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Meanings of Jazz in State Socialism


Edited By Gertrud Pickhan and Rüdiger Ritter

During the Cold War, jazz became a cultural weapon that was employed by both sides to advance their interests. This volume explores the history and roles of jazz in Poland, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Soviet Union, and the Baltic States by means of several case studies. The American administration attempted to destabilize the political systems of the Eastern Bloc countries, while the powers responsible for culture in the Eastern Bloc countries tried to curtail the US propaganda campaign. This resulted in distinct jazz traditions and jazz scenes, each governed by a distinct behavioural codex, as well as official responses in each of the Eastern Bloc countries.
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Jazz Musicians in Post-War Poland


Abstract The aim of this contribution is, taking the jazz scene in Poland since the Second World War as a case study, to outline how changes in the political and economic system resulted in parallel changes in the system of institutions as well as in the self-portrait/image of respective social subjects. To this end the contribution also discusses the economic position of jazz musicians in Poland and their progressing professionalization. It underlines that individual artists have had a structural impact both at the mezzo- and macro-level, influencing relations inside the jazz milieu as well as the relations between this milieu and the state in charge of implementing cultural policy.

There are times when a particular political context gives art a special, even symbolic meaning. Although jazz has existed in Poland since the 1920s, it only acquired mythical status as the ‘art of resistance’ during the Stalinist era (1948–1954), a distinction it was to maintain during subsequent decades. The aim of this chapter is to show how changes in the political system resulted in changes in the institutions as well as in the self-image of the people. The periodizations given in the following are approximate periodizations only, as both the introduction of the communist system and its later transformations were processes that stretched over time and did not always have a definite start and end date. They generally link to major historical events and are meant to assist the reader in locating the phenomena discussed in...

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