Jazz Cultures: Historical perspectives on the jazz audience

Date & Time:

25th January, 16:00


Online event; the link will be sent to those who register.


The seminar explores historical perspectives on jazz audiences featuring Prof. Catherine Tackley, Dr. Pedro Cravinho and Prof. Tim Wall.


Professor Catherine Tackley (University of Liverpool) Turn on the Heat: ‘hotness’ and British dance band audiences

In this paper I will offer some initial thoughts arising from my current Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship project on British dance bands. Jazz was only one of many influences on the repertoire and performance practice of these ensembles, but it is probably the most frequently discussed. Although my project examines the wider role and impact of dance bands, ‘hotness’ is an inescapable value criterion for dance music, then and now. In the paper, I’ll use the idea of ‘hotness’ to discuss the responses of three types of audience to dance bands; the work of fan-scholars, who usually experience the music retrospectively through listening to recordings; dancers’ physical interactions with live music, and the performances of vast numbers of amateur and semi-professional musicians in bands up and down the country who were reliant on mediation of dance band music beyond exclusive London venues.

Dr Pedro Cravinho (Birmingham City University) The Reception of Jazz at the Birmingham Town Hall in the post-WWII

Recent decades have seen growing attention being paid to the development of jazz across the globe. However, with a few exceptions, publications about the history of jazz in Britain written by journalists, fans or scholars have focused primarily on London. This state of affairs is mirrored in other European countries. For the past century, the capital cities have become enshrined as the centre of this music in each country’s diasporic national history. Stories from outside the capital cities remain conspicuous by their absence. Birmingham is one such case. This talk explores the reception of the first jazz concerts in one of the most emblematic venues in the city, Birmingham Town Hall. This analysis from a local perspective aims to understand how this music was received by critics and audiences in such an important venue associated with classical music and how those jazz artists and their syncopated music were perceived outside the capital city. For full abstract, see the Eventbrite link.

Tim Wall (Birmingham City University) Listeners-in and jazz: understanding the emergence of the idea of the audience in early BBC radio programming of dance and jazz music.

Starting with a sense of being ‘audient’, this presentation explores the way early BBC staff conceived that they had an audience, and what that meant for an organisation conceived of as a ‘broadcaster’. There’ll be some general theory of the radio ‘hearer’, some specific discussion of the move from people ‘listening-in’ to becoming a body of ‘listeners’, and some thoughts on what that meant when what was being broadcast was ‘dance music’.

The presentation makes an argument for some reconsideration of what has become a far too obvious a concept of the media audience. That the birth of radio coincides with wider uses of the idea of jazz, allows us to see how both ideas were signifiers open to a range of attempts to anchor down what radio (or wireless as it was often termed at the time) and jazz could and should mean. Listening to jazz on the radio may sound an unequivocal concept, but I’d like to bring out some of the complexity of what that meant when we weren’t that sure what radio listening or jazz actually was.

By making strange the things we often take as our starting assumptions in media and cultural studies, I want to ask what talking about jazz can offer us in understanding early twentieth century media as a way of understanding early twenty-first century media culture. There’ll be lots of examples from the archive and some music as well.

About the speakers:

Professor Catherine Tackley (née Parsonage) was appointed at the University of Liverpool in August 2016 as Head of the Department of Music, a position she held for six years. Catherine’s research interests include historical and critical musicology with particular reference to jazz and popular music, early and European jazz, recording, jazz influenced music, and performance practice. She has written two books – The Evolution of Jazz in Britain: c.1880-1935 and Benny Goodman’s Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert – and co-edited Black British Jazz: Routes, Ownership and Performance. In 2018, Catherine curated Rhythm and Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain for The Arts Society, an acclaimed exhibition in London based on her research. She currently holds a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust for the project ‘The British Dance Band: Music and Musicians in the Mainstream’. For full bio, see the Eventbrite link.

Pedro Cravinho is a researcher and educator with a background as a professional musician, a BMus in Musicology and a PhD in Ethnomusicology. He is a Senior Research Fellow at Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR) and the Keeper of the Archives at the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, Birmingham City University, UK. Cravinho co-leads the BCMCR Jazz Studies Research Cluster and teaches jazz at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. His research interests lie, broadly, in the social, political and cultural history of the jazz diaspora and its representation in the public sphere.. He is a co-investigator in the AHRC/NEH project ‘New Directions in Digital Jazz Studies’, a co-founder of the Documenting Jazz international conferences, and a member of the editorial board of the jazz research journal jazz-hitz. For full bio, see the Eventbrite link.

Tim Wall is Professor of Radio and Popular Music Studies in the Centre for Media and Cultural Research. He researches into the production and consumption cultures around popular music and radio. His publications have included the second edition of his book Studying Popular Music Culture (Sage), the third edition of the jointly authored Media Studies: Texts, Production and Context (Routledge) and the jointly edited The Northern Soul Scene (Equinox). He has also published articles on music radio online, punk fanzines, the transistor radio, personal music listening, popular music on television, television music histories, jazz collectives, Duke Ellington on the radio, The X Factor and radio sound. He is currently writing the history of jazz on BBC radio from 1922 to 1972 (Equinox) and co-editing a book on rethinking Miles Davis (OUP)