The Jazz Papers

The Long Read

I’ve just started to develop a new project for Jazz North tentatively called northern originals Phase 3, a follow-up to the consultation and pilot project I ran from 2013 to 2015, and right now I’m trawling the Internet archives to unearth policy and research documents about strategic planning and audience development for jazz and contemporary music. As this is something that could be useful to anyone interested in the future of jazz in the UK, I’ve listed what I’ve found so far below in chronological order from older to newer, and will add more as they emerge.

 

Jazz – the Case for a Better Investment

(Jazz Services, 1993)
pdf online

A Policy for the Support of Jazz in England

(Arts Council England, 1996)
pdf online

How to Develop Audiences for Jazz

(Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, 2001)
pdf online
market research and industry conference

Contemporary Music Enthusiasts: How can we persuade people to try something different?

(Heather Maitland, Journal of Arts Marketing, 2002)
pdf online

Guide to Getting Bigger Jazz Audiences

(Heather Maitland, Jazz Services / EMJAZZ, 2011?)
pdf online

Rhythm Changes: Historical Overviews of Five Partner Countries

(Bruckner-Haring, C. & Whyton, T. (eds.), Graz, 2013)
pdf online

New Music : New Audiences final evaluation report

(New:Aud European project, 2014)
pdf online

We are the Music

Programming

The fastest-growing section on my bookshelf seems to be the autoethnography corner – researchers turning the lens on themselves and their own tribe. The latest addition to my collection, joining the ranks of Richard Hoggart, Lisa McKenzie, Kate Fox and al., is Marvin HarrisWhy Nothing Works, an “anthropology of daily life” published in 1981, digging deep to retrace the roots of everyday evil in contemporary America.

“This book is about cults, crime, shoddy goods, and the shrinking dollar. It’s about porno parlors, and sex shops, and men kissing on the streets. It’s about daughters shacking up, women on the rampage, marriages postponed, divorces on the rise, and no one having kids. It’s about old ladies getting mugged and raped, people shoved in front of trains, and shoot-outs as gas pumps. And letters that take weeks to get delivered, waiters who throw the food at you, rude sales help, and computers that bill you for things you never bought. It’s about broken benches, waterless fountains, cracked windows, dirty toilets, crater-filled roads, graffiti-covered buildings, slashed paintings, toppled statues, stolen books.”

Marvin Harris, ‘Introduction’, Why Nothing Works

How and why does all of this happen? The underlying causes of all these disparate problems are, according to Harris, centralisation, bureaucracy and oligopoly, the dark side of unfettered capitalism that ends up killing – in the name of maximising shareholder profit – the sense of initiative, quality control and efficiency that led to prosperity and progress in the first place.  

If the cause is centralisation, it would only be logical that the solution should be decentralisation (and Harris’ is always reassuringly logical, even when he turns upside down entrenched myths and rock-solid narratives). Already in 1981, Harris was calling for legislation towards greater local autonomy, “legal barriers against takeovers of new energy technologies (…) by multinational conglomerates” and support for “small business and community-based cooperatives” – an unlikely but necessary scenario that finds many advocates today, such as the partisans of the Transition model.  

The human-scale, everyday damage of capitalism is illustrated in the first two chapters – ‘Why Nothing Works’ and ‘Why the Help Won’t Help You’. Harris introduces up a simple concept that peaked my attention: if your new toaster burns everything it touches, or the shop sales assistant has no idea (and no interest in finding out) when they will restock your size, that’s because the social link between maker and user is broken. In a small-scale economy, the transaction between the person making and the person using the object is much more than monetary: there has to be trust, care and accountability. Objects made for oneself, a family member or next-door neighbour are perfect and durable because there’s a direct relation between the maker and the user: Harris give the examples of a sea canoe and a parka, which failure would be life-threatening on a freezing hunting trek. Inversely, in modern-day manufacturing and service industries, ever-growing layers of bureaucracy and hierarchy fragment the making process and separate each employee both from the product or service and the end-user.

