Jazz music has limits

Press

The enlightener Settembrini distances himself in Thomas Mann's "Zauberberg" from "politically suspicious" music. In contrast to the positive social function of literature, he generally does not consider music to be of enlightenment. The decoding of musical codes, in contrast to linguistic codes, seems to him to be too ambiguitive, too unpredictable an undertaking.

Music has always been a fascination. We know a number of examples of this in Germany. The discussions about Richard Wagner's "total work of art" shimmer between the enlightening aesthetic claim to education on the one hand and a transfiguring narrative mythically enhanced with the metaphor of the cultural nation on the other.

Since the early 20th century, jazz music in Germany has also moved between a kind of skepticism about the presumed end of culture and the fascination driven by the subculture, as expressed in "To Beauty", a painting by Otto Dix from 1922 .

Jazz music and its swing are received as US-American culture, although from today's perspective, European roots can also be ascribed to it. For example, the cornet player Bix Beiderbecke, who died far too early and who came from a Mecklenburg family and was one of the first great jazz musicians, is the godfather of many musicians who migrated from Europe to the USA in the wake of the waves of emigration in the 19th century their musical roots merged with local musical traditions.

In Germany, jazz music in the twenties becomes particularly relevant in cities such as Berlin and Dresden. Dance bands adapt and popularize swing music. But contemporary music also reacts to the musical impulses. Composers like Hindemith, Krenek and Weill integrate jazz figures into their tonal language. Jazz is even establishing itself here at a university for the first time: Bernhardt Sekle's jazz class in Frankfurt am Main is set up in 1928 amid loud protests. In the US, that didn't happen until the late 1940s.

The turning point came with the National Socialists, who gradually issued jazz bans: For example, as early as 1930 in Thuringia, then jazz music was banned in youth hostels (1933) and later the playing of jazz music on the radio (1935). The Nazis took up reactionary German national traditions in which a homogeneous, cohesive, national understanding of culture prevailed.

So it is not surprising that the Nazis made the "activities" of jazz a top priority: "All ringleaders ... who are hostile and support the swing youth are to be sent to a concentration camp. There, the youth must first be beaten. .. The stay in the concentration camp for this youth must be longer, 2-3 years. " (SS leader Heinrich Himmler 1942). Against this background, further references to and warnings against cultural essentialist tendencies in the present are superfluous.

Politically relevant today are primarily the impetus for the emergence of jazz and the political contexts of repression and liberation, especially in connection with the political engagement of jazz in the context of the black emancipation movements. Even if the racism discussions in the USA have a much earlier history and also refer to other styles of music, especially the blues, we usually speak of the Billie Holidays legendary appearance at the Cafe Society in New York with their interpretation of " Strange fruit ”beginning high phase in the middle third of the 20th century. In Germany, on the other hand, it is more about the ostracism of jazz by the National Socialists, the emancipation of jazz in West Germany, among other things through explicit reference to US jazz, and about the contrasting baths through which jazz went through its paradigm shifts in the cultural policy of the GDR. This period was marked by radical upheavals in all areas of politics, culture and society. I myself have spoken many times about the relationship between politics and jazz in the GDR. For me, the free jazz concerts in the GDR were a kind of training camp to think outside the box, to feel and to live. That has shaped me to this day. There is even the further thesis that free improvisation was a kind of key competence in the GDR's economy in order to survive. So it's no wonder that the language of free improvisation fell on fertile ground. The questions and topics that were discussed at that time took place against a political and social background that allowed more or less clear classifications: In the 20th century, political exploitation had just as good reasons as political persecution. Political engagement and political criticism were directed against a clearly identifiable opponent. Free jazz and its audience were “left” and “left and right”. Established and outsiders could be easily distinguished. Free improvisation did not get along well with secondary political virtues. It was a phase in which the struggle over the means of production or the debates about the relationship with the public were obvious. Nonconformism or the claim to individuality were clearly to be interpreted as political activism. The open air of the jazzwerkstatt Peitz in the early 1980s is almost iconographic for it. Thousands of pilgrims led the free jazz pianist Fred van Hove to say that the GDR, of all places, was the promised land of freely improvising music. The improvisations of the 1980s in the GDR show very well that musicians and audiences have continued to develop and expand their scope and break through boundaries in the process. I have always described free jazz in the GDR as a kind of musical-aesthetic manifesto of the "conditioned distance" to the GDR system, which implicitly means that the artists located in the GDR but worked on it: For them it was about a flexible scope of self-respect and self-assertion in order to be able to lead a kind of "right life in the wrong". The philosopher Theodor W. Adorno had ruled this out in principle in "Minima Moralia", but at least conceded: "Only the cunning interweaving of happiness and work leaves actual experience open under the pressure of society." And if empirical proof of the socio-political relevance of jazz is required, then look at the collapse of the scene with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It took many musicians about ten years to find their way out of the precarious situation. Others have had to swap making music for social improvisation.

