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Keeping It Real: Authenticity, Cultural Capital and Jazz Musicians in the 21st Century

Date & Time:
16:30 - 18:00,
Wednesday 6 February, 2019


The corporate, neo-liberal turn in the fine arts is a symptom of a discursive shift in how traditionally autonomous sectors are being perceived in society. This heralds the beginning of the end of an historical period of artistic and creative autonomy premised upon the Romantic concept of artistic genius and the predominance of a Kantian aesthetic of “disinterestedness” governing claims to status honour among actors in the fine arts who, along with actors operating in other previously autonomous sectors such as education, science, and healthcare, can no longer rely on claims of public service or to being inherently exceptional. This discursive shift necessitates pragmatic engagement in commerce and enterprise and a general re-embedding in society. In this light, the genre of jazz, having steadily risen in status during the 20th century, is now caught in a double bind: how should the serious jazz musician communicate the value of her work given the rapid dissolution of the cultural hierarchy her genre has successfully scaled? The proposed DPhil project attempts to explore how the digitalisation of relations within the field of jazz and the accordant “glocalisation” thereof is both bane and boon to jazz musicians as they adapt to these changing times. This is achieved by means of a comparative ethnography of two metropoles with a consideration of how notions of cultural capital are inflected locally and how these differing notions of taste are related to the music produced and its presentation both online and offline. Through this process, the proposed study aims to scrutinise how the Internet mediates relationships between jazz musicians, thereby potentially shedding light on such issues as the sociality of aesthetics and structural agency in the digital age.

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  • Name: Benjamin Low
  • Affiliation: Department of Sociology, University of Oxford
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