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Jazz from Socialist Realism to Postmodernism

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Edited By Yvetta Kajanová, Gertrud Pickhan and Rüdiger Ritter

In the 20th century, jazz was an important artistic form. Depending on the particular European country, jazz music carried different social, political and aesthetic meanings. It brought challenges in the areas of racial issues, the politics of the Cold War between East and West, and in the exploration of boundaries of artistic freedom. In socialist Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Poland, the situation began to change after 1956 and then 1968, when the ideologists shifted from the aesthetics of socialist realism to postmodernism. In Western countries such as France and Italy, jazz transformed from a modern to a postmodern period. This volume deals with the impact of these changes on the career development of jazz musicians – even beyond 1989 – in terms of various phenomena such as emigration, child prodigies, multiculturalism, multi-genre approaches, or female jazz musicians.

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Broadcasting Jazz into the Eastern Bloc – Cold War Weapon or Cultural Exchange? The Example of Willis Conover

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Abstract: With his radio show “Music USA – Jazz Hour” at the Voice of America, since 1955 Willis Conover broadcast jazz via shortwave for more than 40 years. The paper analyses the reception of the broadcast in the Eastern Bloc countries and its triple function for the cultural politics of the USA, the Eastern Bloc countries, and the jazz scenes as well.

Main questions and ideas

Willis Conover and his Voice of America (VOA) broadcast Music USA – Jazz Hour remains one of the strongest myths in jazz history up to the present day.1 Starting in 1955, Conover provided a daily jazz programme which was listened to all over the world for more than four decades. For a whole generation of jazz lovers, Conover’s broadcasts were the main source of knowledge of this music as well as a window to the West and the United States.

The Conover myth tells the story of a man who destroyed socialism by constantly bombing the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc with jazz until Gorbachev finally gave in and introduced perestroika, causing the collapse of the system. At the same time, the myth stresses the idea that Conover’s broadcasts were totally “unpolitical” and that their only function was to promote jazz music and nothing more. Thus, this myth contains two narratives ← 13 | 14 → which exclude each other. However, this sharp contradiction does not seem to have caused any problems for the myth’s followers.

The Conover...

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