Constructions of jazz: how jazz musicians present their collaborative musical practice

Raymond MacDonald, Graeme Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The collaborative processes of jazz improvising are of considerable academic
interest as a unique form of creativity. While recent work highlights the utility of
interviewing practitioners with the aim of gaining an authoritative view, there is
still a need for research to apprehend the gamut of what can be constituted as
“jazz”. A previous study has shown how understandings of the music arising in
focus group interviews with jazz improvisers are shaped by the need to establish
identities (MacDonald and Wilson, 2005; Wilson and MacDonald, 2005). This
paper reports on a further series of semi-structured individual interviews with
10 (6 male and 4 female) professional UK jazz musicians on the theme of jazz
and musical identity. Specifically, the interviews investigated the social and
psychological implications of the collaborative nature of this music. Discursive
analysis of the interview transcripts shows how understandings of the music were
constructed in relation to identity positions for the speaker. Identity as a jazz
musician was negotiated with other individual identities; the relationship between
gendered identities and identity as a jazz musician is examined as an instance of
how conflict between these identities may allow hegemonic influences to operate.
These findings are discussed in relation to current debates in identity theory, and
implications for music education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-85
Number of pages26
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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