Bulgarian bulge : jazz, subjectivity, and modernity in Bulgaria




McCormack, Ryan Sawyer

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This dissertation investigates various issues at play in the development and perpetuation of jazz in Bulgaria from the early-20th century until the present. In particular, I explore jazz’s emergence within the conceptualization of subjective experience unique to modern Bulgaria. In this way I move away from the relatively static notion of a “transcendent” subjectivity centered on the “improviser” that constitutes a great deal of jazz historiography and discourse. Through an examination of jazz musicians, listeners, and government critics in different periods of Bulgarian history, I seek two broad but not mutually exclusive goals. The first is trace how “jazz” was conceptualized in different quarters of Bulgarian society and how those conceptualizations factored into the composition, recording, and patronage of music. This second is to posit alternatives to a subjectivity of “transcendence” in jazz performance, using the Bulgarian case as an example. Throughout the dissertation, I use “fascination” and “boredom” as the two concepts through which to ground a historically and materially-bound subjectivity that better takes into account social, cultural, and economic factors unique to Bulgaria. Ultimately, these concepts feature prominently in understanding jazz’s role in framing the fractured subjectivities of Bulgarians within modernity, as well as the constant historical struggle by Bulgarians to center senses of self and place within a changing Bulgaria, a changing Europe, and a changing world.




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