With my co-author, postdoctoral research assistant Dr Emma Webster, I’m pleased to draw attention to our newest output from our AHRC-funded project, The Impact of Festivals. This project is in collaboration with our research partner the EFG London Jazz Festival. The new output is a peer-reviewed article for Jazz Research Journal focussed on the impact of jazz festivals in particular. (The wider project embraces pop, folk and classical music festivals too.) The abstract is below, followed by a short film in which I talk about the research. You can access freely a copy of the article here.
The full citation of our article is: Emma Webster and George McKay. 2016. ‘The impact of (jazz) festivals: an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research report’. Jazz Research Journal 9(2), pp.169-193. We hope it will be of interest to CHIME-rs and our international community of jazz researchers at Rhythm Changes.
Festivals are an essential part of the jazz world, forming regularly occurring pivot points around which jazz musicians, audiences and organizers plan their lives. Funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the purpose of this report is to chart and critically examine available writing about the impact of jazz festivals, drawing on both academic and ‘grey’/cultural policy literature in the field. The review presents research findings under the headings of economic impact; socio-political impact; temporal impact and intensification and transformation of experience; creative impact—music and musicians; discovery and audience development; place-making; the mediation of jazz festivals; and environmental impact. It concludes with a set of recommendations for future research, which identifies gaps in the field. To accompany the article, a 100-entry 40,000-word annotated bibliography has also been produced, which is freely accessible online.
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 position statement by Helene Brembeck and Niklas Sörum presented to the CHIME project team meeting, Amsterdam Conservatory, February 4 2016
In WP 2 we want to question the idea that cultural heritage is about the past, and preservation. Instead we see cultural heritage as a practice, which is not simply about the past, but also about the future: it is about valuing the past and about preserving for the future and for future generations. Jazz today can thus be regarded as residing in a past-present relation: it is about selecting what is considered worth saving and of finding new modern and attractive techniques of communicating for the present and of assembling for the future. This view of cultural heritage is in line with the “New heritage paradigm” (Holtorf and Fairclogh 2013) that acknowledges that heritage is neither ‘fixed’ nor ‘ inherent’ but emerges in dialogue among individuals, communities, practices, places and things.
Heritage, or ‘heritages’, are always also plural, which means that different, sometimes conflicting futures can be assembled. This becomes obvious in the ‘competition’ between our two studied festivals in Gothenburg – Gamlestaden Jazz and Classic Jazz – of which ‘jazz past’ is to be saved and enacted in the present and assembled for the future. We follow Rodney Harrison (2013, 2015) stating that ‘heritage involves working with the tangible and intangible traces of the past to both materially and discursively remake both ourselves and the world in the present, in anticipation of an outcome that will help constitute a specific (social, economic, or ecological) resource in and for the future (Harrison 2015:35).
Harrison is inspired by neo-materialist thinkers, such as Deleuze and Latour and their aim to bridge divides between nature and culture, humans and non-humans, which means breaking the divide between tangible and intangible heritage: obviously jazz as intangible heritage is also very tangible, embodied and object-based.
Harrison bases his theses on what he names “connectivity ontologies” meaning ‘modalities of becoming in which life and place combine to bind time and living beings into generations of continuities that work collaboratively to keep past alive in the present and for the future’ (2015:27). This means that heritage can be seen as collaborative, dialogical and interactive, a material-discursive process in which past and future arise out of dialogue and encounter between multiple embodied subjects in (and with) the past (ibid.). Referring to Latour (2004), in this process, or what is described as a nature-culture assemblage, not only humans but also objects (music instruments, our comment) and practices (playing, dancing, our comment) have ‘rights’, which we may have obligations to attempt to uphold.
Harrison uses the term ‘domain’ to draw attention to the tendency for different fields of heritage practice to operate relatively autonomously, with each of these domains specifying particular objects of conservation and accompanying methods of management. Different heritage ontologies have different future-making capacities. Jazz can thus be considered as one such domain where a multiplicity of forms of existence are enacted in concrete practices, and ‘where politics becomes the elicitation of this manifold of potential for how things could be.’ (2015:34). This means that heritages can be defined as ‘a series of diplomatic properties that emerges in dialogue of heterogeneous human and non-human actors who are engaged in keeping pasts alive in the present and, which function towards assembling futures.’ (2015:28)
What about the jazz festival? Following Harrison the jazz festival can be regarded as an assemblage, a set of practices, or even ‘machine’ for ‘enacting new realities through contingent processes of assembling and reassembling bodies, technologies, materials, values, temporalities and meanings’ (2015:28). Practices specifically dealing with heritage-making across diverse contexts can be characterized as:
All of which can be witnessed in the practices of assembling the jazz festivals, and most obviously, practices of communicating.
