German Radio Jazz Research

Haus Humboldtsheim at Rolandseck

At the German Radio Jazz Research Seminar, we were contemplating the fast-flowing Rhine, just south of Bonn. And various aspects of the jazz scene.

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First up at this group brought together by Bernd Hoffmann of WDR, was a Hungarian post-doctoral researcher from Graz university presenting part of his doctoral research into John Scofield’s improvisational methods. I spot an unsung British hero in the background here, without whom – the researcher confirmed to me – the work could not have been done. He could, he said,  simply not have transcribed the volume of Scofield’s work, thirty-seven tracks, which formed the backbone of his research. That unsung hero is guitarist/ software guru Andy Robinson, who hs been working on and improving his seventhstring transcription software for at least two decades.

This launched a discussion about whether this kind of descriptive research can be done without making value-judgments, particularly if one uses the hazardous word “simple” to describe harmonic structure.

Another paper, by Michael Ruesenberg, had some interesting source material on the continuing quest to understand – psychologically, neurophysiologically – the practice of improvisation. Rusenberg will be presenting this work more fully at the Darmstadt Jazz Forum later this month. The conclusion is, that although research work in this area may be moving forwards fast, but that these processes remain “shrouded in mystery,” ie deeply unanalysable.

Stuart Nicholson gave a paper about jazz and the BBC. Stuart does deserve some credit in this domain: there has been a discernible upward movement in the quota of British jazz in the main programmes since Stuart presented his last Jazz Services-initiated paper at an open session attended by the controllers of Radios 2 and 3.

Stuart pointed out shortcomings which result from the BBC outsourcing so much content to outside producers, and lamented the fact that there is – probably uniquely in Europe – no single person at  the BBC with strategic or oversight responsibility or accountability for formulating policy on jazz programming.  While there was praise from around the table for the quality of programming from outside producers, the discussion after Stuart’s speech unearthed interesting cases where the commissioning process has led to the involvement of people not above suspicion, and cases where commentators have wanted to apply a smell test.

Moving on…Oliver Weindling presented his (ongoing) work tracking down London’s lost jazz venues. He’ll probably get to 100 before long. There were also presentations about the realities and the constutuencies who need to be looked after when running a venue (the Stadtgarten in Cologne) and the state of Austrian festivals, with particular praise for Saalfelden and Inntoene.

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1 reply »

  1. I now have around 200 on my Google map, and would really appreciate new suggestions and comments on the existing list. I'll put up the slides from the presentation on my blog imminently. http://g.co/maps/qx67
    The Stadtgarten itself in Cologne is celebrating 25 years' existence and held a festival immediately following the meeting. It resulted in a 6 hour all nighter on WDR, with highlights from the festival of duos (which included the likes of Tom Arthurs, Peter Evans, Richard Fairhurst, Okkyung Lee and others) and some of the other 500+ (!) shows recorded from the Stadtgarten over the years.

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