CFP: “WHAT IF?”: Speculative Histories of Jazz


Jazz Research Journal special issue, November 2022

Editors: Liam Maloney, University of York; Nicolas Pillai, University College Dublin

1964: Dizzy Gillespie begins his first presidential term.

1971: Nina Simone and Huey Newton marry.

1989: Kenny G’s smooth jazz is used in the Vatican siege forcing Noriega to surrender within four hours.

1990: Miles Davis and Prince release their collaborative album Motherfunker.

1996: Alice Coltrane institutes the Jazz at Lincoln Centre programme.

2016: Beyoncé Knowles releases her sixth jazz album GatorAid alongside her own bid for the presidency.


What if Dizzy Gillespie had actually been president? What if Miles Davis had produced a truly great hip hop jazz fusion record? What if…?

In recent years, speculative history has gained traction within academia as a provocative methodological tool. These imagined temporal junctures have allowed vivid (re)interpretations of sonic presents and futures. Furthermore, scholars have gone beyond simple speculation on possible alternate histories and into realms of fiction that reconceptualize the very nature of musical activity. In one of the landmark Afrofuturist texts, Kodwo Eshun (More Brilliant Than the Sun, 1998, Verso) leverages such approaches to ‘happily delete familiar names… and historical precedence,’ enabling partial or wholesale amendments to our musical landscape. More recently, Holger Schulze (2020) has further explored the possibilities afforded by sonic fictions; narratives and structures wholly reengineered to grant greater agency and affordances to certain cultures. Popular music has seen the impossible manifest in recent years with artists pressed into service from beyond the grave, reanimated holographically, or enjoined into surprising (and sometimes inappropriate) collaborations (e.g. Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Maria Callas, Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur).


This special issue will interrogate the conjectural mode as a new beginning for the understanding of jazz and its culture. We contend that, despite the destabilizing intentions of New Jazz Studies, discourse has remained centred on ahistorical canon formation and racialized conceptions of genius. In this, the statues of jazz have remained firmly in place. We invite submissions to this issue which directly challenge these monolithic narratives.


This collection invites submissions in a variety of formats – 8000 word essays, 1000 word provocations, short fiction, poetry, and other non-linear models for distributing research – to be published in the November 2022 edition of Jazz Research Journal [Equinox].


Possible topics include:

  • Speculative, sonic, or alter- social histories of jazz
  • Afrofuturist narratives
  • The content, role, or use of fictional or falsified biographies
  • Perspectives that employ sonic or speculative fiction to explore jazz
  • Conceptual collaborations
  • Critiques and defences of yellow journalism
  • Constructing authenticity in speculative or fictional narratives
  • Jazz, VR, and the metaverse


300-word abstracts should be submitted to [email protected] by 14 January 2022, with notifications of success sent out 28 January 2022. First drafts will be due 15 April 2022, with peer review completed 17 June 2022. Second drafts will be due 19 August 2022 with publication in November 2022.