It is often underestimated that not only artists with their works and the institutions and political practices that support them are decisive for the meanings created, but also some of the recipients (readers, viewers, listeners) themselves meanings and Influence and co-generate the context-dependent transformations created in them. This also applies to political opinion-forming processes. In science, these questions are negotiated in the discourse of reception aesthetics, which has set itself the task of asking about the perceptions of the works and thus opposes structuralism, which argues solely from the work. The Konstanz school around Wolfgang Iser and Robert Jauß established this debate in the German-speaking area. In the Anglo-Saxon language area it is negotiated as “reader response criticism”. The communication scientist and pioneer of cultural studies Stuart Hall described in his famous essay "Codieren, Dekodieren" (1977) that a message or a text is never determined by the sender alone and that the recipient is by no means just passively receiving. In his theory, the literary scholar Wolfgang Iser speaks of the linkage that the reader creates by adding meaning to so-called “blanks” and thus creating a holistic work in the first place. This question has long been reflected and mirrored in the arts. A famous example can be found at the end of Toni Morrison's pulsating novel “Jazz” about a love that has to fail because it does not know its roots. She ends her novel on a surprising note:

"... That I want you to love me too and show me. That I love the way you hold me, how close you let me be with you. I like your fingers here and there that lift and twist me. I've been watching your face for a long time and I missed your eyes when you walked away from me. Talking to you and hearing you answer - that's the best thing. But I can't say that out loud; I can't tell anyone that I've waited for this all my life and that being chosen-to-wait is the reason I can do it at all. If I could, I would say so. Say: make me do it, make me new. You are free to let yourself do it because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now."

Toni Morrison empowers her readers. You have the book in hand. It is a sign of the times that the empowered recipients see themselves more and more as co-creatives, as co-producers who turn passive reception into active participation.

It wasn't long ago that the German feature pages almost unanimously reproached the curators of Documenta 14 (2017) with regard to the aesthetic quality and accused them of a penetrating, instructive and loveless appearance. On the part of the visitors, however, a highly political discourse and thus a completely different impression emerged when dealing with the works of art. The work of the London collective Forensic Architecture on the NSU murder in Kassel, which was digitally and meticulously reconstructed using all available sources and thus spearheaded the investigations and the role of the secret services, attracted particular attention. The exhibition area “Beautiful View” led visitors through an installation by the German artist Maria Eichhorn, which under the title “Rose Valland Institute” dealt with looted art and questions of provenance. The visitors were aroused by this work and introduced to the consideration of many works, some of them older, e.g. from the times of the Eastern Bloc, and perhaps for the first time discovered the relevance of many of these works for themselves. The Documenta 14 example clearly shows that recipients today, often in contrast to professional art criticism, play a key role in evaluating the political relevance of art and culture. The role that art and culture play as a stabilizer of democratic societies can no longer be imagined without the recipient side. Considerations of examining the stabilizing role of art and culture in unstable situations in democratic societies and, if necessary, activating them can no longer do without the potential of co-creativity and the collaborative practices of an audience that has become self-confident.

This also applies to jazz, which today, however, is discussed by artists and audiences more and more under the label “art” than under that of political revolt. This is not really new. At the beginning of last year's jazz festival, the art curator Bonaventure Soy Bejeng Ndikung referred to Amiri Bakara, who already recalled in 1960 that white critics tend to give up jazz its virtuosity and fail to understand the social dimension of jazz. Bakara, on the other hand, learned from John Coltrane that improvisation is also an attempt to learn a new language. A language based on racism, if you will. The jazz festival audience saw these tips as provocation and acclaimed: “Stop! Finally play music ”.

This dangerous form of denial of the political dimension of jazz also refers to the context of the clear politicization of art and artists in view of the return of nationalism and the rise of right-wing populism. That can still avenge itself bitterly, because the limitless form of autonomous free improvisation cannot rely on the carte blanche of populist small minds. On the way to the late modern era, we are not only dealing with the renewed repoliticization of art, but above all with the processes of culturalization of politics and society.

