Documenting Jazz 2021

The 2021 edition of Documenting Jazz took place virtually on 23–26 June, 2021. Hosted by Reid School of Music, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh and chaired by Dr Marian Jago, it was the third edition of Documenting Jazz. At the end of the conference it was announced that the fourth edition will take place at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in 2022. Below is the chair’s welcome from the programme which can be found here.

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Chair’s Welcome (Dr Marian Jago)

It is my sincere pleasure to welcome you all to this third iteration of Documenting Jazz hosted by the Reid School of Music, part of the Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a shame that I’m not able to welcome you here on- campus in the heart of the amazing city of Edinburgh—hopefully that opportunity will arise again in the future!
This year’s conference theme invites us to consider the various ways, places, and contexts in which jazz is encountered and the impacts that these encounters have upon the identity, reception, reputation, practice, and perceived value of jazz and its constituents. This theme is perhaps particularly resonant following a year in which we’ve all had to encounter jazz—whether as performer, researcher, student, teacher, listener, or archivist—in radically new ways.

While the limits placed on us by the global Covid pandemic have led to mitigation practices which we have largely found less than ideal in their limiting in most cases the live, in-the-moment, and in-person aspects of jazz that so often sit at the heart of the music and its community, I invite us here to consider the positive aspects of our very strange year – the ways in which being forced to ‘encounter’ jazz in new ways might have brought us to new perspectives. In having to take this conference online, for example, while we miss the chance to meet with one another in-person and in Edinburgh, we have been able to open our event up to a wider audience than would have been possible otherwise! I’m very pleased to report that we have presenting delegates at Documenting Jazz 2021 from North America, South America, the UK, the EU, and Israel, as well as an audience which includes practitioners, students (both undergraduate and post- graduate), and other colleagues from within the jazz studies community around the world.

I would like to thank Dr. Damian Evans and Dr. Pedro Cravinho as past chairs of Documenting Jazz for their hard-earned wisdom; the conference and programme committees for their assistance across these past several months; the Principal of the Edinburgh College of Art, Juan Cruz and Head of the Reid School of Music, Martin Parker for their enthusiasm and support; Dr. James Cook for his incredible help in setting up some of the online aspects of this event; and Nicky Regan for the brilliant design work.
Indeed, in framing the design of this conference program around iconic jazz images taken by William P. Gottlieb between 1938-1948, we’ve managed to engage with several of the themes central to Documenting Jazz. The images that Gottlieb captured of jazz (primarily in New York City and Washington D.C.) during this time have become some of the most iconic and widely reproduced jazz images of all time – many people have ‘encountered’ jazz for the first time through these images.

In some instances their sense of the music, its people, its aesthetic, its values, and its place within American culture have been formed by them, silently. Through his association with publications such as Down Beat, The Washington Post, and Record Changer, Gottlieb’s images have joined with the written discourse on jazz, and with the intersections between journalism, criticism, and scholarly writing. In being housed in their entirety as an archive hosted by the Smithsonian Institute, these images highlight the essential role played by jazz archives, and the ways in which access to stable, public-serving funding maintains, preserves, and makes accessible such important key ‘documents’. Such archives by their very existence also help to move the music—and therefore its constitutive communities—into the cultural mainstream. Having decreed that his images enter the public domain, the collection also links through to issues of rights, accessibility, and ownership. They’re also gorgeous works of art in their own right, and I’m very pleased to be able to make use of them here.

I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can over the four days of the conference, and to hearing what promises to be diverse and thought-provoking program of papers. My thanks to all of you for sharing your work and your time with us.


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