On Thursday, 31 August, the Fifth Rhythm Changes Conference, themed “Re/Sounding Jazz” will kick off at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Rhythm Changes conferences are the largest jazz research conferences in the field, bringing together some 150 researchers from all over the globe. This year’s edition is produced in collaboration with the Conservatory of Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam, Birmingham City University, the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, and CHIME.
Rhythm Changes started out as an interdisciplinary research project, funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area), under its theme “Cultural Dynamics: Inheritance and Identity” (2010-2013). Rhythm Changes examined the inherited traditions and practices of European jazz cultures. Among the many outputs of the project were two conferences (Jazz and National Identities September 2011, and Rethinking Jazz Cultures, April 2013), which were so successful that once the funding stopped the Rhythm Changes team managed to continue them, on an 18-month schedule. The third Conference, Jazz Beyond Borders, was in Amsterdam again (September 2014), while conference four, Jazz Utopia was hosted by Birmingham City University (April 2016). Now we are back in Amsterdam for our first lustrum, with Re/Sounding Jazz. Rhythm Changes Six will take us to the oldest Jazz Research Institute in Europe, at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, 11-14 April, 2019, 18 months from now.
There are many things to look forward to, such as excellent keynotes from Sherrie Tucker and Wolfram Knauer, a concert by vocalist and loop station specialist Sanne Huijbregts, the viewing of the documentary Sicily Jazz, a tribute to the complex history of New Orleans musician Nick LaRocca and the centennial of the 1917 recording by his Original Dixieland Jazz Band. There is also a workshop by Jazz and Everyday Aesthetics, and close to one hundred papers by leading jazz scholars, as well as by budding talent. The topics run from sonic histories in various regions to recording technique, from jazz festivals to reissues, from jazz and other genres to critical assessments of individual musicians, and many more. In addition, there is a pre-conference program with a presentation by the Europeana Collections project followed by a jazz archives round table. The best part of these conferences is that our delegates keep returning, and many have become friends. More often than not we left our day time venue with half of the attendants to continue our conversations in a restaurant or bar.
It was through our conferences that I realized that there is no single comprehensive scholarly overview of the fascinating history of a century of jazz reception in Europe The majority of the over seventy contributing authors of The Oxford History of Jazz in Europe I met in person at the Rhythm Changes conferences, and I look forward to meeting them again in the coming days.
Featured image credit: DSCF3009 by Claudio Pregnolato. Public Domain via Flickr.