Nick Reeder

Brown University

May 2008



Annotated Bibliography for


Jeff Stevenson’s The Full Speed Tea Offering: Technology, Community, and Performance at the Berklee School of Music




Digital technologies have a profound effect on the music of young jazz musicians who combine jazz with experimental music, electronic dance music, rock, and other genres. Internet music sites, in particular, facilitate a dynamic, self-reinforcing dialogue between musicians and audience that affects composition, performance and reception. As young musicians acquire the technical skills to distribute their music digitally on the web, they increasingly use technology as a vehicle for defining and maintaining socio-musical activities and building community.


Berklee students often locate meaning in composition and performance practices that culminate in front of an audience. Jeff Stevenson, in particular, describes collective, improvisatory practices as fusing personal and musical communication, and states that performance experiences are the ends for which the application of knowledge-based technology are pursued. Through examining technologically mediated dialogue about performances in combination with digital representations of these performances, I argue that material-based digital technologies also mediate the production of music. Through the internet, digital representations of music become inextricably embedded in conceptual discourse about music, so that live performance itself can be seen as technologically mediated.



Annotated Bibliography


Ake, David. 2002. Jazz Cultures. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Each of the book’s chapters focuses on a specific moment or institution in jazz, exploring “the historical, cultural, technological, and musical phenomena that give rise to different ways of playing and understanding jazz.” Ake argues that “we can study it most productively by looking at the evolving meanings, values, and ideals as well as the sounds - that musicians, audiences, and critics have carried to and from the various activities they have called jazz” (pp. 2-5). For more information, see the review by Kathy J. Ogren at:


My fieldwork suggests that for many students of jazz, the “language” of jazz is the primary “technological” hurdle to overcome in achieving their stated goals of producing creative, self-expressive material through collaborative composition and performance practices. The institutional technologies that Ake examines in Chapter 5 are relevant to these students’ statements about institutional learning. However, jazz pedagogy at institutions like Berklee is evolving to the point that some of the institutional limitations (students don’t develop an original voice, among other things) that Ake has pointed to seem less applicable to the musicians I study.



Berliner, Paul F. 1994. The Infinite Art of Improvisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Berliner provides a massive amount of ethnographic data about jazz improvisation, combined with musical analysis. The focus of the book is the processes through which musicians develop individual and collective musical vocabulary and skills, and the relation and historical contextualization of their theoretical knowledge and performance practices to those that exist in the larger jazz community.


In future work, I am interested in challenging the privileging of “thinking” in describing jazz improvisation. Travis Jackson and others have suggested that “feeling” - as in ritual transcendence - is often a primary goal of jazz as stated by musicians. While Berliner highlights discourse comparing the “jazz language” to spoken language, scholars like Stephen Pinker argue that people don’t actually “think” with language, and significantly, that language is a public, “digital” medium that has to stretch – through combination, metaphor and physical gesture – to convey what is felt, or “private.” The connections Pinker makes between language and the innate mechanisms that facilitate “thought” have implications in connection with Berliner’s ethnography about learning to “think.” (See a good review of Pinker’s “The Stuff of Thought” at




Butler, Mark. 2006. Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, And Musical Design In Electronic Dance Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


Butler analyzes EDM from a musicological perspective, arguing that DJ sets are formed as pieces that have forms comparable to those found in western art music. Butler describes the approach to form in electronic DJ music as perceptually based - in a way that could be useful for jazz reception theory and models for describing improvisation:


“In a set, the emphasis is on logical flow-on making a continuous musical progression-rather than on unifying devices (themes, motives, keys) that persist throughout an entire work. Form is not based on an object-like model, in which coherence can be viewed within a complete musical structure just as one would perceive the unity of a sculpture (all at once), but, rather, on a sense of a continuous development through time. This approach to form is more perceptually than structurally based: it is like a journey on a train in which the destination is unknown to the rider, but one can see out the window the whole time. We end up in a completely different place than we started, but our route made sense; the coherence is that of the trip itself, not its components” (242).


