Some excellent discussion points last night. Here are some casual observations (in no particular order).
Adorno is much celebrated, and offers many provocative ideas. Although it is easy today to view him today as a modernist elitist (or elitist modernist?) due to his apparent refusal to admit that his own tastes are historically conditioned rather than derived from universal criteria (as he seems to claim), his work continues to challenge us in many ways – not least of which being his Art-commerce arguments. This is where Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste provides an important counterpoint. Rather than seeing Art and commerce as diametrically opposed (was it Shoenberg?: “If it’s art, it’s not for all; if it’s for all, then it’s not art”), Bourdieu instead suggests that “taste” (especially “refined” taste) is simply another tool used to define group membership. In this case, membership separating high and low classes. (If you don’t appreciate/understand the three B’s, you’re not one of “us.”)
I think this idea might prove helpful for both studies presented last night, although perhaps in different ways. For Stan I think it might require an examination of the ways in which the defining of a “jazz” musician can be considered an act of power. Although the attempt to devise specific criteria by which one can identify those considered “jazz” musicians is an admirable (and important) exercise, one can always find counter-examples that seem to exceed the criteria. Freddie Green a jazz musician? Perhaps. But an “accomplished jazz improvisor”? Hmmm…. (As an aside: Greg Gatien, the recent author in ACT whose work I mentioned to some of you, has done extensive work studying the solos of Sonny Rollins. According to Gatien, Sonny’s interest would seem to lie in interacting with himself rather than other musicians, something that would seem to be supported by Sonny’s historical choices in sidemen. This would seem to counter the frequent claim that jazz is about inter-musician interaction. And let us not forget about all the solo piano/guitar players….) My point is simply that definitions of what counts and who counts as/in jazz are derived from people with very specific interests. Who and what wins out in any particular definition?
For Andrew I think some of this relates to the interests of the film makers. Unlike in Stan’s case, where those that claim “jazz” can be viewed as operating out of self-interest (think Wynton), one imagines that most film makers don’t have a vested interest in music education. Rather–and this is where a possible Art/commerce conflict might enter–their primary interest lies in making films that people want to see. Film makers are more like musicians in that they are “producers,” whereas those that debate the definition/s of jazz might be more akin to film critics. Thought of another way, producers do not just reflect knowledge (although that is part of it), they create it. When Miles Davis started making jazz fusion albums (eg. Bitches Brew) he helped to challenge/change the definition of jazz. (Ergo: Miles is a jazz musician, therefore Bitches Brew must be jazz.) As Andrew has noted, the film makers help to create, through representation, a definition/image of what music teachers are or should be. Therefore, although films are interpretations, they are interpretations that create knowledge. As food for thought, you may want to consider that all of your dissertations similarly will “create” knowledge. Your “findings” are nothing but interpretations, and yet they help to construct our very understanding of the world. (Something of an important responsibility, don’t you think?)
On sampling – At the risk of being misunderstood on this point, consider this option: one approach is to decide (we’ll use Andrew as an example) which films you want to use and then devise sampling criteria after the fact. While this may seem in theory like bad research practice (and not necessarily wise in all cases), what it can do is help to elucidate in your mind what you are really interested in. For example, if Andrew chooses three films he wants to use (Mr. Holland, Music from the Heart, Drum Line), he then asks: what do these have in common? He then starts to generate other possible films and the reasons why they aren’t appropriate: Amadeus (no, because it does not involve a contemporary music teacher), Madame Sousatzka (no, because she was a studio piano teacher; does not involve public schools), School of Rock (no, because it does not strive to be an accurate depiction of teachers and schooling), Other No Name Film About Orchestra Director (no, because it does not appear on ‘X’ internet databases of top grossing/selling films of the past thirty years and therefore does not reach the minimum required audience for the study), etc., etc. Eventually, one thinks through all the criteria that really matter and has a formalized list that helps to qualify one’s sample. That is, the sample isn’t arbitrary; it is based on very explicit criteria, but criteria that one generates through “negative” counter examples. Stan might want to think about using a similar technique.
Finally, I would encourage all of you to think about the various points of contact between all of your projects. While on the surface you are studying very different topics, below the surface one finds all sorts of inter-related themes about knowledge, meaning, power, identity, community, induction, etc. I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to interact and share your thoughts.