This made me think of “music-making” – a term I’ve come to like for giving music – technically, a series of invisible waves – a physicality that makes it easier to relate to the people at each step of the process, the makers (musicians), users (listeners), but also the enablers, such as producers, promoters… It clearly places music within the frame of a communication process.

Music as a social link between people is an idea that I find helpful to think about activities that fall within the range of education, outreach, engagement and participation: of course, music can be ‘beneficial’ in itself, and the well-being and cognitive benefits associated with playing and listening to music are well documented, but the power of live music is also that it’s created by someone to share with others. Organisations like Live Music Now, as well as many orchestras, take music to people who can’t otherwise access it – inside hospitals, special schools and community centres – and as LMN founder Yehudi Menuhin says in this short extract, it’s about communicating and touching people one by one.

When music is played together, from a duo to an orchestra, a special chemistry happens between players, which, when it ‘works’, becomes a thrilling, enthralling bond between performers and audience. The context is hugely important in creating this connection, as the audience experience is shaped and influenced by a multitude of details that are mostly completely out of the control of the musicians: venue layout, sound quality, interaction with staff or volunteers…

And when thinking about the user-maker relationship, I wonder if we could think of the audience themselves as both creators and receivers of their own experience – that of being part of a crowd, a community of feeling. Then it’s perhaps the social link between listeners that is broken when rules and etiquette are erected to contain emotion and exclude rather than include participants. I’m thinking here of the concert hall experience often associate with classical music, and the stilted attitude to fellow audience members that can come with it – see the baffling episode related by Gillian Moore, Head of Music at Southbank Centre, who was chided by an audience member for moving her head in appreciation of the music.

There has been much done recently to allow the audience to develop and express a collective emotion while listening to classical music, by playing in more informal venues, from pubs to clubs and car parks, playing with presentation format, like the annual festival La Folle Journée in Nantes, or even making it a multi-sensory experience, like in the experiment below by BitterSuite.  

As I revisit these initiatives to reinvent the classical music experience and constantly discover new ones, it strikes me that I just can’t find the same type of information for jazz, another once-popular genre now soul-searching for new audiences. There are plenty of innovative jazz promoters out there inventing news ways to be with live music, but they just don’t get shared the same way that classical music case studies do – for example, I don’t know any jazz equivalent to this photo-heavy collection of 40 innovative live classical music case studies from around the world compiled by audience specialist Johan Idema. One for the to-do list? In the meantime, I take this call for responsible listeners that concludes Aaron Copland’s “preparation for listening” manual as a reminder that not all responsibility lies with the promoter:

“Take seriously your responsibility as listener. (…) Since it is our combined reaction as listeners that most profoundly influences both the art of composition and interpretation, it may be truthful to say that the future of music is in our hands.

Music can only really be alive when there are listeners who are really alive. To listen intently, to listen consciously, to listen with one’s whole intelligence is the least we can do in the furtherance of an art that is one of the glory of mankind.”

Aaron Copland, What to Listen for in Music (1939)

First Encounters: Cafe OTO, Vortex, BFI and National Gallery

Spotlight

Discovering a venue is like entering a new universe: if they got it right, their identity – the type of art they programme, the values they carry, the experience they create – is palpable right from the front door. This is how I felt recently about Cafe OTO, an experimental venue in Dalston, East London, where I went in September to see Rodrigo Constanzo (with whom I’m currently working on developing his dfscore project) perform with Distractfold as part of the Kammer Klang series of contemporary chamber music.

Here is Rodrigo performing one of his composition, iminlovewithanothergirl, a solo piece for snare and microphone, right at the end of the set.

The austere feel of the venue – basically a warehouse – creates an edgy focus for the music and makes the listening experience that much more intense. The acoustics are not even that good, there’s a loud fan that comes on between each set, and I can’t describe the seats as comfortable, but the space creates an intimacy not just with the performers but also between audience members: I was on my own, but I could easily strike a conversation with people sitting near me.

