönö: Ingemar Wågerman
On Friday, George McKay hosted a day-long symposium on ‘Researching (Jazz) Festivals’ that included talks from leading scholars in festivals research and jazz festival directors from Cheltenham, London and Manchester festivals. Italian scholar and archivist Francesco Martinelli and CHIME’s Tony Whyton delivered keynote presentations on European jazz research and the day concluded with the launch of Emma Webster and George McKay’s ‘The Impact of Festivals’, an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded literature review that charts and critically examines existing writings on the impact of British festivals.
In addition to the symposium, Nick Gebhardt has been working with a team of media researchers from Birmingham City University to develop a digital heritage tool called J-Hive. J-Hive is being piloted in Cheltenham for the first time and runs from 28-30th April. The project aims to document the experiences of different audiences at the Festival.
In putting the project together, a mobile application has been designed to allow different audiences (concert goers, musicians, promoters etc.) to send text and images to a web page where they regularly respond to, and reflect on, the music, the festival atmosphere, and the people they meet.
Through the interface, participants can follow their own posts as well as those of others participating in the project. Ultimately, J-Hive will create a collection of different festival encounters and memories that will offer insights into the festival experience, how festivals are navigated and understood, and the relationship of music to the places and spaces of the town.
[Blog by Dr Emma Webster, University of East Anglia, postdoctoral researcher on AHRC-funded The Impact of Festivals project, where this was first posted]
I have just returned from the Rhythm Changes ‘Jazz Utopia’ conference in Birmingham (14-17 April 2016). The majority of the one hundred plus speakers really engaged with the theme of the conference and grappled with jazz’s potential for exploring and achieving utopia from a wide variety of perspectives: historical, musicological, sociological and interdisciplinary.
My paper gave a brief overview of a literature review currently in review with Jazz Research Journal about the impact of jazz festivals; based on the final part of my paper, this blog post will consider briefly the ways in which jazz festivals have been or could be considered to be utopian.
To begin, how jazz festivals have been considered in utopian terms in the literature. In his introduction to a collection of essays on pop festivals, for example, George McKay writes that festival, at its most utopian, can be ‘a pragmatic and fantastic space in which to dream and to try another world into being’ (2015: 5). As another example, in a paper on the Montreal Jazz Festival, Michael Darroch describes a ‘utopian inner city music village’ into which the festival organisers have imported various forms of music to the city, as well as tropes from New Orleans such as trad jazz and second line parades (2003: 133).
Helen Regis and Shana Walton, in work on the New Orleans Jazz Festival, argue that the festival ‘was and is a utopian project’ whilst recognising that, in its practical realities, its utopian aspirations are somewhat problematic. They argue that whilst the jazz festival seeks to transform existing social structures, particularly around race and gender, instead it reinforces them. In addition, whilst making large amounts of money for the organisers, the festival does not necessarily enhance either the economic or social prospects of those who provide the music and entertainment (2008: 428). Instead, as the authors say,
Rather than helping New Orleans avoid poverty and inequality, the city’s role as playground to the world continuously reproduces unequal social structure. Even as it offers opportunities for a national audience to experience our culture, the festive state of the city has muted the voices of those who try to focus attention on urban issues (2008: 432).
As Regis and Walton suggest, the New Orleans Jazz Festival maintains its power because of the fact that its many festival-goers return year after year in search of moments of transcendence; indeed, in a separate paper, Walton reveals how for some participants, the festival has had such an impact that they have even upped sticks and moved across the country to be closer to it (2012).
The anticipation of the festival throughout the year means that festivals exist as both a real and an imagined – idealised – event. The ways in which audiences perceive such ‘ideal’ jazz events is highlighted in the work of Karen Burland and Stephanie Pitts on jazz festivals and jazz clubs, in which they conclude that audiences have in mind an ‘ideal’ jazz gig which they aim to replicate when deciding where and when they would decide to go; such ideals relate to instrumentation, the atmosphere and venue, the performers and the other audience members (2012: 537). Work by Gail Brand et al into the performer–audience relationship at a jazz club highlights the importance of the venue to how much audiences enjoy the gig, who in general tend to prefer smaller, more intimate venues, although interestingly their research also highlights that this is not necessarily what is wanted by the musicians who don’t necessarily want such intimacy with the audience (2012: 643).
