This chapter presents a background of the current study. Jazz has become a facile metaphor for American democratic ideals, a paradigmatic instance of racial/cultural integration, and/or the most singular contribution of the United States to the world. This book was conceived, in part, as a response to those alternatives. Rather than confront jazz using a loose biographical approach or conventional musicological techniques, it instead focuses attention on the kinds of “interpretive moves” that performers and other participants in musical events make as they engage with music. The author seeks to understand how participants in the jazz scene, and especially musicians, construct and construe meaning in musical events. He focuses on the jazz scene in New York City, where he conducted fieldwork continuously between July of 1994 and December of 1995, and more sporadically, from 1997 to 2001. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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