First we discuss jazz and politics, art and revolt in a time when some of the top political personnel act themselves as fighters against elites and the establishment, use an apolitical language and deconstruct the forms of the political - one could also say ad absurdum leads. The German right-wing populists are not yet exploiting the potential quite as well as Donald Trump or Silvio Berlusconi and his Italian successor Salvini, for example, but they are learning successively and pushing the boundaries of what can be said step by step and, above all, they are setting out the field of Cultural as the arena of the clashes.

From the bourgeois revolutions to the present day, the perception of, thinking and speaking about politics has changed again and again, as has the self-portrayal of political actors. Nevertheless, the principles of the representation of modern democracies follow a special logic or structure that is successively broken by these actors. According to Paula Diehl, this is happening against the background of fundamental global changes: “Rapid technological development, diversification and hybridization of broadcast and format offers, a tendency towards media concentration and commercialization, increased fragmentation of the audience and its view as a market. With the hybrid broadcast formats that mix entertainment and information, the boundaries between the real and the fictional became blurred. Hyperreality established itself as a trademark of mass media entertainment that became increasingly self-referential and self-deconstructing. This fundamentally changed the framework for political communication and representation. ”In civic education we speak of a crisis of representation that endangers the political system as a whole, because its continued existence depends on acceptance in principle at least, which of course requires criticism does not exclude the states. Here, however, we often have to do with the questioning of the system by its own representatives, who are primarily involved in the distortion of reality and fiction. For example, they use hybrid roles and backgrounds from entertainment and politics to reach their voters and citizens. “They are increasingly mixing the private and the political, fiction and reality, official representation and celebrity staging.” For example, Trump incorporates the stylistic devices of reality shows into politics. In reality shows like The Apprentice, in which he played himself, he created a celebrity image that is somewhere between fiction and reality. The political culture researcher Paula Diehl uses examples to show how Trump builds his interviews like a soap opera, “in which the viewers are kept engaged because they do not learn everything at once, but always on the next episode to get expelled. The phrase 'We'll see what happens' often used by Trump to wrap up an interview with reporters is not just a gesture of embarrassment to avoid sensitive questions, it attracts attention ... by promising to get the information you want next time to give or to tell the further development of the story. (...) Furthermore, Trump uses tweets specifically to create scandals and provocations, which he uses to keep his audience attentive. After all, the structure of the reality shows is mapped to the political actions of the president, for example when one observes the dynamics of the dismissal of the members of his cabinet. Two-thirds ... were fired or forced to resign. ”Also in the show The Apprentice, the sentence 'You're fired' was the climax of the episode. Trump did not invent this media game, but Barack and Michelle Obama also appeared in different shows - for example, he was in the show "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" by comedian Jerry Seinfeld; she at James Corden at Carpool Karaoke. And even Gerhard Schröder had his appearance in 1998 in the series “Gute Zeiten - Bad Zeiten”. Guido Westerwelle appeared in “Big Brother”. In addition to his media appearances, Silvio Berlusconi developed himself into a comedian. He “deconstructed his office as prime minister by repeatedly playing the clown at official meetings. An example of this is his parody of his own official representation as on the occasion of the National Parade on June 2, 2009…. Berlusconi's staging of the body expresses his parody attitude towards the political institution. What acts as intellectual distancing for entertainment leads to the destruction of their values ​​and principles in political representation. ”Against this background, how can political criticism or capitalism criticism take shape? Who exactly is the opponent?

In political education, these phenomena are discussed against the background of the culturalization of all areas of life.On the one hand, culturalization aims at the increase in importance that creativity and performance have gained in the last 30 years. This happened in connection with the boom in the creative economy and lifestyle capitalism since the 1980s, but increasingly since the turn of the millennium. In this context, it becomes clear, for example, that non-conformism has become a value for society as a whole. At the heyday of jazz, for example, it was still clear that the individuation of young people mostly took place through visible delimitation from adult style worlds. In other words: the clothes showed the political stance. Where in the 1970s and 80s it was possible to derive relatively stable identities from the - also relatively stable - affiliation to a certain youth culture, now it is not uncommon for rapid change to take place. The parameters of nonconformity, particularity and singularity became important, as the sociological specialist literature has focused on in recent years. It is true that one of the paradoxes of fashion identified by systems theorist Elena Esposito - all conform in the desire for nonconformity - will probably not lose its validity - solely because the unique in the world of things does not exist - but with the strong appreciation of the The means also differentiate between individuals: not only is it now common practice to personalize polo shirts, sneakers or muesli - you can now give your DNA sample to muesli companies and get a supposedly optimal mixture - but with the possibilities of body modification such as tattooing, piercing, etc., new means of singularization are constantly being created. In the case of self-presentation on the digital stage, personal skills in the field of remix, sampling or the re-contextualization of styles and stylistic devices are also important. What is good is not primarily determined by criteria, but by success in competitive markets that reward special features and nonconformity.

