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Damani Phillips

Thursday 11 November 2021, 5 pm CET

Lost Soul: The State of Black Cultural Influence in Collegiate Jazz Pedagogy

How does collegiate jazz education impact the Black cultural value of “soulfulness” in jazz music? Does jazz music’s foundational roots in African American music culture require educators and practitioners to adjust both how the music is taught and performed by those who claim expertise in the field? Does presenting jazz in an academic setting encourage scholars and educators to dissect and analyze the technical make-up of the music, but in the process, perpetuate a problematic fixation on those quantifiable/theoretical elements that thrust aside characteristics that directly connect jazz to African American music culture? What type of environmental circumstances would force the field of jazz studies to ask itself these vital, yet commonly ignored, questions about itself?

Iowa Associate Professor of Jazz and African American Studies Damani Phillips present findings from his 2018 book "What Is This Thing Called Soul: Conversations on Black Culture and Jazz Education". Phillips’ work delves into the inherent problems associated with teaching an ethnically-derived art form such as jazz in an environment that is both designed specifically to teach European classical music and remarkably lacking in ethnic/cultural representation among instructors in the field. His work argues that the cultural, emotional and esthetic elements at the very core of jazz’s unique identity - along with the music’s overt sonic connection to African American music culture - are effectively “lost in translation” in traversing the divide between academic and non‐academic (street) jazz spheres.


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