Jazz and Visual Style

Thu 6 July 2017 10:00 – 15:30

This symposium will explore jazz’s engagement with the worlds of fashion, photography, dance, film and television. It responds to a current resurgence of academic interest in the presentation of jazz through moving-image technologies (Wald 2015; Heile, Elsdon, Doctor 2016; Pillai 2017) and contemporary design (Perchard 2017). The one-day event aims to open up the questions posed in these studies to a wider consideration of visual culture. The Birmingham School of Media welcomes four speakers from diverse fields to address the symposium, whose papers will act as a starting point for discussion with the audience.

The day is the launch event for the AHRC-funded research project ‘Jazz on BBC-TV 1960-1969’ and will recruit for a proposed ‘Jazz & the Media’ network. Lunch and refreshments will be provided and the event is free. However, please note that the symposium venue is gated; registration is essential.


Coffee and opening remarks


Dualism in American Jazz Photography

The noted photographer Alan John Ainsworth investigates questions of American identity. He observes a dualism between ‘universalists’ (whose work was defined through performance-based visual codes) and ‘communalists” (whose images placed musicians in the context of racial and ethnic social relations). This paper observes that the race of the photographer often dictated the approach taken to the subject.


Style Narratives of Jazz

Professor Carol Tulloch discusses the styled body in relation to Billie Holiday and Miles Davis, drawing upon research completed for her monograph The Birth of the Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora (Bloomsbury 2016) and the exhibition The Flat Cloth Cap. Tulloch is Professor of Dress, Diaspora and Transnationalism at the University of the Arts London. She is also the Chelsea College of Arts/V&A Fellow in Black Visual and Material Culture at the V&A Museum.




Jazz Ballet in the 1940s and 1950s Hollywood Musical

Dr Martha Shearer argues that jazz fantasy ballets use their total aesthetic environments to express postwar fear and desire in a period of postwar suburbanization and growing public concern about urban blight. Dr Shearer is the author of New York City and the Hollywood Musical: Dancing in the Streets (Palgrave 2016).


Jazz Television for the 21st Century

Fraser Kennedy (producer) and Jonathan Walton (editor) will present clips from their 2015 television series Jazz @ Metropolis. Hosted by Neil Cowley, the show features musical performances by diverse artists such as Laura Mvula, Get the Blessing, Kris Bowers and Kurt Elling. In an illustrated conversation with clips, Kennedy and Walton will give insight into the broadcasting landscape for music television today and the unique challenges of capturing jazz in the studio.


Closing comments

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