(Not) the Wherever Jazz Festival: Rhythm Changes presentation, September 2017

[conclusion of my presentation on the CHIME panel at the 5th Rhythm Changes international jazz conference, Amsterdam, 3 September 2017. Other speakers from the project: Walter van de Leur, Tony Whyton, Loes Rusch; panel chaired by Francesco Martinelli]


… The relationship between the festival and the city is really intimate. It can never be separate. It’s the Kongsberg Jazz Festival, not the Wherever Jazz Festival. Martin Revheim, Kongsberg, Norway director

Yet, writing about ‘urban spectacles’ and celebrations which include the jazz festival, the ‘paradox’ of the touristic festival is that, according to Kevin Fox Gotham, ‘whereas the appeal of local celebrations is the opportunity to see something different, celebrations that are designed to attract tourists seem more and more alike’.

Nicola MacLeod’s argument about the ‘placeless festival’, as she terms it, does warrant attention, particularly in a jazz music context. For MacLeod, the authentic space or significant situatedness of a festival location is actually often today displaced or dislocated, as a result of globalisation. In this critical reading, international festivals feel the same, are homogenised—‘placeless’. MacLeod even compares the touristic global festival to the airport lounge, its necessary other, in the sense that ‘festival formats may now be replicated in a series of international venues around the world’. Such a reading is a useful counter to more celebratory claims of festival, local space and community offered by many festival publicists, say.

Arguably such a critical view of the festival has further resonance in the context of jazz music, because jazz itself is sometimes accused of a homogenising worldliness, whereby either it all sounds kind of the same, or the same headline acts are seen across the continent’s international festivals in a single festival season. Catherine Tackley and Pete Martin are more polite than MacLeod, perhaps, but all three seem to point to the danger of (airport) lounge music:

concerns have been expressed about the consequences of presenting jazz on the festival platform…. It has been argued that this leads inexorably to a routinisation of performances and to musicians becoming risk-averse.

However, I do want to end on a rising note. The importance of the curatorial role of the festival director is articulated by British organiser Nod Knowles, drawing on his programming experience at Bath Festival, as a means precisely of creatively disrupting the lounge, of vitally re-sounding the festival. For Knowles,

a festival should be an opportunity to do things that don’t otherwise happen. It’s no good just presenting, like so many festivals do, your touring band ‘rent a festival—we’ve seen them, they’re on tour so they’re in the festival’. So the idea [is] to present what doesn’t happen.… [It’]s the discovery of things that you never knew about…. I really think that a festival is no good if it’s just a bunch of gigs that you could have heard anywhere.

So, after 60 or 70 years what more is there to this thing we call the jazz festival? Beyond its role in tourism, urban regeneration, economic impact, social inclusion agendas, repetition year on year? Surely there is more, or why do we still go, why do we remain interested, hopeful?

We can do worse than reflect on the wise words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., from his opening address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, addressing European festival-goers and drawing on civil rights to present an understanding both of jazz music and, more importantly for us I think, of the special gathering of the jazz festival itself. ‘Jazz,’ King told the Berlin festival crowd in 1964,

speaks of life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties,… [and m]odern jazz has continued this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence…. And now, Jazz is exported to the world…. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy.… In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.

We talked in the Call For Papers for this Re/Sounding Jazz conference about wanting to ‘celebrate’ jazz, we hoped for papers that could be ‘celebratory’. ‘What are the achievements—the resounding successes—of jazz?’ we asked. Could we say, in festival (or—carpe diem—on a sunny Sunday morning by the side of the Amstel), alongside escape or transcendence, cyclicity and cycling, the history of being the first and second lining, that we might just find or hope to find a little meaning … a little love… clap hands … be happy.

In preparation of the festival exhibition

Some serious preparation by photographer Foppe Schut, in search of the perfect picture of the SummerJazzBikeTour brooche.The brooche is part of the travelling exhibition "Dutch jazz festivals in 30 objects" for the researchproject CHIME and will be on view in Siena, Groningen and Amsterdam (for more info, see http://chimeproject.eu).For the exhibition we are collaborating with the Dutch Jazz Archive (http://www.jazzarchief.nl) and indeed the impeccable Foppe! Great to be part of this.

Posted by Loes Rusch on Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Some serious preparation by photographer Foppe Schut, in search of the perfect picture of the SummerJazzBikeTour brooche.

For the exhibition we are collaborating with the Dutch Jazz Archive (http://www.jazzarchief.nl) and indeed the impeccable Foppe! Great to be part of this.

A history of Dutch jazz festivals in 30 objects

The last couple of months the Dutch CHIME team together with the Dutch Jazz Archive has been working on a travelling exhibition on Dutch jazz festivals.

As a starting point we have used a concept that is modeled after “A history of the World in 100 objects,” a 100 part series by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, exploring world history from two million years ago to the present. This model allows us to engage with questions of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, such as ‘How to translate intangible cultural history into tangible objects?’ Also, the great variety of objects (t-shirts, flags, jury reports, scrap-books, etc.) opens up ways of exploring the festival from different perspectives, including audiences, musicians, organizers, and journalists.