In my ethnography, I examine a jazz set in which themes and levels of complexity and intensity are consciously ordered in a similar way.



Chernoff, John Miller. 1979. African Rhythm and African Sensibility: Aesthetics and Social Action in African Musical Idioms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Chernoff seeks to document African music and culture as a social scientist - in an objective and wholistic manner - but also reports that learning to play the music took him away from objectivity in search of a more elusive type of meaning. He locates meaning in musical practice and discourse, saying that “the meaning of African music is indicated in everything that people say about it and do with it. (9)


I do not refer to Chernoff in my paper, but I quote Fishlin and Heble in attributing social meanings to jazz improvisation, which compares to what Chernoff says about African music:

“Africans use music and the other arts to articulate and objectify their philosophical and moral systems, systems which they do not abstract, but which they build into the music-making situation itself, systems we can understand if we make an effort. (37)




Cohen, Sara. 1993. “Ethnography and Popular Music Studies,” Popular Music, 12, No. 2, pp. 123-138. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Cohen has a degree in Social Anthropology from Oxford University and specializes in ethnographic research on Anglo-American popular music. She uses case studies to explore the potential for an ethnographic approach to pop music studies, arguing that:


“particular emphases within popular music studies (e.g. upon music as commodity, media, capital and technology), and a reliance upon theoretical models abstracted from empirical data, and upon statistical, textual and journalistic sources, needs to be balanced by a more ethnographic approach. Ideally, that approach should focus upon social relationships, emphasizing music as social practice and process” (123).


In my paper I combine ethnographic representation and analysis of musical materials, following Berliner and Monson. I also use Cohen’s summary of Ruth Finnegan’s  (1989) “musical pathways” model of social interaction, and relate these ideas to other scholarship about improvisation and community. (See below)


Finnegan, Ruth. 1989. The Hidden Musicians: Music-making in and English town. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Finnegan researched a variety of local music in the town of Milton Keynes, England, in the early ‘80s. She documents an “invisible system” that connects and facilitates cross participation by amateur musicians in different scenes and traditions. (xii)


In my ethnography , I referenced chapter 21, “Pathways in urban living.” Here Finnegan refutes amateur music as leisure, and posits a ‘series of socially recognized pathways which systematically linked into a wide variety of settings and institutions within the city” (299). Finnegan argues that these pathways have “symbolic depth,” in that they represent highly valued areas in people’s personal lives and also allowed a “continuity of meaning” to be developed and shared among insiders. (306) These ideas are directly applicable to the Berklee students that I am studying, because they are involved in transition from amateur status as students to semi-professional activities in an urban environment.


Fishlin, Daniel and Heble, Ajay, ed. 2004. The Other Side of Nowhere: Jazz Improvisation, and Communities in Dialog. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.


In the introduction, the authors link improvised music with "alternative community formation, social activism, rehistoricization of minority cultures, and critical modes of resistance and dialog."


"Improvisation, in short, symbolizes the recognition that alternatives to orthodox practices are available......(socially) enacted performance of being differently in the world."


In my paper, I discuss these ideas briefly in connection with future research on the relation of improvisation to community at Berklee.


Gioia, Ted. 1997. The History of Jazz. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.


Goia’s book is a musical and cultural history of jazz that focuses on jazz as an art, from the perspective of a jazz scholar and performer. It chronicles the major artists and the evolution of stylistic categories in relation to the influential periods of these musicians. I use it to ground informants references to basic jazz tropes like “free jazz.”


Gioia shows how experimentation and absorption of new music into jazz characterized it from its beginnings in New Orleans, through the fusion of the 60’s, and to the present:


“From its earliest days, jazz had been a forward looking art, continually incorporating new techniques, more expansive harmonies, more complex rhythms, more intricate melodies” (199).



