Rhizomes and plateaus

Rethinking jazz historiography and the jazz-'classical' relationship


  • Jeremy Barham University of Surrey




jazz, classical, historiography, rhizome


Problems of jazz historiography are identified and discussed. The model of historiography offered by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari based on the concept of the non-hierarchical, anti-genealogical rhizome is proposed as an alternative to existing approaches. Applied to an examination of the jazz-’classical’ relationship, the model highlights a number of nodes and plateaus of musical identity. Particular reference is made to Bill Evans, Messiaen, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton and post-war avant-garde ‘classical’ music.

Author Biography

Jeremy Barham, University of Surrey

Lecturer in Music


Ake, David (2002) Jazz Cultures. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Anderson, Iain (2002) ‘Jazz Outside the Marketplace: Free Improvisation and Nonprofit Sponsorship of the Arts, 1965–1980’. American Music 20(2) (Summer): 131–67. doi:10.2307/1350138

Anon (n.d.) ‘Bill Evans and Classical Music. Glen Gould. Maurice Ravel’, http://www.billevans.nl/Classical.htm (accessed January 2010).

Baraka, Amiri, and Stanley Crouch (1986) ‘Jazz Criticism and its Effect on the Art Form’. In New Perspectives on Jazz, ed. David Baker, 55–87. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Bartlett, Andrew W. (1995) ‘Cecil Taylor, Identity Energy, and the Avant-Garde African American Body’. Perspectives of New Music 33(1–2) (Winter–Summer): 274–93.

Bergstein, Barry (1992) ‘Miles Davis and Karlheinz Stockhausen: A Reciprocal Relationship’. The Musical Quarterly 76(4): 502–25. doi:10.1093/mq/76.4.502

Berrett, Joshua (1992) ‘Louis Armstrong and Opera’. The Musical Quarterly 76(2) (Summer): 216–41. doi:10.1093/mq/76.2.216

Bohlman, Philip V. (1993) ‘Musicology as a Political Act’. Journal of Musicology 11(4) (Autumn): 411–36. doi:10.1525/jm.1993.11.4.03a00010

Borders, Florence E. (1988) ‘Researching Creole and Cajun Musics in New Orleans’. Black Music Research Journal 8(1): 15–31. doi:10.2307/779501

Brown, Lee B. (1999) ‘Postmodernist Jazz Theory: Afrocentrism, Old and New’. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 57(2) (Spring): 235–46. doi:10.2307/432315

——(2000) ‘ “Feeling My Way”: Jazz Improvisation and its Vicissitudes—a Plea for Imperfection’. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 58(2) (Spring): 113–23. doi:10.2307/432090

Byrne, Edmond (1998) ‘The Influence of Claude Debussy’s and Maurice Ravel’s Music on Jazz, as Seen in the Compositions of Bix Beiderbecke, Bill Evans and Miles Davis’. DMA dissertation, New England Conservatory of Music, 1998.

—(2008) Discussion and Analysis of ‘Peace Piece’. http://forums.allaboutjazz.com/showthread.php?t=36488 (accessed January 2010).

Coady, Christopher (2009) ‘Ellington in the Third Stream: A New Perspective on the Fugal Works of the Modern Jazz Quartet’. Jazzforschung/Jazz Research 41: 65–82.

Cooke, Mervyn (2002) ‘Jazz Among the Classics, and the Case of Duke Ellington’. In The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, ed. Mervyn Cooke and David Horn, 153–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dahlhaus, Carl (1983) Foundations of Music History, trans J. B. Robinson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari (1987 [1980]) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi. London and New York: Continuum.

DeVeaux, Scott (1991) ‘Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography’. Black American Literature Forum 25(3) (Autumn): 525–60. doi:10.2307/3041812

——(2001–2002) ‘Struggling with Jazz’. Current Musicology 71(3) (Spring): 353–74.

Fiehrer, Thomas (1991) ‘From Quadrille to Stomp: The Creole Origins of Jazz’. Popular Music 10(1) (January): 21–38. doi:10.1017/S0261143000004293

Fox, Charles (1959–60) ‘Jazz since 1945’. Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 86: 15–27. doi:10.1093/jrma/86.1.15

Gabbard, Krin (1995a) ‘Introduction: Writing the Other History’. In Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard, 1–8. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.

——(1995b) ‘Introduction: The Jazz Canon and its Consequences’. In Jazz Among the Discourses, ed. Krin Gabbard, 1–28. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.

Gennari, John. 1991. ‘Jazz Criticism: Its Development and Ideologies’. Black American Literature Forum 25(3) (Autumn): 449–523. doi:10.2307/3041811

Grainger, Percy (1925) ‘Jazz’. Musikblätter des Anbruch 7(4) (April): 210–12.

