The Myth of the Rise of Jazz: Race, Institutions and Ongoing Partial Consecration

Baris Büyükokutan, Koc University

There is a consensus among historians, sociologists, and musicologists who study jazz that the genre attained art music status in the 1940s and 50s as a result of a modernist revolution whose most famous manifestation is bebop. This consensus suffers from underspecification of the dependent variable: scholars who tell this narrative rarely discuss what constitutes consecration. I define consecration as the formation of an ineffable, ultimately arbitrary aura as a result of the construction of institutions. I then take stock of these institutions from the early twentieth century on, finding i. that many of them either predate or long postdate the 1940s and 50s, and ii. that very few of them are entirely secure. I conclude that the rise of jazz is a myth and discuss the implications of this finding for the sociological study of race and of culture.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 62. Classification and Consecration