For the political dimension, it is particularly important that the political camps and their conflicts also become cultural. The political scientist Wolfgang Merkel and the sociologist Andreas Reckwitz have worked out that today we are less discussing issues of distribution or controversies related to the social situation. Rather, the conflicts are of a cultural nature and are sparked in particular by the question of which life plans and social models are considered valuable and worth striving for. People talk and argue about home, identity or cultural heritage, for example. The opponents across many nations are individuals and groups who are described by the social sciences as 'hyper-individualists' or 'cosmopolitans' versus 'cultural essentialists' or 'communitarians'. Both have in common that - according to Reckwitz - they fight for the value of cultural goods in cultural markets. Freely improvising musicians can quickly be read as agents of a self-optimizing neoliberal economy or unexpectedly find themselves assisting cultural essentialist strategies of appropriation if they contribute professional swing and country sound to Andreas Galabier's band, as heard yesterday. Reckwitz works out that cosmopolitans formed themselves as individualists on the way to self-realization, rated pluralism as an enrichment and the offers of the global creative economy as an extension of their scope. Communitarians, on the other hand, imagined themselves as communities with closed external borders, specific history, unique heritage, singular identity and tradition. Beliefs, symbols, the history of suffering of a community of origin are considered to be valuable, while outwardly consistent devaluation is carried out: “one's own, superior nation against the foreign (nationalism), one's own religion against the unbelievers (fundamentalism), the people against the cosmopolitan Elites (right-wing populism) ”. According to Reckwitz 'conclusion, the identitarian groups shared central structural patterns with one another: Salafists, Marine LePen's Rassemblement National, Evangelicals or Putin's nationalism all follow the same culturalization strategy. Although there is a clear line of conflict, even a “fault line”, the culturalization issue is also related to the question of the dissolution of borders. As the media scientist Andreas Wolfsteiner works out, the boundaries between inside and outside, here and there, the own and the unfamiliar, between the public and the private sphere, truth and fake news or people and technology are blurred. Under the catchwords “worldbuilding” or “immersion” we deal with strategies of blurring boundaries such as the intrusion of systems into private spheres, the creation of affects and politics of moods, the measurement and algorithmization of behavior and, above all, with the multisensory staging of space. Immersion describes in a short version the immersion in artificial worlds on the basis of the idea of ​​merging, of becoming part of a whole. With the creation of scenographed environments, in which stories also arise depending on the questions and movements of the visitors, musicians meanwhile also have experience. None of this is alien to contemporary jazz. Anthony Braxton's Sonic Genome Project opening this year's Jazz Festival could be a good example.

