FREE FROM JAZZ: The Jazz and Improvised Music Scene in Vienna after Ossiach (1971-2011)
Year of Dissertation:
Focusing on a diverse and eclectic scene that is under-documented, this dissertation investigates the historical, social, and cultural aspects of jazz and improvised music in Vienna over the last four decades. Through fieldwork, I have observed various characteristics and trends regarding the jazz and improvised music scene in Vienna and have subsequently organized the musicians and their recordings into seven fluid "fields": Traditional-U.S. Performance, Post-Tradition, DJ/Hip-Hop, Volk/Ethnic, Cabaret, Unclassified, and Abroad. One of the most striking aspects of the entire scene is the near-absence of a racialized discourse among musicians and critics and of stereotypical markers of "blackness" in performance. Moreover, the absence of an African-descendent population in Austria, due to the country's near-lack of a colonial history, distinguishes it from the U.S.'s jazz context. Even without a colonial history, one of the common threads throughout Austria's history is cultural mixture (Brook-Shepherd 1996) due to its geographic location and its propensity to merge with its neighbors through marriage rather than might. Additionally, Austria's jazz scene had no need to resist a U.S.-model of jazz performance practice, while other jazz scenes in Europe and around the world struggled to "be free of America" (Atkins 2001). Therefore, the construction of jazz and improvised music in Vienna is better seen as a process of cultural layering, rather than the more familiar process of signifying (Gates 1988) in the United States. Finally, most jazz and improvised music is performed without a driving rhythm. I highlight these and other aspects of Vienna's scene by examining recordings by Mathias Rüegg, Franz Koglmann, Wolfgang Mitterer, Clemens Salesny, Franz Hautzinger, and ctrl.