Finally, Anne Dvinge uses Christopher Small’s concept of ‘musicking’ to show how the Detroit Jazz Festival transforms Detroit once a year via the interactions of the musicians and the people, which reflect the ideas of ‘ought-to-be-relationships in the world’ for its participants (2015: 195) and becomes a time in which ‘joy takes root annually’ in the city (ibid.: 185). Borrowing from Small’s ‘musicking’, then, it could be said that ‘festivalling’ becomes a particular type of activity or process in a particular type of space in which festival-goers’ ideal forms of society are imagined and explored.
When considering whether jazz festivals are or can be utopian, then, the larger question is whether we mean the festival itself or the wider society in which the festival exists. Jazz festivals, by their very nature, are transient, albeit often cyclical, therefore any utopia they offer is rather fleeting. Jazz festivals, can perhaps be utopian for jazz fans in the sense of providing an actual and imagined ideal place dedicated to the enjoyment of jazz; as acts of ‘musicking’ they form part of the pilgrimages and rituals of jazz.
A perfect festival is certainly easier to achieve than a perfect society, perhaps, although whether the social structure, rules and politics of a jazz festival or gig can ever be ‘perfect’ is debatable, especially the larger the event becomes and, perhaps, the more diverse the audience and the more broad the understanding of an ‘ideal’ gig. As the New Orleans Jazz Festival example I gave earlier shows, even a festival with utopian ideals can end up inadvertently recreating the inequalities of the society in which it exists, particularly around issues of race and gender. In this way, perhaps without a perfect society to start with, there can be no perfect festival.
To conclude, then, a jazz festival is most likely not a site of utopia for wider social transformation, or even for a perfect jazz experience, but it has a number of significant impacts which mean that, for a short time, for some, ‘festivalling’ may be a glimpse of a jazz utopia.
Brand, Gail, John Sloboda, Ben Saul, and Martin Hathaway. 2012. ‘The reciprocal relationship between jazz musicians and audiences in live performances’. Psychology of Music 40/5: 634-651
Burland, Karen and Stephanie E. Pitts. 2010. ‘Understanding jazz audiences: listening and learning at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival’. Journal of New Music Research 39/2: 125-134
Darroch, Michael. 2003. ‘New Orleans in Montréal: the cradle of jazz in the city of festivals’. Géocarrefour 78/2: 129-137.
Dvinge, Anne. 2015. ‘Musicking in motor city: Reconfiguring urban space at the Detroit Jazz Festival’. In The Pop Festival, ed George McKay. London: Bloomsbury: 183-197.
McKay, George. 2015. ‘Introduction’. In The Pop Festival, ed George McKay. London: Bloomsbury: 1-12.
Regis, Helen A. and Shana Walton. 2008. ‘Producing the folk at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’. Journal of American Folklore 121/ 482: 400-440.
Small, Christopher. 1998. Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.
Walton, Shana. 2012. ‘“I only go to church once a year”: transformation and transcendence in jazz fest narratives’. Southern Journal of Linguistics 36/1: 104-126.
I’m currently in Bremen for Jazzahead!, the Trade Fair and Showcase Festival, which, over the last 11 years, has grown to become the largest international gathering of jazz organisations, promoters and artists. When I last attended the event in 2011, the trade fair was punctuated by a handful of daytime performances and an evening concert programme that showcased jazz of a particular country.
This year, the partner countries remain (the opening night was Swiss jazz night) and take centre stage, however, the showcases have been expanded and the event has been ‘festivalised’ (to coin George McKay’s term) to the extent where jazz occupies venues across the city for four intensive days, with other events programmed in the weeks leading up to the event. Whilst festival events staged within the convention centre and surrounding hotels could be described as placeless in nature – as an audience member you could be in any world city – the adjoining Kulturzentrum Schlachthof offers the most interest in relation to CHIME’s objectives.
The former slaughterhouse was built in 1892 and prevented from demolition in the late 1970s. Since its transformation in the 1990s, it has become the largest cultural centre in Bremen, an impressive post-industrial venue with bars, a cafe, and an amazing performance space that is ideal for jazz and improvised music. In addition to its industrial heritage, the building is also associated with Europe’s troubled history.
