Rhythm Changes

Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities




Jazz needs academia and more projects like Rhythm Changes
to help make sense of the picture, to provide greater understanding, and no doubt, too, greater appreciation of jazz music, wherever it is played and listened to.

Ian Patterson (AllAboutJazz.com, April 2013)


From 2010–2013, the institute was a core member of the ground-breaking research project Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities. This transnational project, funded by Humanities in the Human Research Area (total funding amounted to nearly €1 million), was the first and largest of its kind in Europe. It provided an essential boost to cooperation in European jazz research, as well as both widening the scope and raising the visibility of the field in general. Together with partner universities in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, the institute investigated changes in European jazz music and cultures over time, bringing a wealth of new insight into cultural exchanges and dynamics among the partner countries, groups, and related media – insight that could help address the major social, cultural, and political challenges facing Europe. Collaborations between project members – Rhythm Changes conferences, book projects, case studies, teaching exchanges and other networking activities – continue to this day.

There has been a long and diverse history of jazz in Europe. Since the music‘s inception, jazz has been at the center of discourses about European identity, politics (including race, class and gender) and cultural value; indeed, the music continues to play a central role in European cultural life and the construction of traditions and myths. As a 20th century practice, jazz has integral links to technological change and media dissemination, creating complex and dynamic interactions between live and recorded performances, film, photography and new media.

Within this context, jazz is an ideal cultural form to explore a number of critical questions, from its shifting aesthetic status from popular to canonical “art” music to the hybridization of musical style to the creation of social ambiences and communities. Jazz is a practice that developed in Europe both through transatlantic influences and exchanges, so is ideally placed to explore wider issues surrounding identity and inheritance, enabling unique perspectives on how culture is changed, adopted and transformed.

Rhythm Changes was a 3-year transnational interdisciplinary research project which examined the inherited traditions and practices of European jazz cultures, developing new insights into cultural exchanges and dynamics between different countries, groups and related media.

Research Strands:

1. Canon, History and Ideology: examined how jazz has developed in each partner country and how the music relates to arts policies, cultural infrastructure and education.

2. Identity, Hybridization and Communities in Flux: examined the way in which jazz can transcend national borders through musical language and style. The project team was particularly interested in evaluating recent trends in jazz and the way in which projects deliberately seek to fuse music from different parts of Europe (Balkan Jazz, musicians‘ collectives, etc.).

3. Nation, Identification and Inheritance: examined the concept of a national sound or national ideals in music. We often hear about concepts such as the Nordic Tone or the Dutch Sound; however, we wanted to examine where these concepts come from. In other words, do they exist as inherent qualities or are they bound up with some kind of national mythology?

4. Cultural Dynamics and Social Transformations: concerned the social ambience of jazz. It is often stated that the music is influenced by the world around it. What about reversing this idea and exploring how jazz influences society? We have looked at festivals and venues in particular and the way in which they are used to promote a sense of civic pride or cultural tourism.



Further Information: www.rhythmchanges.net