[Dixielandjazz] More on discography and musicology

Anton Crouch a.crouch at unsw.edu.au
Tue Apr 20 23:06:33 PDT 2004

Hello Bob

I wrote my previous posting fairly quickly and some of the terminology
('jargon', I suspect, to many readers) needs explanation. Also, although I
was writing specifically about early jazz (up to 1930), this may not have
been apparent.

'Immature' is a relative term, with no moral (ie, good or bad)
connotations. I use it as the equivalent of 'youthful' in geomorphology.
Think of the Grand Canyon - youthful (immature) topography but magnificent.
At the other end of the scale, think of the lower reaches of the
Mississippi - senile topography and also magnificent. 

Writing about early jazz is, in my view, still quite 'person specific' and
I see this as the first stage of a process which moves from a high energy
('personal') environment to a low energy ('detached') environment. I
suggest that when books such as Gunther Schuller's 'Early jazz' are the
norm we will have reached 'maturity'.

(I imagine that by now most DJMLers will have given up, but I'll keep going)

'Stemmatics' is not about 'tracing music back to its origins'. It's a term
that emerged in the 1920s and concerns manuscript affiliation. In
particular, the study involves identifying 'errors' in copies of
manuscripts over time and the drawing of diagrams showing the relationships
of various versions. Similar things are done in linguistics and it wasn't
until the 1970s that the generality of the method was recognised. The
biological form (cladistics) is evolutionary in nature and replaces the
concept of 'original and copy' with 'ancestor and descendant'.

This is where jazz discography comes in. The records are the manuscripts
and they can be studied in the same way as written manuscripts are studied
in classical music. I should add here that I am using the term 'jazz
discography' in the broad sense, ie that it includes the nature of the
music on (in) the records and not just the label/matrix and catalogue
numbers/date/location/performer details of the strict sense.

The postings on Ellington's 'Mood indigo' did in fact include a good
example of the stemmatic approach to jazz records - Steve Barbone's
discussion of the differences between the Brunswick, Okeh and Victor
recordings of late 1930.

All the best

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