Jazz in Soviet Estonia from 1944 to 1953 : meanings, spaces and paradoxes

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Title: Jazz in Soviet Estonia from 1944 to 1953 : meanings, spaces and paradoxes
Author: Reimann, Heli
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2015-11-28
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-1639-0
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (article-based)
Abstract: In Estonian jazz history, the period from 1944 to 1953 was dynamic and contradictory, when the official status of jazz changed from a highly prized musical form during the postwar era to musica non grata by 1950. While jazz symbolised victory and friendship with the Allies in the immediate postwar period, subsequent Soviet ideological campaigns targeted jazz as the focus of Soviet ideological attacks against the entire Western world and its values. Despite Soviet power s attempts to obliterate jazz from cultural life, rather than disappear, jazz music moved into more secret private spaces. Known as Sovietisation in Estonian history and as Late-Stalinism in Soviet history, this period witnessed extensive social changes in Estonia. On the one hand, throughout this era, the Soviet occupying regime aimed consolidate its power base. On the other hand, Late-Stalinism is known for its intense ideological pressure, which for creative intelligence meant a tightening of creative freedom established through the ideological doctrine of Zhdanovshchina. This article-based dissertation on Soviet Estonian jazz history offers new insights into the meaning of this popular cultural form of Western origin and how it functions in the Soviet society. I argue that the meaning of jazz culture in Soviet Estonia emerges from the dynamic interaction between Soviet socio-political forces, the actions of cultural agents and the traditions of jazz culture. As the study demonstrates, the Great Friendship decree of 1948 led to the rupture of the music and the disappearance of the word jazz from the public space. However, cultural actors who selected their strategies of action from the available cultural repertoire played the crucial role in shaping jazz culture. The study s focus on the everyday life of jazz musicians reveals that self-actualisation was the driving force feeding their motivation. The musicians everyday strategies for self-actualisation include touring, musical learning and listening, ritualising, humour, inventiveness, curiosity, dedication, and intellectualising jazz. Our current understanding of jazz tradition is related to what can be called the jazz-as-a-tradition paradigm. This paradigm refers to a relatively recently constructed overarching American-centred narrative which historians, critics and musicians have consistently drawn around jazz. The example of Estonian jazz tries to reconstruct the jazz-as-a-tradition paradigm and to create its own array of cultural and historical meanings. The important schemata identifying jazz in Estonia are classical/light, professional/amateur, bourgeois/proletarian, swing/bebop, and dance/concert. In addition, I aim to provide theoretical schemata for investigating and interpreting jazz culture under the Soviet regime. I expect these schemata to facilitate our understaning of the particularities of the Soviet cultural model and the translation of the essence of jazz culture in Soviet Estonia to a broader international readership. As a primary conceptual outcome of my dissertation, I propose a holistic framework called cultural spaces of action . This framework advances the sociological model of private/public distinction, which is of crucial importance in understanding Soviet society. Instead of a simplistic dualistic model, I provide a four-dimensional framework which highlights (1) the interaction of jazz culture and state power, and (2) the distinction of forms within jazz culture. According to this model, jazz culture existed as journalistic discourse, as professional concert music, as amateur dance music, and as an intellectualised formal educational practice. The benefit of the model is its ability to avoid the common strategies of confrontation between Soviet power and culture , where power is perceived to supress creative people, and to disclose the paradoxical nature of jazz in the Soviet Union, where jazz was concurrently forbidden, but never silent. This interdisciplinary study benefits from multiple research traditions; it subscribes to the principles of New Cultural History in its emphasis on meaning and interpretations. These interpretations are guided by the central ideas of constructionist history, which states that history stems from the dialogue between the historian and the past, born of the historian s imaginative and constructive engagement with the evidence. As a study of a global musical form in a national historical context and under regional socio-political conditions, it deploys the ideas of transnational history: the study decentralises the idea of the national and amalgamates perspectives and contexts of Estonian, Soviet and jazz historiographical traditions. The methodological approach also includes microhistory the intensive historical investigation of a relatively well-defined smaller object. I refer to source pluralism as the main research method, as it combines fragments from various sources including archival materials (radio broadcasts, newspapers), and interviews, as well as the recorded memories and the private documents of the people who experienced Soviet life.Jazz Neuvosto-Virossa 1944‒1953: merkitykset, paikat ja paradoksit Vuodet 1944‒1953 olivat virolaisen jazzin historiassa dynaaminen ja kiistanalainen vaihe. Tuona aikana jazzin virallinen status vaihtui toisen maailmansodan jälkeisestä korkeasti arvostetusta musiikista kielletyksi musiikiksi vuonna 1950. Huolimatta neuvostohallinnon pyrkimyksistä hävittää jazz kulttuurielämästä, se ei poistunut, vaan siirtyi yksityispiireihin. Väitöksen tavoitteena on tutkia jazzkulttuurin merkityksiä tässä ristiriitaisessä vaiheessa. Tutkimuksessa väitetään, että merkitykset hahmottuvat Nevostoliiton sosiaaliskulttuuristen prosessien, jazzkulttuurin tradition ja muusikkojen toiminnan välisessä vuorovaikutuksessa. Ehdotetussa alkuperäisessä analyyttisessa mallissa vältetään (cultural spaces of action) yleisiä strategioita, joissa neuvostovalta hahmotetaan dominoivana kulttuurin ja luovien ihmisten yli. Lisäksi pyritään selittämään paradoksaalista tilannetta, jossa jazz oli samanaikaisesti kielletty mutta ei koskaan hiljaa. Väitöskirjassa yhdistyy menetelmiä jazzin tutkimuksesta, Neuvostoliiton tutkimuksesta, Viron historiankirjoituksesta, uudesta kulttuurihistoriasta ja mikrohistoriasta.
Subject: musicology
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