Why do I mention this in our context? The possibilities of culturalization and digitization have opened up a background against which terms and understandings from the last century come under pressure. The philosopher Hannah Arendt could still say in the last century: The meaning of politics is freedom! Freedom means liberation in a sense, which was also a strong motif in jazz. The other sense was something like "freedom for politics". Arendt derived this from Aristotle's political concepts, which emphasized political action as a basic human characteristic. The bourgeois revolutions or the liberation movements brought forth specific imaginations of freedom that enable people today to relate to the feelings of the past. This includes images, colors, locations or, of course, sound images and musical motifs. The protagonists of the cultural economy benefit from these imaginations, to which they can associate, in order to primarily earn money with them. Inner-city temples of consumption cite the earlier places of freedom such as the bourgeois cafés or debating clubs of the 19th century with their formal and tonal language, arouse collective memories, but no longer have much to do with the meaning of the public in a democratic context. Aristotle's concept of freedom was less an individual than a social one. Freedom, solidarity or personality were realizable in his understanding in the social context. What we call identity today also has a social dimension. For example, identity politics means the alignment of political decisions with the interests or needs of minorities. Identity, however, is formed along the maxim of the singular and the special, as I already showed at the beginning using the example of Andreas Reckwitz's theses. Identity in the sense of hyper-individualism is therefore conveyed differently than personality two hundred years ago. It arises less from belonging than from conveying one's own uniqueness on social and digital stages. It is the result of curatorial decisions for the “right” consumer goods and cultural codes. This also includes choosing the right food, the right vacation and the right music. Hyper-individualists have largely freed themselves from the constraints of origins, national ties, traditions and religions. Cultural diversity and diversity enrich your cultural consumer world in fashion, culinary offers or music. But with the increasing doubts about neoliberal political promises, the dark sides and challenges of the western-influenced late modernity are becoming more visible again. What is currently being discussed in public under the collective term right-wing populism and what I already referred to with the term "cultural essentialism" does not only necessarily describe affiliations, but in particular also exclusions: it is determined who belongs to it and also who outside is. In the political debate about diversity and the claims of minorities, identity is once again a battleground. John Zorn commented on this in the context of “Radical Jewish Culture”: “The Jew has always been the origin of a double questioning: the questioning of the self and the questioning of the 'other'. Since he is never given the opportunity to stop being Jewish, he is forced to formulate the question of his identity. Therefore he is confronted with the discourse of the 'other' from the beginning, and his life often depends on it. [...] I realized that a Jew is someone who naively believes that if he contributes selflessly to his host culture, he will be accepted. But we are the outsiders in the world. That's what attracted me to the tribe - the culture of outsiders. ”For John Zorn, Elliot Sharp, David Krakauer, Shelly Hirsch, Fred Frith and other Jewish artists around the Tsadik label, there was a possibility Dealing with the identitarian ascriptions in defining Brooklyn / New York as their Israel and against the trend in constructing their identity in different ways politically and postnationally. However, this solution is not open to all addressees of othering strategies. The sociologist Armin Nassehi recently spoke on the Deutschlandfunk Kulturfragen program about diversity and referred to a paradox that characterizes our time: One of the promises of the Enlightenment was that people should be judged according to what they say and how they act; not what they are or where they come from. Not even according to how they look, how they are dressed and what skin color they are. The latter has always been characteristic of right-wing thinking: For right-wing extremist positions, what counts primarily is what a person “is” ostensibly; it is regarded as unchangeable: a woman therefore always remains a woman, a black always remains a black. At the present time we are dealing with the phenomenon that, for example, members of minorities not only want to see very specific political rights realized, but also derive a specific authorization to speak for their concerns from their identities, i.e. from what they are . Others are often denied this entitlement with the argument that privileged majority members do not have the special experience of discrimination to be able to have a say in matters of those who are discriminated against. Nassehi even speaks of a kind of obligation to say who you are in the present. For example, a hundred years ago you could neither have said you were gay, nor should you have been. Then it could have been at some point, but there was no need to say. Today, however, you have to verbalize it. How do you combine that with the emancipation concerns of the Enlightenment and what does this mean for education? In a nutshell: I still consider the barely achievable requirement of the Enlightenment to be relevant. It is also correct, however, that there is still discrimination and racist prejudice, pejorative images and othering - the carving out of what is different - but also, in particular, structural disadvantage. So it is especially important for non-normative “others” to express who one is. Unfortunately, there is currently a gateway for right-wing politics to be found here. In contrast, there is a new power in art to position itself in solidarity, provided that it wants to be political and stand up for the democratic constitutional state. The problem of democracies can turn to their advantage here: with the declining power of the established representatives of politics, a growing influence of credible political activism goes hand in hand, as can be found above all in the art scenes, but also in movements like Fridays for Future . This is where new transnational audiences are activated and communities for political demands are formulated. My thesis today focuses precisely on this self-empowerment of part of the audience, which should also be reflected on as free improvisers.

But all of this is of little use if no organizational form materializes for it. For contemporary jazz, as in other creative art branches, professional training, sales and funding structures are required. They have to be wrested from art and cultural policy in tough competition. For this purpose, a maximum interest-political organizational form is to be developed, which is also dependent on a lively recipient side, including professional, innovative and curatorial organizers. An obsolete and self-referential audience stands in the way, as does art production that is exclusively in line with the market. In addition, there are training courses that should integrate ethical and political decision-making skills in the future, based on the culturalization findings, otherwise at the end of the day you are on stage with musicians who dig the final grave of free improvisation. Critical political and cultural education is more in demand than ever. Even if funding has diversified and developed significantly in recent years: Unfortunately, there is still no question of structured jazz funding in Germany. There are so many young, well-trained jazz musicians who will probably still have to make a living for the time being from working outside the genre, driving taxis or programming software. The music-skeptical enlightener Settembrini from Thomas Mann's "Zauberberg", whom I mentioned at the beginning, together with his contemporary epigonal political know-it-alls, who prefer to leave the creative process to the market or want to control it in the expert bubble, can certainly not be blown in this way. ..


- The spoken word is valid -