From these starting points the following research questions can be posed:
Where and how are pasts given presence at the two jazz festivals?
Which (jazz) pasts are envisioned?
Whose cultural heritage in terms of gender, generation, social class and ethnicity?
What are the networks that facilitate these processes?
What temporalities are produced by the two festivals and what are the implications of the different modes of engagement with the past, present and future that are generated at the two festivals?
More specifically in relation to marketisation:
How are aspects of cultural heritage explicitly or implicitly used in marketing, organization and enactment of the festivals?
How does cultural heritage become important in constructing a market for the festivals in relation to for example profit, pricing, sponsors, competition, use of social media and communicating with visitors?
Harrison, Rodney. 2015. Beyond “Natural and “Cultural” Heritage: Toward an Ontological Politics of Heritage in the Age of the Anthropocene. Heritage & Society, Vol. 8 No 1, May, 24-42.
Harrison, Rodney. 2013. Heritage: Critical Approaches. Routledge: Abingdon and N.Y.
Holtorf, Cornelius and Graham Fairclough. 2013. The New Heritage and the re-shapings of the past. In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernity, edited by Alfredo González-Ruibal, pp. 197-2010. Routledge: Abingdon and New York.
Latour, Bruno. 2004. Politics of Nature. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
A position paper (no. 3) presented to the CHIME project team meeting, Amsterdam Conservatory, February 4 2016
Elsewhere, in a research project with the title From Working Space to Theatre Space: the user perspective, I am working on the question ‘How adaptive re-use of heritage sites can re-signifie the various values and meanings connected to these sites and the cultural events that take place there.’ With the help of audience research I aim at gaining insight in the relationship between the perception of (in this particular case industrial) architectural theatre spaces and the perception of theatrical events hosted there. It becomes clear that an important aspect in visitors’ experiences when it comes to cultural heritage sites, is cultural memory. My results from focus groups illustrate that memory can be present at different levels and take up different roles in audience experiences. The responses of audience members in the above mentioned audience research indicate that memory can become part of the experience for example by:
Having direct memories of the place;
Knowing the place as (an important) part of history;
Being reminded of similar situations;
The place symbolizing an era;
The place activating related memories;
The place activating the imagination;
The place provoking curiosity.
It seems that the relationship visitors have to the place or location is an important factor in determining the role that cultural memory can or will play, and this also goes for the attitude audiences have towards the art form concerned. So, when studying the intertwining relationship between jazz festivals and heritage locations, it becomes important to gain insight in questions like:
Are audiences familiar with the place and its history?
How familiar are audiences with the historical narratives attached to jazz?
What values do audiences attach to the location/landscape and to jazz music?
It is doubtful that a lot of festival organizations will have any data available concerning these questions, since even more plain audience statistics do not seems to be generally available. CHIME might have a task here, starting with the selected case studies.
It would also be interesting to confront these questions with festival organizations’ mission & vision towards the relationship between music and place and audiences and place (if any), to evaluate up to what extend festival organizations are aware of their potential and their actual impact concerning the (re)-use of heritage.
For example, what kind of audiences is targeted at?
A position paper (no. 2) presented to the CHIME project team meeting, Amsterdam Conservatory, February 4 2016
In WP3, CHIME explores ways in which music and music festivals can provide new models for thinking about cultural heritage through an exploration of festival landscapes. It does so, among other things, by looking at three case studies, all of which are selected specifically for their engagement with different types of cultural heritage: North Sea Jazz Festival Curaçao, the SummerJazzCycleTour, and Jazz on the Waves. In this position statement I [Loes Rusch] propose a further exploration of music and music festivals as 1) practices of cultural heritage and 2) as a promotional tool for the protection and preservation of natural cultural heritage sites.
While the North Sea Jazz Festival Curaçao raises questions of the Netherlands’ colonial past and the ways in which different identities are negotiated through festivals, the SummerJazzCycleTour and Jazz on the Waves are particularly interesting because of its different approaches towards the re-use of typical Dutch landscapes and historical buildings.