In 1943, the slaughterhouse grounds were used by the Nazis in their deportation of Roma communities from Bremen to Auschwitz, where most were murdered.
A plaque was erected outside the Schlachthof in 1995 to commemorate these atrocities.
As a cultural centre, the Schlachthof engages with Bremen’s cultural heritage head on and, in this context, jazz provides the perfect vehicle both to engage with the heritage of the building literally and symbolically, to re-use the site and to energise the space. In many ways, the music works as a form of cultural palimpsest where traces of history remain but the sounds created in the venue confront the building; encouraging audiences to think about the problematic past, to reflect on the resilience of humanity and the processes of healing and renewal, and to experience the power of music in bringing people together.
Heritage is a contested subject that is bound up with concepts of memory, belonging, cultural value and the politics ofpower, history and ownership. However, as Laurajane Smith stresses, heritage is not only about celebrating and appreciating the value of material things that have been passed on from one generation to the next but it is also a communicative act that encourages people to make meaning for the present day. Heritage enables us to celebrate and understand not only who we are but also what we want to be (Smith: 2006, 1-2).
If we accept that heritage is not necessarily a thing but a process it leads us to consider the possibility that all heritage – and that includes the notion of a heritage site – is intangible by definition. Smith continues,
While places, sites, objects and localities may exist as identifiable sites of heritage… these places are not inherently valuable, nor do they carry a freight of innate meaning. Stonehenge, for instance, is basically a collection of rocks in a field. What makes these things valuable and meaningful – what makes them ‘heritage’, or what makes the collection of rocks in a field ‘Stonehenge’ – are the present-day cultural processes and activities that are undertaken at and around them, and of which they become a part. It is these processes that identify them as physically symbolic of particular cultural and social events, and thus give them value and meaning.
(Smith: 2006, 3)
Using this idea as a starting point, CHIME’s interpretation of heritage sites leads us to places that have become symbolic of particular social and cultural events, where values and meanings have been ascribed and where identities are constructed, re-constructed, suppressed or negotiated.
Within this context, heritage sites can obviously include officially listed buildings and places of historical importance, conservation areas, and protected sites of natural beauty. I’m sure we have all visited buildings that are in possession of national trusts or heritage organisations as well as accredited UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But our definition of heritage sites is not be limited to state-funded or officially managed heritage institutions. We also look more broadly to places where acts of remembrance or commemoration offer meaning to specific groups, to locations where people negotiate a sense of belonging and/or (re)consider their place in the world. Or, indeed, to places which encourage us to reflect on our relationship to the environment or which provide us with a transformative vision of the future.
Festivals, Heritage, Utopia
It is within these latter points that the relationship between jazz festivals, heritage sites and utopian thinking comes into focus. Utopia has been widely discussed as both an appealing and dangerous concept wrought with problems and idealised assumptions (De Geus, 1999). Moreover, within studies of festival cultures, there seems a natural synergy between festivals and utopian concepts, given the transformative potential of places, spaces and social practices within evanescent events or carnivalising atmospheres. Indeed, within McKay’s recent edited collection The Pop Festival (Bloomsbury, 2015), concepts of utopia form a central theme within the book, and within his introduction, he outlines ways in which contributors explore concepts of utopia in contrasting ways; for example, as something celebrated, critiqued, glimpsed, denied, dreamt or nightmared. And yet, despite these contrasts, McKay stresses that,
[Festival], at its most utopian, is a pragmatic and fantastic space in which to dream and to try another world into being.
(McKay: 2015, 5)
Rather than utopian thinking being founded on idealised principles, the concept can provide a critical framework from which to challenge established conventions, political practices and naturalisedassumptions about the world. Within a jazz context, utopia can be useful when it provides a means of challenging presuppositions, encouraging a continual sense of reflexivity about the music’s ontology and its cultural relevance, and keeping the present in dialogue with the past.
By adopting this approach, the study of heritage sites becomes a form of discursive practice and we should be mindful here of the power and all-pervasiveness of what Stuart Hall described as ‘The Heritage.’ (Hall, 1999) For Hall, the heritage becomes,
‘the material embodiment of the spirit of a nation’, it is a collective representation of tradition or of valuable places and objects that, ‘[t]o be validated, must take their place alongside what has been authorised as ‘valuable’ on already established grounds in relation to the unfolding of a ‘national story’ whose terms we already know.’