The past week Dutch Jazz Archive curator Ditmer Weertman and Walter van de Leur have made a final selection at the Dutch Jazz Archive, which includes the cassettes of the October Jazz Meeting, a 1948 jazz competition award and the scrap-book from the wife of North Sea Jazz Festival initiator Paul Ackett.

Foppe Schut

We are also very proud to introduce photographer Foppe Schut, who will make an artist impression of the objects.

The exhibition will be on view at the CHIME conference in Siena (25-28 May), in Groningen (ZomerJazzFietsTour, 26 Aug) and in Amsterdam (Rhythm Changes Conference, 31 Aug-3 Sep).

Festival Data Hack#1

Last Friday and Saturday CHIME and BCMCR presented the first in a new series of 24-hour Music Data Hacks. The aim of these events is to bring together BCU researchers and students with data practitioners from the Birmingham area, to work collaboratively on the development of online data visualisation tools, product prototypes, and experimental analytical methods.

Using data collected from a small group of volunteers at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival through a pilot version of a mobile application BCMCR and CHIME are developing, along with social media data gathered rom other festivalgoers during the festival, this hack explored ways in which the data collected could be visualised online in ways that are useful to researchers, festival organisers and music fans.

The participants came up with lots of exciting ideas and new ways of developing prototypes of a visualisation interface. Researchers and representatives from a number of international music festivals were in attendance at the hack to provide advice, support and guidance. They were William Soovik from GMLSTN, Annemiek van der Meijden from JazzBikeTour and Ian Francis from Flatpack) and Craig Hamilton, Nick Gebhardt, Tony Whyton and Loes Rusch.

Improvising heritage at the New Music Festival in Zeeland

Willem Breuker at the Vleeshal in Middelburg, 1980. foto: Jaap Wolterbeek, Zeeuwse Bibliotheek, Beeldbank Zeeland, recordnr. 13805
Willem Breuker at the Vleeshal in Middelburg, 1980. Photo: Jaap Wolterbeek, Zeeuwse Bibliotheek, Beeldbank Zeeland, record nr. 13805

An interdisciplinary and multi-sited festival located in a historically rich area, the New Music Festival (Festival Nieuwe Muziek, FNM, 1976-2005) is an interesting site to explore one of CHIME’s research questions: How does (jazz) music facilitate a connection to heritage? In this blog I will give an overview of ways in which Dutch improvised music intersected with cultural heritage sites and cultural landscapes during the New Music Festival.

fullsizerender-2The New Music Fesival took place between 1976-2005 in Zeeland, a province in the southwestern region of the Netherlands meaning “sea land” and known as the eponym of New Zealand. The province gained wealth as a gateway to the prosperous regions of Flanders and Brabant and as a key player in the colonial trade, as Zeeland merchants, together with their fellows in Holland established Dutch East-India Company (1602) and West India Company (1621). Furthermore, the founding of the Middelburg Commercial Company (1720) gave Zeeland “majority control of the Dutch Republic’s lucrative slave trade” (Neele 2012, 289). While Holland retained its international trading position, Zeeland has increasingly focused on agricultural activities, which because of its high productivity levels and superior quality have gained international acclaim. Also, consisting primarily of islands, peninsulas and beaches, the province has become a popular tourist destination.

While the province has delivered state-of-the-art in terms of agriculture, tourism, and civil engineering, it has remained a rather traditional agenda in terms of culture and arts promotion. As the website of the Zeeland tourist office announces: “Zeeland is proud of its heritage and has the most museums per capita. Many of the museums focus on traditional life in Zeeland, including farming, fishing and shipping.” The focus on traditions and skills rather than on modern arts is partly informed by the religious background of the Zeeland inhabitants, which is predominantly Calvinistic and does not allow for much frivolity.

muziek-op-straatConsidering this rather conservative climate, the organisation of the New Music Festival seems all the more remarkable. The festival was part of the activities of (Jeugd & Muziek Zeeland, JMZ), a member organization of the Jeunesses Musicales International. While most departments set a more traditional course that focused on classical music, the departments of Amsterdam and the province of Zeeland proved particularly vital in the support and promotion of contemporary and experimental forms of art. Zeeland-born Van ‘t Veer (1941), both programmer of the festival and JMZ manager, played a decisive role in the organization’s radical course, which focused primarily on ground-breaking artists such as Greek-born composer Iannis Xenakis and Dutch improvising musicians.

