CfP: Rhythm Changes conference: Jazz Now!

The seventh Rhythm Changes conference: Jazz Now! will take place at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (Amsterdam University of the Arts), the Netherlands, from 27 to 30 August 2020. This conference marks the tenth anniversary of the Rhythm Changes project.

Keynote speaker
Lucas Dols (Sounds of Change Foundation:

Closing address
Prof. Charles Hersch (Cleveland State University)

Rhythm Changes tenth anniversary panel

We invite submissions for Jazz Now! a four-day multidisciplinary conference bringing together leading researchers across the arts and humanities. The event will feature academic papers, panels, roundtables, and poster sessions.

Jazz is often understood as an urgent music that responds to or addresses contemporary crises. Its history is inseparable from struggles over civil rights, racial and gender identities, cultural politics, social hierarchies, artistic significance, as well as new technologies. The music often defines itself through debates around inclusion and exclusion, as exemplified by iconic phrases such as ‘This Is Our Music’ (Ornette Coleman) or ‘What Jazz Is, and Isn’t…’ (Wynton Marsalis). The sounds of jazz have often been heard as strident, edgy, unexpected, demandingly presentist – as urgent. Jazz Now! seeks to critically explore how this sense of urgency plays out in jazz and how it contributes to our most compelling contemporary debates, and social and cultural change.

We welcome papers addressing the conference theme from multiple perspectives, including cultural studies, musicology, cultural theory, music analysis, jazz history, media studies, and practice-based research. Within the general theme of Jazz Now! we have identified several sub-themes. Where relevant, please clearly identify which sub-theme you are referring to in your proposal.

Environment and sustainability
Circularity, sustainability, no-waste festivals, ‘climate songs’, Musicians for Future (, the ClimateMusic Project ( this theme explores ways in which climate emergency and environmental debates might shape the production, dissemination, and experience of jazz. In which ways do current jazz practices pose short and long-term threats to the environment? (How) can we think of jazz practices in order to make them more ecologically sustainable? We invite papers focusing on the ways in which artists, critics, audiences, and producers respond to current climate debates.

Museums, galleries, even our universities, have been at the forefront of interrogating their own pasts, digging into their foundations, archives and collections to uncover uncomfortable, hidden narratives of complicity. Could or should jazz, as an urgent and/or heritage music of the Black Atlantic forged in the experience of the transatlantic slave trade, have been helping to lead such debates? In what ways has jazz, including its studies and institutions, involved itself in the decolonisation of cultural practice and consumption, and are they adequate?

Jazz Now?
Jazz as studied today is successful: it flourishes in academia, where researchers produce a constant stream of publications, and it flourishes in music education, where students are admitted after competitive entrance exams. Nevertheless, the student numbers both in academic programmes and vocational programmes seem out of balance with the marketplace. Does that affect the relevance of these programmes? What does it mean to be a jazz performer in relation to the major debates of our time? Has jazz education a responsibility in light of such issues?

This theme explores ways in which jazz may participate in contemporary debates about populism and political futures. Through its familiarity and flexibility, jazz claims to be capable of embodying the peripheral and the partisan, the national and the cosmopolitan. We invite papers that explore issues of music and populism, the relation of jazz to democracy, struggles over the people versus ‘the elites’, and the potential for jazz performers and enthusiasts to engage with new forms of activism and social movements.

Jazz Now, and then
Jazz is a global musical form with a complex history of more than a hundred years. As an innovative and improvisatory style of music, not least due to hybridization with other musical traditions, it has become a major form of cultural expression with changing soundscapes. Connected to various social and political movements, naturally, also the meanings, perceptions and reception of jazz have been changing as well. This theme addresses jazz from different historical positions, from different perspectives and fields in past and present to explore possible meanings of jazz now. Or, is jazz now an inherently ahistorical position, a celebration of the improvisatory moment?

Further information
Please submit proposals (max. 250 words), including a short biography (max. 50 words) and institutional affiliation, as a Word document to Loes Rusch, and Walter van de Leur, conference directors, at

The deadline for proposals is 1 February 2020; outcomes will be communicated to authors by mid-March 2020. All paper submissions will be considered by the conference committee, consisting of Loes Rusch and Walter van de Leur (Chairs), Christa Bruckner-Haring, Nicholas Gebhardt, George McKay, Catherine Tackley, Sarah Raine, and Tony Whyton.

Jazz Now! continues to build on the legacy of the research project Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities (2010–2013), which was funded as part of the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) Joint Research Programme. In the spirit of Rhythm Changes, the project team continues to develop networking opportunities and champion collaborative research in transnational jazz studies.

Updates on the conference and information about travel and accommodation will be available at and