Not long after, I was at the Vortex, just round the corner, also for the first time, for what I can only describe as a journey through abstraction and emotion with Electric Biddle, a Jazz Shuttle project (Jazz Shuttle is a creative scheme supporting new Franco-British bands that I’ve recently started to coordinate on the UK side). A team from Paris venue Le Triton was there to film a documentary about the band, and here’s an extract from the first leg of the tour, filmed in France.

My latest encounter with a venue is a double one: I was invited to the BFI to watch the latest documentary by Fred Wiseman, who spend 12 weeks inside the National Gallery. He filmed everything from guided tours to executive meetings and restoration work, and condensed 170 hours of footage into a 3-hour film that celebrate both the art and the institution that hosts it, in all its complexity and contradictions.

I’ve never actually been (yet) to the National Gallery, so this was a formidable virtual encounter. The spotlight is of course on the paintings, but also on people: those who make, buy, care for and admire the art. We’re privy to debates amongst staff over the purpose and limitations of restoration, or on the tension between ‘inclusion’ and ‘excellence’. We also get to eavesdrop on the vast array of education, engagement and participation activities that take place within the National Gallery: from guided school tours to teacher training, a life-drawing class, or a session for visually impaired people observing Pissaro’s The Boulevard Montmartre at Night through touch and words.

National Gallery is a journey through art and humanity told with a multitude of fragments that continue to resonate and build a meaning long after the film is finished. The most powerful moments are wordless juxtapositions of masterpiece portraits and the people observing them: a mise en abyme that connects past and present, art and life, and artist, sitter, museum-goer and film spectator, in an infinite jeu de miroir of “who’s looking at who?”.  I was also reminded of Thomas Struth’s Museum Photographs, a series of large-scale images showing museum-goers engaged in the process of observing paintings at several institutions, including the National Gallery (below).

National Gallery I, London, 1989 by Thomas Struth

National Gallery I, London, 1989 by Thomas Struth

The film is out in the UK in January 2015. Meanwhile, I’ve been back to Cafe OTO for another great night hosted by Kammer Klang, I’m off to the Vortex for the Emile Parisien Quartet in November, if not before, and I’m planning a visit to the National Gallery in the next few weeks. I haven’t said much about my experience at the BFI, but it inspired my to start a weekly film club at the Cat’s Back, the South West London pub I run with my husband, so surely that’s their job done!

Summer in the City

Programming

Summer for me tends to mean either working on or recovering from a festival, but I still remember fondly the French summer school holidays – Les Grandes Vacances, a seemingly endless 8-week stretch of perfectly free time. However, Summer in the Suburbs wasn’t exactly action-packed, so I would have been grateful at the time for this Mairie de Paris initiative: the Pass Jeunes (Youth Pass), a bundle of free or heavily discounted cultural offers for anyone aged 15-25 and living, studying or working in Paris.

Amongst the 26 free activities, pass holders can choose from admission to several museums, temporary exhibitions, cinema, music festivals (jazz, world, and classical), heritage buildings and sports activities.

13 further activities are offered with a discount: a visit of the Eiffel Tower and the zoo, a river cruise, a hot air balloon trip and more exhibitions.

As an added incentive, there’s a competition to win a few more cultural/lifestyle activities: more exhibitions, singing and circus lessons and free subscriptions to Vélib, Paris’ shared bike scheme. Each voucher used unlocks a password to input on the Pass Jeune website – so the more offers they access, the more likely users are to win rewards.

Here’s my imaginary summer line-up of Grandes Vacances weekly activities – if only I were a few years younger and living in Paris – for a grand total of €8.5.

 

1. Les années 50 at the Musée de la Mode

Not just any 50s fashion but 50s fashion in France – Givenchy, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Christian Dior, Jacques Griffe, Pierre Cardin… Here’s a teaser in French with sweeping views of the outfits on display.

 

2. Ballon de Paris

Billed as the biggest in the world, this hot air balloon changes colour to indicate the quality of air, from red for very bad to green for excellent.

