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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"You can't listen alone": Jazz, listening and sociality in a transitioning South Africa
by Pyper, Brett, Ph.D., New York University, 2014, 264; 3614893
Abstract (Summary)

This is a study of contemporary jazz culture in post-apartheid South Africa. It demonstrates that the significance of jazz can productively be understood from the perspective of listeners, complementing the necessary attention that has historically been afforded to the creators and performers of the music. It describes the rich social life that has emerged around the collecting and sharing of jazz recordings by associations of listeners in this country. In these social contexts, a semi-public culture of listening has been created, it is argued, that is distinct from the formal jazz recording, broadcast and festival sectors, and extends across various social, cultural, linguistic and related boundaries to constitute a vibrant dimension of vernacular musical life. South African jazz appreciation societies illustrate that collecting may be a global phenomenon but that recordings can take on quite particular social lives in specific times and places, and that the extension of consumer capitalism to places like South Africa does not always automatically involve the same kinds of possessive individualism that they do in other settings, and might even serve as a catalyst for new forms of creativity. The study demonstrates, moreover, that what is casually referred to as "the jazz public" is an internally variegated and often enduringly segregated constellation of scenes, several of which remain quite intimate and, indeed, beyond the view of the "general public." The study foregrounds how one specific dimension of jazz culture – the modes of sociability with which the music has become associated among its listening devotees – can assume decidedly local forms and resonances, becoming part of the country's jazz heritage in its own right and throwing into relief the potential breadth, range and contrasts in the ways that jazz writ large can be figured and recontextualised as it is vernacularized around the world. The study recognizes the significant role that jazz appreciation societies play in creating culturally resonant grassroots social settings for this music, documents and analyses the creativity with which they do so, and considers the broader implications of their contribution to the musical elaboration of public space in contemporary South Africa.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Beckerman, Michael
Commitee: Daughtry, J. M., Kapchan, Deborah, Kratz, Corinne A., Samuels, David
School: New York University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Black studies, Cultural anthropology, Music, South African Studies
Keywords: Dance, Ethnomusicology, Jazz studies, Listening, Popular music studies, South Africa, South african music
Publication Number: 3614893
ISBN: 978-1-303-80588-2
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