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Jazz from Socialist Realism to Postmodernism


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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The Different Careers of Slovak and Czech Jazz Musicians in the United States – Laco Déczi, Jan Hammer, Miroslav Vitouš, Jiří Mráz


Abstract: The main reason why Czech and Slovak jazzmen left their country was ideology. Laco Déczi, Jan Hammer, Miroslav Vitouš and George Mráz emigrated to the USA. Each of these musicians have had a different path in their musical development, but what they have in common is the flexibility to expand their mentality beyond their cultural heritage.

In the former Czechoslovakia, music during the period of socialism (1948–1989) was restricted to certain genres, censored jazz performances and limited collaborative work with musicians abroad. Consequently, many Slovak and Czech musicians emigrated to the United States and other countries seeking better opportunities for developing their careers. However, not all musicians stayed in their new homelands; some of them did not create careers abroad as musicians, and others returned to Czechoslovakia after 1989. What were the reasons for staying or returning? What kind of impact did immigration have on musicians who were living in a foreign country and surrounded with a different culture, traditions and music? Did these musicians have to start from scratch? Does one require certain skills in order to be successful overseas? Is music a universal language that helps immigrants overcome difficulties while acclimatising to their new lifestyle?

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