(Hall: 1999, 3-4)
These reified presentations of heritage can structure ideas not only about the past but can also play down, ignore or exclude issues of race, gender, class, and disability that would inevitably provide a challenge to official and uncomplicated interpretations of nations and associated cultural narratives. Despite a number of changes to understandings, formations and uses of heritage in recent years, ideas of nationhood can often remain naturalised and colonial histories treated as remote and unproblematic; there is no scope for complexity, contestation or a multitude of voices in the world of ‘The Heritage’.
Envisioning the future, reconciling the past
Building on this, the role of jazz and improvised music can be a crucial element in disrupting established ways of thinking about heritage and determining the significance of sites in question. When jazz enters particular spaces, it can provide a means of engaging with established discourses, reconfiguring histories, encouraging a renewed perspective on a particular location, or re-engaging with the past.
Through our research, we will aim to investigate a diversity of voices through festival sites. We want to convey the meaning places afford to different people, understand the stories that enliven specific objects, or explore how narratives that generate cultural mythologies feed into other narratives that offer meaning to contrasting groups. As a transnational study, CHIME will explore how global events link to local cultures and shape the lives of people in different ways. Through festivals we can consider how sameness and difference can play out in different geographical settings; the ‘heritage site’ in this context can offer a challenge to narrowly defined understandings of the world, of people and places.
When CHIME examines a heritage site, therefore, it does so with these processes in mind and, in developing a typology of festivals and heritage sites, it will be important to consider different ways in which the heritage question plays out for different communities in a range of European places.
De Geus, M., Ecological Utopias: Envisioning the Sustainable Society (Utrecht, International Books, 1999)
Hall, S. ‘Whose Heritage? Unsettling ‘The Heritage’, Reimagining the Post-Nation’ Third Text 13:49, pp.3-13
McKay, G. (ed.), The Pop Festival: Hiostory, Music, Media, Culture (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)
Smith, L., Uses of Heritage (New York: Routledge, 2006)
A presentation held by festival director Johan Gijsen (Le Guess Who?) during the CHIME launch event and reception, Amsterdam Conservatory, February 4 2016.
To kick-off the Dutch CHIME launch, we invited Felix Schlarmann (Jazzfest, Amsterdam) and Johan Gijsen (Le Guess Who?, Utrecht), two young and innovative festival directors who have recently enriched the Dutch festival landscape with two distinct music festivals. We asked them to engage with some of CHIME’s research questions and discuss how these play out in the day-to-day reality of their festival. In which ways, for example, does the place of event impact the festival’s program and music, and what does it take to start and develop a successful and sustainable festival?
Transcript of the presentation by Johan Gijsen:
Why another festival?
It was 2007, when childhood friend and co-founder Bob van Heur and I felt that the most interesting developments taking place were in the periphery of pop music; where artists that don’t bother to play by the fixed rules and grids of pop music determinedly go their own direction. In the Dutch media and on national radio and TV was little or no room for precisely these interesting movements in pop music. Here we grumbled about among ourselves and figured that it was better to take the initiative here. We shared the enthusiasm and passion of the scene in Montreal at that time; Arcade Fire and Patrick Watson experimented with new sounds; there was an interesting almost incestuous scene surrounding Wolf Parade with its many side projects; impressive horn player Colin Stetson just moved there and the dark, experimental Constellation Records released Godspeed You Black Emperor’s beautiful albums with sounds that we had never heard.
At the end of November 2007 first edition of Le Guess Who? took place on two consecutive evenings in Tivoli, Utrecht. On the poster were 11 acts, which all came from Canada. Since then Le Guess Who? has developed into a four-day international festival for independent and innovative quality music in the city of Utrecht. Besides authentic or urgent pop music, the festival also presents non-western music, avant-garde, folk, jazz, ambient, psychedelica and contemporary music. Le Guess Who? interlinks these non-popular genres, and presents them in an easily accessible way: in the setting of an adventurous but approachable pop festival. It thus takes them out of the niche to serve a much larger universal audience.