Blowin' the Blues Away: Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene

By Travis A. Jackson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Conclusion

The events analyzed in chapter 7 could be viewed exclusively in terms of the musical parameters preserved on a compact disc and capable of being transcribed into Western notation. Presenting a performance thus transcribed might privilege and perhaps encourage the analysis of the sounds in terms similar to those for Western concert music (see Seeger 1958, 186). Such analysis, although perhaps making one more aware of the rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic parameters of the musical event, would omit the kinds of interactions taking place prior to, within, and after the event that are equally constitutive of and contributory to its impact.

The meanings of jazz performance, however, have just as much to do with kinesic and proxemic factors in performance, with the roles of race/ culture and memory/history in shaping musical performance, and with the importance of the scene and a blues aesthetic. In that sense, it is more accurate to see jazz’s primary meanings as contextual, as process-oriented rather than the product-oriented. No musical sounds are meaningful outside the varied cultural, spatial, and temporal contexts that name and specify the forms that meanings can take. In those contexts, the understandings of event participants, resulting from their individual and collective interpretive moves and made evident through musical, visual, and verbal communication, allow the performances to become meaningful and powerful for them.

“What this music is really about,” as the musicians and some scholars have stated, is making connections (see, e.g., Stanyek 2004). In that

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