Accepted Paper:

The discourse of 'musical quality' among jazz musicians in Athens  


Ioannis Tsioulakis (Queen's University, Belfast)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will examine the way in which a discourse of 'quality' in music is constructed within the jazz scene of Athens. It will attempt to show how this discourse is negotiated while moving through different sites of musical performance.

Paper long abstract:

What happens when the concept of musical quality, associated for ethnomusicologists and musical anthropologists with elitist approaches by classic historical musicology, is strongly present in discourses in the field? How do sites of musical performance serve as the physical space for such a discourse?

The last two decades of the twentieth-century saw an increase in the popularity of jazz music amongst professionals and students of the Athenian music scene. Combined with a lack of interest and familiarity of the wider audience with jazz musical culture, this phenomenon resulted in an unbalanced situation: the number of jazz musicians emerging from music schools all over the city or repatriating after being trained abroad was far greater than the local music scene was able and eager to support. Facing that situation, the majority of jazz musicians were forced to work within the popular music industry (performing pop, folk-pop, or so called "art-song" music), with only occasional opportunities to play the music they were trained for.

This paper will examine contesting conceptualisations of quality in music, constructed within these circumstances of division between musical labour and playful creativity. It will attempt to illustrate the significance of shifting between performative sites (from the popular music club to the small jazz venue) for the construction of a musical identity balancing between the experienced locality and the imaginary of globality. It will also discuss the role of discrepancies in musical aesthetics and affiliations in the experience of mutuality on stage and with the audience.

Panel W027
Sounding ethnography: mutuality and diversity in musical life