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This Is Our Music, declared saxophonist Ornette Coleman's 1960 album title. But whose music was it? At various times during the 1950s and 1960s, musicians, critics, fans, politicians, and entrepreneurs claimed jazz as a national art form, an Afrocentric race music, an extension of modernist innovation in other genres, a music of mass consciousness, and the preserve of a cultural elite. This original and provocative book explores who makes decisions about the value of a cultural form and on what basis, taking as its example the impact of 1960s free improvisation on the changing status of jazz.
By examining the production, presentation, and reception of experimental music by Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, and others, Iain Anderson traces the strange, unexpected, and at times deeply ironic intersections between free jazz, avant-garde artistic movements, Sixties politics, and patronage networks. Anderson emphasizes free improvisation's enormous impact on jazz music's institutional standing, despite ongoing resistance from some of its biggest beneficiaries. He concludes that attempts by African American artists and intellectuals to define a place for themselves in American life, structural changes in the music industry, and the rise of nonprofit sponsorship portended a significant transformation of established cultural standards.
At the same time, free improvisation's growing prestige depended in part upon traditional highbrow criteria: increasingly esoteric styles, changing venues and audience behavior, European sanction, withdrawal from the marketplace, and the professionalization of criticism. Thus jazz music's performers and supporters - and potentially those in other arts - have both challenged and accommodated themselves to an ongoing process of cultural stratification.
The book is published by University of Pennsylvania Press.
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
The original book was full of interesting information about the music and musicians. I don't have the background to know whether the sociological arguments were correct but they were at least plausible. I can't recommend the audiobook, however, because the narration was poor. I've been a subscriber to Audible for almost nine years, and I can't remember a narrator who sounded so robotic. I realize that narrating a non-fiction book needs to be different than that for fiction, but there still needs to be thought given to reading with appropriate inflection and pauses.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Paul Steven Forrest?
Of the non-fiction books I've recently listened to, I enjoyed Rob Shapiro's narration of The Third Chimpanzee, and I think he would have been a good reader for this book. Another excellent narration was Jack Weatherford's for Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up This Is Our Music: Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American Culture in three words, what would they be?
A fascinating look at the innovators who changed the sound of jazz forever.
What was one of the most memorable moments of This Is Our Music: Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American Culture?
How free jazz grew from its humble beginnings to impact culture.
What does Paul Steven Forrest bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
He adds style and nuance to the narrative.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The stories of musicians who struggled to legitimize this uniquely American art form.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from Iain Anderson and/or Paul Steven Forrest?
The author Iain Anderson - sure. I would not listen to another book with this narrator before previewing and reading reviews.
What other book might you compare This Is Our Music: Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American Culture to and why?
What I especially liked about this book is that it didn't really compare to any other books that I've read on the history of jazz. The insights linking jazz to politics and race relations of the era was unique to me
How could the performance have been better?
the narration was just poor much of the time. The syllable by syllable pronunciation lacked flow and was quite distracting. I would not have been surprised that the narration was really preformed by a text-to-speech program (circa early-2000's)
Do you think This Is Our Music: Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American Culture needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
A follow-up would be interesting to me.
This was a thought provoking book touching on the nuances of the cultural politics that shape and police aesthetic judgement and set the scene for the inculcation of public taste. Recommended.