This book provides a timely analysis of the relationship between jazz and recording and broadcast technologies in the early twentieth century. Jazz histories have traditionally privileged qualities such as authenticity, naturalness and spontaneity, but to do so overlooks jazz's status as a modernist, mechanised art form that evolved alongside the moving image and visual cultures. Jazz as Visual Language shows that the moving image is crucial to our understanding of what the materiality of jazz really is. Focusing on Len Lye's direct animation, Gjon Mili's experimental footage of musicians performing and the BBC's Jazz 625 series, this book places emphasis on film and television that conveys the 'sound of surprise' through formal innovation, rather than narrative structure. Nicolas Pillai seeks to refine a critical vocabulary of jazz and visual culture whilst arguing that jazz was never just a new sound; it was also a new way of seeing the world.
Nicolas Pillai is a research fellow in the School of Media at Birmingham City University, UK. He is the co-editor of Brilliant Corners: Approaches to Jazz & Comics (2016) and New Jazz Conceptions: History, Theory, Practice (2017). He has contributed chapters to Gender and Identity in Jazz (2016) and The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies (2017), as well as articles in journals such as The Soundtrack and Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism. He has also written an essay for the booklet included in the BFI dual format Blu-ray/DVD release of Paris Blues (1961).
‘This thoroughly researched and elegantly written study demonstrates a deep understanding of film, television and jazz. Telling some great stories along the way and challenging the myths that have always defined the music, it comes highly recommended!’ – Krin Gabbard, Columbia University and Stony Brook University, USA, and author of Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema
‘Through in-depth examinations of visual materials that jazz scholars have commonly given short shrift, Pillai expands our understanding of music and the musical experience. His sophisticated, multi-layered, film scholar’s interpretations of sound, image and meaning are rare in the study of jazz creativity.’ – Tom Perchard, Goldsmiths, University of London
‘Pillai’s thoughtful text’s prime achievement is the knowledgeable and insightful intertwining of film theory and the ‘new jazz studies’. Packed with detail, his case studies serve to identify and define ways of presenting the jazz aesthetic through filmic devices.’ – Katherine Williams, University of Plymouth, UK
‘A careful reappraisal of jazz seen through the moving image, this book wrests Lye’s jazz films from art world exceptionalism and reconnects them with popular culture. It duly challenges old assumptions about jazz music’s reception and meaning.’ – Paul Brobbel, Curator, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre, New Zealand
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd
Series: International Library of the Moving ImageHardback
Publication Date: 30 Nov 2016
Number of Pages: 192
Illustrations: 20 bw integrated