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Free and Open to the Public!

"what’s avant-garde about the avant-garde?"

The Fourth Annual

Interdisciplinary Jazz Studies Colloquium

University of Kansas

March 30, 2007

The fourth annual Interdisciplinary Jazz Studies Colloquium at the University of Kansas takes as its central focus an exploration of "avant garde" as a category of jazz studies. Once a marginalized or outright ignored topic in college and university jazz curricula (if not faculty), since the 1990s the avant-garde acquired a privileged place as a significant site of inquiry in academic jazz studies.  Recent books and articles have explored avant-garde collectives such as the Arkestras of Sun Ra and Horace Tapscott and the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).  Much of this scholarship pushed beyond historical description to raise questions about the political implications of improvisation and dissonance.

On March 30, 2007, an exciting group of scholars, musicians, and musician-scholars will gather at University of Kansas in Lawrence to think about what it means to talk about "avant garde" jazz in the present. Looking through a prism of themes related to questions about jazz and "the new" as they are understood today as well as in its historical manifestations, participants will raise questions such as:

  • If the avant-garde has historically been associated with the daring, the new and that which deviates from the mainstream, what does it mean for it to become institutionalized in jazz studies? 

  • What does it mean to privilege musical culture of the 1960s and 1970s as the “avant garde” of the new Millennium? 

Featured speakers:

Fred Ho, composer, performer, author, and activist, and founder of the Afro-Asian Ensemble (1982) will deliver the keynote address, as well as a solo baritone saxophone concert and post-concert dialogue in the evening. For Ho, musical practices are “about the present . . . and the future,” remain “highly and inescapably political” and “must be understood both sociologically and musicologically” (“What Makes ‘Jazz’ the Revolutionary Music of the 20th Century, and Will it be for the 21st Century? African American Review, 1995).   

Kevin Whitehead, jazz critic for NPR's "Fresh Air," author of 1998's New Dutch Swing, and lecturer who teaches jazz-related courses in American Studies and English at the University of Kansas, will deliver a talk based on the viability of the avant-garde as a category.  He has declared that “any label which defines an artistic movement according to its newness. . . inevitably becomes obsolete.” (“Death to ‘the Avant-Garde,’” The Voice, 1994). 

Friday, March 30, 2007,

Colloquium all day long: (watch this site for details) Alderson Auditorium, University of Kansas

Evening Concert: Fred Ho, baritone saxophone, and dialogue with audience (watch this site for details), Spencer Art Museum Auditorium, University of Kansas


All Events are Free and Open to the Public



Chuck Berg, Film/Media Studies, Department of Theatre and Film

Crystal Anderson, American Studies

Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, KU Center for Research, Hall Center for the Humanities, and Spencer Museum of Art.