Heble, Ajay (2000) Landing on the Wrong Note: Jazz, Dissonance and Critical Practice. New York and London: Routledge.

Hersch, Charles (2001) ‘Review: America without Dissonance: Ken Burns’s “Jazz” ’. Polity 34(1) (Autumn): 107–16. doi:10.2307/3235511

Israels, Chuck (1985) ‘Bill Evans (1929–1980): A Musical Memoir’. The Musical
Quarterly 71(2): 109–15. doi:10.1093/mq/LXXI.2.109

Johnson, Bruce (1993) ‘Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya: Problems of Jazz Discourse’. Popular Music 12(1) (January): 1–12. doi:10.1017/S0261143000005316

——(2002) ‘Jazz as Cultural Practice’. In The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, ed. Mervyn Cooke and David Horn, 96–113. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jones, Leroi [Amiri Baraka] (1967) ‘Jazz and the White Critic’. In Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History, ed. Robert Walser, 255–61. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Joyner, David (2000) ‘Analyzing Third Stream’. Contemporary Music Review 19(1): 63–87. doi:10.1080/07494460000640141

Kahn, Ashley (2000) Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece. London: Granta Books.

Klei, Alice van der (2002) ‘Repeating the Rhizome’. SubStance 31(1): 48–55. doi: 10.2307/3685805

Kofsky, Frank (1971) ‘The Jazz Tradition: Black Music and its White Critics’. Journal of Black Studies 1(4) (June): 403–33. doi:10.1177/002193477100100402

Levine, Lawrence W. (1989) ‘Jazz and American Culture’. Journal of American Folklore 102(403) (January–March): 6–22. doi:10.2307/540078

Lopes, Paul (1999) ‘Diffusion and Syncretism: The Modern Jazz Tradition’. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 566 (November): 25–36. doi:10.1177/0002716299566001003

——(2002) The Rise of a Jazz Art World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511489495

Noiriel, Gérard (1994) ‘Foucault and History: The Lessons of a Disillusion’. Journal of Modern History 66(3) (September): 547–68. doi:10.1086/244886

Peretti, Burton W. 2001. ‘Speaking in the Groove: Oral History and Jazz’. Journal of American History 88(2) (September): 582–95. doi:10.2307/2675107

Pettinger, Peter (2002) Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Pond, Steven F. (2003) ‘Jamming the Reception: Ken Burns, “Jazz”, and the Problem of America’s Music’. Notes 60(1) (September): 11–45. doi:10.1353/not.

Porter, Eric (2002) What is This Thing Called Jazz? African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Porter, Lewis (1988) ‘Some Problems in Jazz Research’. Black Music Research Journal 8(2) (Autumn): 195–206. doi:10.2307/779352

Radano, Ronald (1986) ‘Braxton’s Reputation’. The Musical Quarterly 72(4): 503–22. doi:10.1093/mq/LXXII.4.503

——(1992) ‘Jazzin’ the Classics: The AACM’s Challenge to Mainstream Aesthetics’. Black Music Research Journal 12(1) (Spring): 79–95. doi:10.2307/779283

——(1993) New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton’s Cultural Critique. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Regis, Helen A. (1999) ‘Second Lines, Minstrelsy, and the Contested Landscapes of New Orleans Afro-Creole Festivals’. Cultural Anthropology 14(4) (November): 472–504. doi:10.1525/can.1999.14.4.472

Shipton, Alyn (2007) A New History of Jazz. London and New York: Continuum.

Tomlinson, Gary (1991) ‘Cultural Dialogics and Jazz: A White Historian Signifies’. Black Music Research Journal 11(2) (Autumn): 229–64. doi:10.2307/779268

Tucker, Mark (1998) ‘Review: Musicology and the New Jazz Studies’. Journal of the American Musicological Society 51(1): 131–48.

Veyne, Paul (1984 [1971]) Writing History: Essays on Epistemology, trans. Mina Moore-Rinvolucri. Manchester: Manchester University Press. doi:10.1525/jams.1998.51.1.03a00040

Wall, Tim (2008) ‘Salford New Jazz Histories Seminar November 22, 2008’. http://wallofsound.wordpress.com/2008/11/22/salford-new-jazz-histories-seminar/

Walser, Robert, ed. (1999) Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

——(2002) ‘Valuing Jazz’. In The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, ed. Mervyn Cooke and David Horn, 301–20. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



How to Cite

Barham, J. (2010). Rhizomes and plateaus: Rethinking jazz historiography and the jazz-’classical’ relationship. Jazz Research Journal, 3(2), 171–202. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v3i2.171