In Sound and Society’s fifth meeting of the spring quarter, we welcome Michael Allemana (Ethnomusicology), who will share his draft of the third dissertation chapter, entitled:

Spatial Views: Oral Narratives of Place in Jazz Scene Experience

Wednesday, May 9nd, 2018

Logan 802

4:30 – 6:00 PM

Thank you for looking at this chapter of my dissertation. I intend this to be the third chapter of my dissertation, which would come after an introductory chapter about methodology and a second chapter on the effects of racial segregation historically on the South Side jazz scene, with the case study being the integrations struggles of the 1960s with the local musicians’ unions. This chapter deals with the importance of place for individuals who spent years performing or attending jazz venues on the South Side. This is the premise I am pursuing: in my research and in my performing career on the South Side, experienced jazz musicians and scene participants (that is, those individuals that have spent years on the jazz scene in some capacity) talk about places often and how important the experiences were in those places.  If, as phenomenologists and geographers propose (e.g. Edward S. Casey and Robert Sack), place is the most fundamental form of embodied experience and to be in place is to know, to become aware of one’s own consciousness and sensuousness in the world (Casey 1996), then what these people say about place would reveal important dimensions of musical experience. I’m tagging onto Feld’s proposition (1996) that one aim of fieldwork should be to try to describe and interpret “ways in which people encounter places, receive them, and invest them with significance.” Moreover, if we consider memory as an act of the present, then as Andreas Huyssen argues (2003), we can read cities and buildings as palimpsests of space that absorb and contain a multiplicity of experiences and stories with the physical marks of the present (in this case, a lot of empty lots) merging with physical, social, and musical traces of the past.

So what I argue here is if we are to consider all the aspects of what makes musical experience and do this ethnographically, then, following Christopher Small, a crucial aspect of musicking on the South Side jazz scene would be place experience and talking about it. Von Freeman told me countless stories of the Pershing Hotel when I was in his band. His brother George Freeman continues in my fieldwork to talk about places, which reveal all sorts of dimensions of music making. To explore place experience, I have developed an oral history method I call “the stroll” where I drive scene participants to the meaningful and important places of their past and ask them about those places, many of which are empty lots. They have a lot to say, and my research for this chapter explores the narratives of three of my interlocutors.

This chapter is still a working draft. Here are some questions I have for those of you who read the chapter or parts of it:

  • The interview method of “the stroll”: I’m struggling with the name of this methodology. Does this make sense? Is there another term that might come to mind that you think would be more suitable?
  • I think Jonathan Sterne’s sue of the term “audile” really gets at some of the skills and experiences of interlocutors and how they process and use their past experiences in the present. I’m just not sure I am making a good case in using this term and having it as a productive part of the analysis of the strolls with my collaborators. Suggestions or comments?
  • What do you think of the use of place attachment literature? Helpful? In the way?
  • How do you like the case studies and how they support my argument of place importance?
  • I plan on adding maps. Do you think those would help?
  • What do you think is missing?
  •  Of course I am open to any and all suggestions that you may have.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and thank you Brad and Amy for giving me a platform to explore my ideas. I look forward to seeing everyone next week.

Click to view the paper here. (Please do not cite or circulate)

Persons who believe they may require accommodations to participate fully in this event should contact the coordinator, Bradley Spiers at spiersb@uchicago.edu or Amy Skjerseth at askjerseth@uchicago.edu in advance.

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