Greene, Paul D., Porcello, Thomas, Eds. 2005.Wired For Sound: Engineering and Technologies In Sonic Cultures. Middletown:


As advertised by Wesleyan University Press, “Wired for Sound is the first anthology to address the role of sound engineering technologies in the shaping of contemporary global music.” Porcello’s work is influenced by Bordieu, and in earlier research he also draws attention to aspects of place and social action in the studio. (See “Porcello” below) I reference Moehn’s essay about Brasilian carnival music, in order to mention scholarship about the live/recorded dichotomy.


Jackson, Travis A. Jazz Performance as Ritual: The Blues Aesthetic and the African Diaspora, in Monson, ed. African Diaspora, chapt 2. New York : Garland Pub., 2000

  Travis A. Jackson, an associate professor of music at the University of Chicago, argues that: “jazz is separated from other African-American musics to emphasize its status as art and its expansive “Americanness” at the expense of its ritual functions and seemingly less expansive African-Americaness.” (23) Jackson’s’s thesis is that


“jazz performance, conceived as ritual and motivated by the blues aesthetic, is connected to other musics in the African diaspora. Just like the other musics of the African diaspora, and in many similar ways, it priveledges interaction, participation, and formal flexibility in the service of transcendence (explore) and communication of normative values and cultural identity. Musical performance does not merely serve to reproduce or express the hierarchies or frames that surround it. It is also concerned with transcending them through metaphoric enciodings of deeply held values and strategies for survival. (71)


In order to assert his thesis he juxtaposes his fieldwork interviews with a number of scholarly views of African American music that value “the conceptual bases that inform” music and avoid falling into the trap of privileging “form over concept in determining the cultural meaning of a particular performance for its participants” (24).



Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. 1996. "The Electronic Vernacular " in Connected: Engagements with Media. Ed. George E. Marcus. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett offers the balanced perspective in surveying and classifying new types of social interaction on the internet. She points to significant differences in the way electronic communication functions in comparison to the telephone, particularly the ability of groups of people in chat rooms to monitor and/or join. Here, direct interaction, in addition to offering efficiency, has the potential to affect offline life by virtue of its realness/temporality. KG argues that real time environments sustain a "strong sense of presence and performativity" and that in them, the "medium and the social life within it are mutually constitutive" (54-60). In the case of the "Virtual Shtetl," people connect through both its efficiency and its book-like, imaginative sincerity, in order to organize social agendas and to sustain Diaspora (32). In addition, artists and institutions "have been turning to electronic communication to intensify access to their offline activities, to subvert them, and to explore the artistic potential of distinctive characteristic of this medium" (36).

I refer to KG’s ideas about divergent conversation threads to connect to the use of web sites in my ethnography.


Monson, Ingrid. 1996. Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Monson explores the socio-musical practices and the language of jazz musicians from the perspective of the rhythm section, paying close attention to collective practices. I refer to her emphasis on musical conversation in jazz, and her ideas about the connection between social and musical spheres.



Ortner, Sherry B. Theory in Anthropology since the Sixties

Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 26, No. 1. (Jan., 1984), pp. 126-166.


Ortner summarizes major trends in anthropological theory, and shows how anthopologists have recently focused on practice theory, and discusses Bordieu, Foucault etc:


“What Motivates Action?

A theory of practice requires some sort of theory of motivation. At the moment, the dominant theory of motivation in practice anthropology is derived from interest theory. The model is that of an essentially individualistic, and somewhat aggressive, actor, self-interested, rational, pragmatic, and perhaps with a maximizing orientation as well. What actors do, it is assumed, is rationally go after what they want, and what they want is what is materially and politically useful for them within the context of their cultural and historical situations.”   (151)



Porcello, Thomas. 1996. Sonic Artistry: Music, Discourse, and Technology in the Sound Recording Studio.  Dissertation UT Austin


In Sonic Artistry, Thomas Porcello tries to make a place for practice theory in his study of recording studio dynamics. He argues that music is only studied in the context of ritual in anthropology, and looks to situate things in place and phenomenological flow. Porcello describes his dissertation as “an effort in writing a social phenomenology of the experiences involved in the creation of music…not so much to describe a place, but rather a cultural process as it might be experienced by the particular social actors involved in its occurrence…the studio known as the Fire Station is therefore important for the ways that it is deeply embedded in that process, and the particular ways in which it colors local epistemologies of recording.” (29)



Racy, Ali Jihad. 2000. “The Many Faces of Improvisation: The Arab Taq#s#m as a Musical Symbol” Ethnomusicology, Vol. 44, No. 2. (Spring - Summer,), pp. 302-320.


