New book

I’m very happy to announce that the book I’ve been working on with colleagues Bjorn Heile and Jenny Doctor has just been published by Oxford University Press. Watching Jazz was, in large part, the result of an AHRC grant we received to work on the use of Audiovisual Resources in Jazz studies. This book brings together essays by leading scholars in the field. It was a project which took some years to come to fruition, but we’re all hugely pleased with the results.

Article on improvisation

I’ve just published online a new article entitled ‘Re-imagining Improvisation: Listening, Discourse and Aesthetics’. This article began life as a number of conference presentations, probably most notably a paper at last year’s Perspectives on Musical Improvisation conference in Oxford. After that conference I decided that it really was time I wrote turned this paper into an article, not least because there are so many other projects I’ve got on at the moment, that it seemed best to get this into a concrete form and move on.

Publishing this online is also because there’s an increasing (and welcome) trend for academics to ensure that their work is widely available. That’s why (potential) readers will also be able to download this from my page on Research Gate and academia.edu shortly. There are also some colleagues in my field around the country who have provided a great example. I should mention Elizabeth Eva Leach at Oxford, whose page here demonstrates how musicologists (and academics more generally) can use online resources as a really effective way of distributing what they do to the outside world, and encourage others to do the same and engage in online (and offline) discussions. I should also mention Dan Leech-Wilkinson, whose online book The Changing Sound of Music provides an exemplary demonstration not only of why we should be publishing online, but how to do it.

So, please do have a look at my offering, and I’d welcome comments by email or Twitter.

Reviews, reviews, reviews…

Well, only two of them actually. It’s a interesting experience reading reviews of your published work that aren’t by anonymous referees, as is normally the case in academia. And when you’re publishing on a subject like a famous record by Keith Jarrett, then it turns out that reading what the jazz press think is an interesting exercise. They’re both nice positive reviews, but I suppose like most authors, I’m naturally drawn to what else they think I should have done.

The New York Jazz Record thinks that I tend to ‘over-philosophize’. Which I take as a compliment actually, because most of my academic peers think that I tend to avoid wordiness in favour of clarity. So perhaps I do spend quite a bit of time in the book thinking about what certain aspects of the record say about certain issues (liveness, improvisation, and so on), but I think I’d rather do that than just spend my time doing nothing but analysis, or telling a story.

The Jazz Journal, meanwhile, thinks that I’m fine when talking about the music, but they’re not so sure I explain why that particular record should be the one everyone owns. I think I disagree actually, but then they say that part of the problem is that The Koln Concert isn’t really a jazz record at all. But in saying that they’re making my point for me. Jazz studies, by and large, doesn’t have frameworks to deal with records when they become something beyond that enjoyed by a relatively select audience. In fact, we don’t really have even so much work in musicology on that (the exception I’d make is Tia DeNora’s work).  So perhaps I’m writing about The Koln Concert as a jazz scholar, looking out and trying to understand the idea of a jazz record that isn’t a jazz record. But I hope not really. The whole point of understanding The Koln Concert is that it has become something that jazz records don’t (and shouldn’t?) normally become. The result is that it allows us to reflect on the preconceptions we bring to the utility and function of recorded music.

Goodbye Ubuntu, hello Mint.

So, recently I left Ubuntu and moved over to Linux Mint as my main linux distro. Why? Well, I’d spent quite a while getting thoroughly frustrated by the bloat in Ubuntu I could never removed. I’m not a Unity fan, but all those Unity libraries that were on the system while I was running Cinnamon as my WM were getting in the way. And removing them was, while possible, not straightforward. And then I read the recent article in Linux format about the future of Ubuntu, and really didn’t like what I saw at all. So Mint made a lot of sense – it runs the desktop environment I’m happiest with, I don’t have to spend ages trying to get rid of things I don’t want, and it seems generally pretty stable. Let’s see how things develop.