Dr. Loes Rusch (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), 29.11.2017, 18:00, Palais Meran, First Floor, Kleiner Saal

(Female) Jazz Professionals During the Interbellum Period

The role of women in jazz history has often been eclipsed by that of their male counterparts. Although men dominated the Dutch jazz scene between the World Wars, female artists were also active as jazz dancers, vocalists, and occasionally as instrumentalists. The latter mostly worked in so-called damesorkesten (ladies’ orchestras), a type of all-female ensemble also popular in the United States, where they were typically known as “all-girl bands”. Although media and audiences valued female bands more for their exotic appeal than their technical ability, female jazz musicians had full-time, international careers and worked under circumstances every bit as demanding as those of their male colleagues.

The field of jazz studies has begun introducing the narratives of marginalized voices into historiography; these represent alternative experiences and new sources of knowledge. The cultural and ethnical diversity of the Dutch interwar music scene has remained relatively unexplored to date; in focusing on female jazz musicians’ navigation of the music business, this study moves beyond recordings and jazz magazines as primary research sources. Uncovering the female voice in jazz history contributes to a multivoiced telling of jazz history, as well as challenging existing methods of historical inquiry. Moreover, it demonstrates how unease with independent female musicians both reflects and reaffirms existing gender imbalances.

Loes Rusch lectures on jazz and improvised music at the University of Amsterdam. As a research member of the European project Cultural Heritage and Improvised Music in European Festivals (CHIME), she is currently studying festival landscapes in the Netherlands. She is also a baritone saxophonist and works as a curator for the Wonderfeel music festival in the Netherlands. Her recent publications include “Frontierism, Intellectual Listeners and the New European Wave: On the Reception of Dutch Jazz in DownBeat, 1960–1980” (Jazz Research Journal, 2015) and “Pitched Battles: Dutch Improvised Music, Authorities and Strategies” in The Cultural Politics of Jazz (Routledge, 2015). Her primary research interests are jazz and improvised music, sensory studies, cultural heritage, festival sites, and issues of cultural identity, policy-making, and musical representation.