Two Essays on Jazz Spaces at IASPM-US Website

As a part of their June series "Music Scenes," the website for US Branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music has recently posted a pair of essays on jazz and space that speak to one another in a way that ethnomusicologists may find useful. The most recent post, which I wrote, is entitled "Creating Space for Creative Music at LA's Blue Whale." In it, I discuss how Blue Whale, a relatively new club opened in 2009, has—literally—created space for improvised music in Los Angeles. Borrowing from Henri Lefebvre's theories of spatial practice, the essay explores the myriad ways in which this space manifests socially.

What I didn't anticipate while preparing that piece, though, was that it would follow another excellent meditation on jazz space: Darren Mueller's "Listening for Liveness." In it, he explores how a "sense" of space, and of "bodies interacting in particular spaces," is actually created by the highly mediated process of creating reproducible recordings. "Liveness," he suggests, "is not something that a record possesses, but rather a quality that listeners ascribe to it."

What both of these pieces have in common, then, is that they both consider how "live jazz" is socially constructed, both in the space of venues and in the space of the encounter that occurs when a jazz fan listens to a recording. To me, the broad, spread-out network of jazz listeners, what Ken Prouty calls a "recording-listening continuum" in his book Knowing Jazz: Community, Pedagogy, and Canon in the Information Age, and the localized, bounded space of a live jazz performance in a hip club like Blue Whale, are two sides of the same coin. These are the sorts of spaces where "the jazz community" is made—and constantly remade—in all of its vast, amorphous glory.

Two essays on jazz space at the IASPM-US website:

Creating Space for Creative Music at LA's Blue Whale by me

Listening for Liveness by Darren Mueller

Special thanks and congratulations to the website's new editor, Mike D'Errico, for publishing both of these essays! Mike also curates our Sounding Board's new subsection, Bring the Noise: Popular Music Studies.


Alex W. Rodriguez is the Managing Editor for the Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board. He is also a writer, trombonist, and PhD student in ethnomusicology at UCLA.


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