Here’s a Go Pro video filmed 2 years ago – according to the comments, the orientation is all wrong, but it’s still a nice view.

There’s also a permanent webcam to see Paris from the sky whenever the balloon is up and flying.

 

3. L’Etat du ciel at the Palais de Tokyo

I try to go to the Palais de Tokyo whenever I’m in Paris, because it’s actually quite small and exhibitions i’ve been to so far felt slow-paced and spacious. I also like the fact that it’s right next to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (which permanent collections are always free to visit).

L’État du ciel – a title borrowed from Victor Hugo’s essay Promontoire du songe, in which the author wrote that “the sky’s normal state is at night” – is “a homage to many artists’, poets’ and philosophers’ reflections on the physical, moral and political factors that shape our world”. Artists include Ed Atkins, Camille Henrot, Steve McQueen, Tony Oursler, Dominique Ghesquière and more, with a focus on performance and time-based art.

 

4. JR au Panthéon

The Panthéon is a 17th-century neoclassical church that has been used as a burial place for eminent French citizens – all men except Marie Curie – since the Revolution. It is currently one of 9 heritage sites hosting a participatory photographic installation by artist JR, whose mobile “Inside Out” photobooth van travelled through France earlier this year to collect photographic portraits.

The Panthéon is undergoing major renovation work, and the commission is a great way to draw attention to the building and its signification in French history, whilst questioning its function as a place of consecration of the great and the good by infiltrating it with 4,000 anonymous portraits.

The video below is in French but shows lots of views of the installation.

 

5. Jeux, Ruses et Hasards at the Forum des Images

3 short films – Zig-Zag, Le Jeu de l’Oie by Raoul Ruiz, Le Coup du Berger by Jacques Rivette and La Boulangère de Monceau by Eric Rohmer, as part of the “Goût du Jeu” thematic retrospective, surveying the notion of play in films. There are many more of the 70+ films that I would like to discover or watch again, but this selection of shorts by 3 great filmmakers seems like a safe bet.

 

6. Marc Ducret – Tower Bridge at the Paris Jazz Festival

Marc Ducret’s Tower Bridge is a project based on “an attempt at transposing in the musical world a short chapter from Vladimir Nabokov’sAda, in which the writer weaves a whole labyrinth made of mirrors, memories and correspondences, eventually building a form which in turn leads to his other books, themes and emotions”  (from the press release). The 12-piece band incorporates two-third of the excellent Trio Journal Intime (Matthias Mahler on trombone and Frédéric Gastard on bass saxophone), so it’s got to be good.

 

7. Pierre Henry: Voyage à travers ma modernité at Paris Quartier d’Eté

A pioneer of musique concrète and precursor of electronic music, Pierre Henry has been artist-in-residence at Paris Quartier d’Eté (an annual eclectic programme of performing arts) for the past 7 years. If I had to choose only one of the 6 concerts presented at the recently renovated Carreau du Temple, it would probably be Symphonie pour un homme seul, a musical collage in 12 movements featuring vocal fragments recorded backwards, accelerated or repeated, whistles, footsteps, doors slamming, metallic sounds and a prepared piano, which he composed with Pierre Schaeffer in 1949-1950.

Here is a film of the choreography of the same name by Maurice Béjart, created in 1955 and based on the Eroïca movement of the “symphony”.

 

8. Avec motifs apparents at the Cent Quatre

Large-scale in situ installations by 5 artists at the Cent Quatre, a new(ish) arts centre opened in 2008 on the site of the former municipal undertaker services.

Artists include Pascale Marthine Tayou, Xavier Juillot,  Jérémy Gobé, Alice Mulliez and Prune Nourry.

Jazz sous les pommiers 2014

Spotlight

I’m just back from Jazz sous les pommiers, a long-established festival in the small town of Coutances, Normandie, where I was lucky enough to be invited as the UK Coordinator of a Franco-British collaborative project called Jazz Shuttle. It was a short stay – only two days – but packed with discoveries and emotions, so I wanted to commit them to memory before going back to the rest of my activities (mainly more jazz and more festivals right now).