 

Zeeland Suite performance at Fort Rammekens, FNM, 1977
Zeeland Suite performance at Fort Rammekens, FNM, 1977

To stimulate the musicians and audience to meet in a loose, informal setting, JMZ in 1971 moved the majority of its activities from the concert hall to the street. Under the name of Muziek op Straat (“Music on the street,” 1971-1976), the association organised a series of concerts, workshops and film screenings. Van ‘t Veer, who considered improvised music specially fit for this purpose, regularly invited Amsterdam-based improvising musicians to create performances that were easily accessible to all layers of society. In 1971, for example, JMZ organized an open-air workshop including works by Ton de Leeuw, Misha Mengelberg and Daan Manneke, which from Van ‘t Veer’s installment in 1969 specifically aimed at “renegotiating the interaction between performer and listener, beyond the restrictions of the traditional concert practice.” Also, on several occasions composers wrote pieces for Lange Jan, the carillon of Middelburg, which could be heard all over town.

Likewise, the performance of the Zeeland Suite (1977) a multi-movement work for jazz septet by pianist and composer Leo Cuypers is a fascinating example of the use heritage sites as part of musical performance. Cuypers came up with the idea of an outdoor “conceptual art performance” that covered all of the province’s peninsular islands, an idea that fitted in with the JMZ’s principles. The different parts of the suite were performed on historical, industrial as well as natural sites typical for the province of Zeeland, including the medieval Haamstede Castle; the artificial island of Philipsdam; the harbour of Hoedekenskerke; the marshlands of the Westerschelde estuary; the beach at Domburg; and Fort Rammekens.

Under the pretext of “provincial promotion”—and thus provincial funding—Van ‘t Veer added a historical locomotive and a folklore group to the initial plans. One year before the suite’s performance, the construction began of the Oosterscheldekering, the largest and most ambitious of the thirteen Delta Works. Considering Van ‘t Veer’s attempts to use the Zeeland Suite as a promotional device for the province of Zeeland, it comes as no surprise that part of this project received a prominent place in the performance as well.

Kloveniersdoelen, Middelburg, ca.1984. Photo: Jaap Wolterbeek, Zeeuwse Bibliotheek, Beeldbank Zeeland, record nr. 13763
Kloveniersdoelen, Middelburg, ca.1984. Photo: Jaap Wolterbeek, Zeeuwse Bibliotheek, Beeldbank Zeeland, record nr. 13763

JMZ organized activities in different historical buildings, an idea that was born out of a lack of suiteable concert venues. Most of these buildings were owned by the local authorities and designated as “cultural space”. Before it found a suiteable, fixed concert venue, JMZ regularly organized concerts at the Vleeshal (“meat hall”), a space in the former town hall of Middelburg that was used to sell fresh meat, and the Kuiperspoort, a seventeenth century building formerly owned by the coopers’ guild and in the 1960s and 1970s acting as a youth centre. Between 1985 and 2003 the city of Middelburg allowed the JMZ, now called the Centrum Nieuwe Muziek Zeeland (New Music Centre Zeeland, NMZ) to use the Kloveniersdoelen, both as office and as a performance venue. Built in 1607 in Flemish Renaissance style it was originally home to the city’s civic guard, until the end of the eighteenth century, when it became the local headquarters of the East India Company. Because of the limited space—the venue held ca. 100 seats— NMZ in 2004 moved its headquarters to Grote Kerk Veere, a church built in the thirteenth century that also happened to accommodate the local Tourist Office. It currently still functions as the headquarters of NMZ, now known as MuziekPodium Zeeland.

Han Bennink performance at the Grote Kerk in Veere, 2001. Source: PZC, June 2001.
“Possessed drummers”: Han Bennink performs at the Grote Kerk in Veere, 2001. Source: PZC, June 2001.

As appealing as these historic buildings were from the outside, as problematic they were as a performance space. The Kuiperspoort, for example, was hardly accessible for transport vans as it was located in the historic city centre with its narrow streets. “It is impossible to get a grand piano here,” remarked Van ‘t Veer, when asked about the Kuiperspoort. The Kuiperspoort was also infamously known for its bad acoustics, caused by the low ceiling. When in 1974 the local authorities refused to give permission to use amplifiers, JMZ cancelled the scheduled theatre performances by Orkater and Baal and limited the programming to film screenings and piano recitals.

Altogether, the monumental status of the the Vleeshal, the Kuiperspoort, the Kloveniersdoelen and Veere’s Grote Kerk challenged the re-use of the building as a performance space, as it restricted the ways in which these spaces could be adapted. Moreover, the monumental status caused restoration to be very costly. In the coming months I will be investigating further the performances that took place in these venues and the ways in which these interacted with the space.

CHIME at Wonderfeel

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. logo_Wonderfeel JPEG
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-2015-CFoppeSchut.nl-HIGHRes-LH_MG_1223A1Wonderfeel will take place on the 22, 23 and 24th of July on the estate of ‘Schaep en Burgh’ in ’s-Graveland (near Hilversum).

A place for jazz: Resounding the landscape at music festivals

Luctor_et_Emergo-1441A 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.

NSJ_Curacao

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 ZJFTcelebrates 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.

 

 

 

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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).

ZJFT1

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