A. Falbush

State University of New York (UNITED STATES)
The American musical culture that developed in the 20th century is a world apart from European traditions of music making. It is embodied in jazz a performer-driven music that privileges improvisation and aural transmission over written scores and the primacy of the composer. I investigate the great paradox that as jazz has gained inroads into high culture and academia, it threatens to lose its character. The way to save the radical potential of jazz is to reject the European conservatory tradition and return to the roots of a music that grew out of ingenuity and desire for the performer's self-expression. First, I discuss why it is that we teach American improvisatory music according to a European conservatory method, which is unsuited to it. The factors include (1) the search for respectability that led to an aping of European models by musicians who themselves knew that they learned jazz according to an entirely different, ear-centered pedagogy; (2) racist notions of high and low culture. Second, I present the results of my interviews with great jazz artists of earlier generations. Finally, I suggest how we can teach jazz even to non-virtuosic musicians in a way that captures the lessons of the past.