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Civic JazzAmerican Music and Kenneth Burke on the Art of Getting Along$
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Gregory Clark

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226218182

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226218359.001.0001

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Where Jazz Comes From

Where Jazz Comes From

(p.62) Four Where Jazz Comes From
Civic Jazz

Gregory Clark

University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes jazz emerging from the place of conflict between individual and collective identities where Burke’s rhetorical and aesthetic theories are located as a well. It is a place of struggle, necessarily cooperative and competitive at once, even “antagonistic” as Ralph Ellison put it as he described the “antagonistic cooperation” he found inherent in jazz. Ensemble jazz is necessarily harmonious, but may be at its best when that harmony is located just short of the music’s disintegration. Jazz is collaborative music made of individual improvisations. What holds it together ultimately is not so much conformity to technical elements as the sense of responsibility they all share to the music itself. That results in a common commitment to make jazz work aesthetically even when contention is inherent within it. Jazz is a music of freedom, but the freedom it expresses is not individual freedom unconstrained. It is a collective freedom enacted in cooperative practice.

Keywords:   Ralph Ellison, cooperation, freedom, responsibility

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