The festival takes its names from the ancient apple trees – pommiers – on the town square, under which it all started 33 years ago. It’s a busy week-long festival, with over 50 indoor gigs that represent a wide spectrum of contemporary jazz, as well as daily outdoor amateur showcases and street theatre. It’s a remarkably well-run event that attracts a huge (and fiercely loyal) audience: 37,000 in 2010, in a town that counts 9,000 inhabitants year-round. As hotels fill up quickly, the tourism board has developed a bed & breakfast system with local residents who have a spare bedroom to rent. That’s just one of the festival initiatives that transform the way audiences access the music; I picked up below my personal musical and experiential highlights.

Jazz & Châteaux 

On Friday morning, I got up early to embark on a coach tour of the Normandie countryside and take in two concerts in unusual venues.

First stop was the 17th-century Château de Cerisy de la Salle, where the famous annual Colloques de Cerisy, an influential series of academic conferences on literature, philosophy, science and society, have been hosted since 1952. After an enlightening introduction about the Cultural Centre by its current director Edith Heurgon, Rhizottome (Armelle Dousset, bisonoric chromatic accordion & Matthieu Metzger, sopranino sax) performed their singular interpretations of traditional dances in the castle’s barn.

The second castle was the 16th-century Château de Canisy, self-styled “world’s oldest B&B”, a grandiose setting with a small formal theatre space, fully draped in pale gold, where vibraphonist Frank Tortiller gave a solo performance.

The total round-trip was just over 3 hours long and offered an interesting collective experience: all on board a school bus borrowed by the festival for the occasion, chatting away and letting ourselves get driven to the gigs, with no worries of being late or getting lost. I found it immensely relaxing and conducive to attentive listening. In previous years, the festival offered similar programming linking music and heritage on foot and by bike, paired with cider and cheese tasting (which sounds even more appealing, but probably more tricky to organise weather-wise for a late Spring festival).

Magic Mirrors

Magic mirrors is the French name of what is called Spiegeltent in English – which comes from the Dutch term for ‘mirror tent’: a good example of European linguistic mélange.

This was finally my chance to experience the magical world of these travelling performing spaces, originally built in Belgium at the end of the 19th century as mobile dance halls. They come complete with wooden floors, a raised stage, a bar and a circular central standing space surrounded by stalls. They are decorated with stained glass, mirrors, velvet and brocade, in a fairly exuberant and circus-like Art Nouveau style. There are still a few of the original 1920s tents touring the world, as well as new modern ones.

Salon Revue - dancefloor view

‘Magic Mirrors’ – view from the dance floor

Salon Revue - Stalls

‘Magic Mirrors’ – Side Stalls

I saw two gigs there, including an all-star medley led by touche-à-tout Thomas de Pourquery, current artist-in-residence at Jazz sous les pommiers (a 3-year tenure during which musicians can immerse themselves in the local community and develop participatory projects). With his ‘Beautiful Freaks’, a bunch of musicians from varied musical horizons, he turned the Magic Mirrors into a cabaret-disco, a fitting use of the venue.

Laurent de Wilde’s ‘Fly’

My third space-and-music experience was in Coutances’ brand new arthouse cinema, which is fitted with what must be the most comfortable seats in the world.

On stage, Laurent de Wilde on grand piano faces electronic musician and improviser Otisto 23, who samples, reworks and loops the piano sounds with his electronic machines. Encircling them, panels of translucent fabric hang from a circular curtain pole, providing a 3-dimensional projection surface for video artist Nico Ticot (aka XLR)’s mesmerising visuals.

Neither my description nor the video above (filmed in 2010 at the New Morning) really do justice to the experience created by these three collaborating artists, but it was interesting to hear from Laurent that they have performed in all sorts of settings – namely in China’s Forbidden City and on a beach in La Réunion: like the Magic Mirrors, another travelling experience that takes the audience on a journey into its own world wherever it lands.