What Jazz Does
What Jazz Does
This chapter examines jazz as what Kenneth Burke called a “democratic situation” in which individuals who are more or less equal and more or less free must connect with and separate from each other in the process of shaping their lives, individual and collective. Burke considers us all inhabitants of a persistently rhetorical situation in which we each choose constantly to identify with or separate from others. Prompted by the influence of others we must make choices about “acting-together.” And, particularly in a democratic culture, that “acting-together” is both unavoidable and transformative. Jazz improvisation in an ensemble setting models ways that “acting-together” can be transformative for the musicians and for those to whom their music is addressed. Indeed, unexpected change and transformation are the structure of this music itself. This chapter examines jazz music that is explicitly rhetorical to illustrate ways that what matters most in jazz may be what happens to people in the process of making and listening to the music.
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