Racy summarizes general beliefs about improvisation, providing a good checklist for universals that connect to Berliner, Monson et al: “In this study, I argue that musical improvisation in the East-Mediterranean Arab world, for example in such major urban centers as Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo, and Cairo, enjoys a primary position because its message is symbolic as well as affective.”


Racy argues that: “the special significance of improvisation centers around the musical substance, the individual artist, the community, and life in general, as indicated by the following twelve widely shared perspectives:” (304)


1. Improvisation is considered an intuitive art.

2. Improvisation may exist as an art of practice. Its modi operandi are thought to be enigmatic, thus transcending the realm of formally established music theory.

3. Improvisation is believed to be highly creative.

4. Improvisation can appear highly personal, or individualized.  (304)

5. Improvisation is linked to inspiration.

6. Improvisation is correlated with power. (affective)

7. Improvisation represents the musical idiom.

8. Improvisation constitutes a merger between the familiar and the novel.

9. Improvisation tends to involve the audience directly.

10. Improvising may generate a sense of mystical or emotional transcendence.

11. Improvisation is associated with freedom. Accordingly, it means license to transcend musical boundaries

12. Improvisation in music, as in other aspects of life, is considered the natural thing to do. (307)



Taylor, Timothy. 2001. Strange Sounds: Music, Technology And Culture. London: Routledge.


In modifying Sherry Ortner’s ideas of practice theory, Taylor quotes Bryan Pfaffenberger, who “uses the term technique to refer to "the system of material resources, tools, operational sequences and skills, verbal and nonverbal knowledge, and specific modes of work coordination that come into play in the fabrication of material artifacts.”” (37). Ortner has argued that recent anthropological theory has been dominated by practice theory that “implicitly unifies both historical and anthropological studies.” Pfaffenberger’s quote is also interesting because it connects the study of technology to that of “culture,” mirroring the economist Thomas Sowell’s definition of culture as a ”tool” people use to improve their lives.


I use Taylor’s and Pfaffenberger’s idea of “technique” to connect ideas about technology to Cohen’s and Finnegan’s work the social nature of musical choices.



Théberge, Paul. 2004. "Technology, Creative Practice and Copyright," in Music and Copyright, ed. , Simon Frith and Lee Marshal. New York: Routledge. 139-156


Thebérge's thesis is that intellectual property law is lagging behind the socio-technological developments that have produced music that cannot be represented by the traditional split between recording and writing copyrights. He argues that in situations where "the recording is the work," new creative practices need to be changed to accommodate the ‘technologists' capacity to transform musical sounds and their right to make creative use of recorded material in the production of new works. (143) He says that practices involving new technology "displace" older forms of practice, rather than wiping them out, thereby changing our ideas about creativity and originality (153).


I use Thebérge's ideas about ‘technologists' to situate a discussion about the relation of new technology to jazz ethnography.


Waksman, Steve. 2003. "Reading the Instrument: An Introduction." Popular Music and Society, Vol. 26, No. 3. 251-261.


W argues that the instrument is the most determinative force in any music style:


“For all too many popular music scholars, musical activity does not exist for all intents and purposes before the moment of recording. Such an assumption, whether explicit or unspoken, leaves scholars to concentrate upon a range of issues that, while of key importance, tend to exclude the ways in which instruments figure into musical practice and production.”


I use Waksman’s idea that the instrument is the primary determinant in linking   musical concepts to practice.