The SummerJazzCycleTour, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, takes place in the province of Groningen in the north-eastern part of the Netherlands and makes its audiences cycle through the Reitdiep, an agricultural area with canals dug as early as the first half of the thirteenth century. Jazz on the Waves takes places on the island of Texel in the Wadden Sea, an intertidal zone in the south-eastern part of the North Sea, which is one of the world’s seas whose coastline has been most modified by humans, via a system of dikes and causeways on the mainland and low-lying coastal islands. In 2009, this area became part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Jazz and cultural heritage
The relationship between music or music festivals and cultural heritage is extensively studied, mostly in the area of popular music. The focus of these studies is mostly on the practice of music as cultural heritage, or as defined in a 2014 study by Amanda Brandellero and Susanne Janssen as “the preservation, exhibition, education and remembrance” of music, in many cases as supported and promoted by national and local public heritage institutions, often in connection with spatial planning and cultural tourism (Brandellero and Janssen 2014, 18).
A position paper (no. 1) presented to the CHIME project team meeting, Amsterdam Conservatory, February 4 2016
Here are the opening sentences of the EU Heritage+ joint call grant application that the project team wrote in 2014, and which formed the basis of CHIME’s successful submission.
‘What an amazing experience, the clash of seeing Miles Davis in the Roman amphitheatre during the Nice Jazz Festival. The ancient stones and arches are re-sounded, the music somehow more resonant, old and modern at the same time. I’ll never forget that.’ This first-hand experience of a European festival-goer provided the initial inspiration for CHIME.
I (George McKay) want to interrogate the cultural space we have chosen a little further, which I hope will throw further light on my question, why look at jazz (and not, say, rock or folk) festivals?
There was a nice line tweeted on the CHIME Twitter feed recently, a quotation from Chris Goddard’s book Jazz Away From Home that sought to describe the experience of jazz in southern Europe, as a music ‘cut[ting] through the warm, humid Mediterranean night like a chainsaw through cheese’ (1979). Is jazz more cheese wire than chainsaw, do you think, though? If we want chainsaw music we need really to go to something more industrial—or agricultural—starting with the excessive, aggressive culture of rock music. Rock does after all sometimes feature a chainsaw: see southern US rock band Jackyl, who still finish each live set with their signature song ‘The lumberjack’ (the video is great and indeed a little Pythonesque, have a look: Jackyl 1992) in which the lead singer does a chainsaw solo (though not through cheese). (Here is a pressing question for the New Jazz Studies: has a jazz band featured a chainsaw solo, ever?)
So, for questions of the clash or disjunction between heritage, festival site and popular music, the jarring re-sounding when both our ears double-take in stereo, rock music would be very good to think about. Though its history as a popular music has been shorter than folk or jazz (50-60 years as opposed to 100-120, very approximately)—does that mean its heritage is reduced?—rock music can supply a very powerful shock of the new, not least through its characteristic of being superloud, via a practice of extreme volume and a competitive rather than functional culture of amplification. (Even to the extent of rock deafening its bands and fans: McKay 2013, chapter 4.) And its use of chainsaws.
In order to pursue the comparison with Miles in the amphitheatre in Nice, consider an archetypal rock festival-style concert / documentary film, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (concert 1971, film 1972).
Filmed with the band playing live, over 4 days in October
Used their full and extensive tour amplification
Performances were filmed in front of no audience, an empty auditorium (rationale: in part a reaction against festival films like Woodstock, which had contained so many shots of festival-goers, the crowd)
It’s a slow, spacey music the band plays, with some very slow long camera focuses in/out and pans (2-3 minutes)
Located in the ancient Roman amphitheatre and with a backdrop of Vesuvius
Some key resonances: volcano/volume; block architecture of amphitheatre/PA/amp stacks
Grandeur of the location fits with the grandeur (or pretentiousness) of Pink Floyd’s musical vision and its filming. (To return to the comedic end of rock, we could think here instead of Spinal Tap and their Stonehenge stage.)
Or consider Glastonbury Festival, originating at much the same time as the Pink Floyd concert (legendary Glastonbury Fayre was held in 1971, also filmed). Near Glastonbury, in the deep green English countryside, there is the invention of tradition and what I’m calling the instant ancient: mist and myth, a stage in the shape of the Great Pyramid of Giza, set on a ley line, with a crystal on top, a Neolithic stone circle—built around 1990. (more…)