Ken Prouty’s Knowing Jazz: Community, Pedagogy, and Canon in the Information Age argues that knowledge of jazz, or more to the point, claims to knowledge of jazz, are at the formation of jazz’s identity, its canon, and is manifestation as a community. Originally published by UPM in December 2011, this book is now available in paperback.
Every jazz artist, critic, or fan understands jazz differently, based on each individual’s unique experiences and insights. Through playing, listening, reading, and talking about jazz, both as a form of musical expression and as a marker of identity, each develops a personalized relationship to the larger jazz world. Through the increasingly important role of media, they also engage in the formation of different communities that transcend not only traditional boundaries of geography, but increasingly exist only in the virtual world.
The relationships formed by “jazz people” within and between these types of communities is at the center of Knowing Jazz. Some communities, such as those in academia, reflect a clash of sensibilities between historical traditions. Others, particularly those who inhabit cyberspace, represent a new and exciting avenue for communities of everyday fans, whose involvement in jazz has often been ignored. Other communities seek to define themselves as expressions of national or global sensibility, pointing to the ever-changing nature of jazz’s identity as an American art form in an international setting.
What all these communities share, however, is an intimate, visceral link to the music and the artists who make it, brought to life through the medium of recording, perhaps the one core activity which unites all jazz people around the world.
The book includes extensive critical discussions of issues in jazz pedagogy, including the nature of social systems and traditions, which are rarely discussed in the disciplines of jazz studies or ethnomusicology. Also featured is a detailed examination of the impact of social media on jazz and its communities, which to date is conspicuously absent from existing literature in both jazz and musicology.
Prouty uses an approach and style that speaks effectively to audiences in different disciplines and different levels Informed by an interdisciplinary approach and approaching the topic from a number of different perspectives, Knowing Jazz charts a philosophical course in which many disparate perspectives and varied opinions on jazz can find common ground.