Trad Jazz: Pre-War Aurality in the Postmodern City
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Through an anthropological study of a set of interrelated traditional (“trad”) jazz scenes in New York City and New Orleans, Louisiana, this dissertation argues that gentrification – a class concept coined in 1960’s sociology – is best understood intersectionally across boundaries of race, class, and gender. Drawing from formal interviews, archival research, and participant observation as a musician/anthropologist, the author focuses on competing historical discourses and musical techniques in trad jazz that map onto broader social conflicts in the present day United States. Conflicts between musicians play out in the re-sounding of early 20th century music embedded in Jim Crow segregationist histories. Such a re-sounding takes on renewed ethical and political dimensions in a contemporary postmodern moment characterized by a heightened politics of intersectional identity. Building upon work the aesthetics of gentrification in geography and anthropology, this dissertation argues that “Pre-war Aurality” – a youth oriented aesthetic that lauds the live performance of pre-World War II popular and vernacular music – is a hegemonic, postmodern aesthetic in contemporary capitalism. Expanding upon methods and theories from the anthropology of sound and expressive culture, the author shows the dialogic relation between economic and cultural displacement by focusing on the how urban space is constituted through live performance. This approach expands on previous ethnographies of jazz communities by featuring working musicians in favor of those who have received extended critical acclaim, and by foregrounding theoretical questions around the sonic qualities of urban space.
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Rights for Collection: Duke Dissertations