Improvising difference : constructing Canarian Jazz cultures
This dissertation is a performance of and around borders, emphasizing how physical and virtual boundaries impact members of a community on the global periphery. More specifically, it interrogates the ways in which Canarian jazz musicians encounter and interact with the multiple types of actively produced aislamiento (isolation). As an autonomous community of Spain, the vestiges of colonialism are quite present in everyday Canarian life, despite many inhabitants' self-identification as African. This project traces three main lines of inquiry: the historical construction of the Canary Islands as exoticized periphery; the eradication of the Afro/Canarian subject through the ongoing ideological and physical violence; and the ways in which Canarian populations are re-asserting their identities—as Afro/Canarian, diasporic, and trans-Atlantic—through critical performance against trenchant stereotypes and the dominant paradigms that propagate them. Throughout the dissertation, I examine how surfaces—architectural, cartographic, scholarly and sonic—act to frame (and mask) cultural and musical identity. The ideological seams of these surfaces can function as interstitial spaces from which critical resistance can be performed through improvising musical and discursive acts. Just as Canarian jazz musicians play against and across dominant paradigms to subsist, I will demonstrate how interstitial research methodologies can break open the potentially obscuring surfaces that these paradigms construct. I extend David Sudnow's notion of the "articulational reach" and his phenomenologically informed exploration of piano performance into ethnographic research, emphasizing how my own subjectivity as researcher/pianist impacts and shapes the project. Crucial to Sudnow's "reach" is its inherently improvisatory emergence and the uncertainty of its outcome. In short, the ways in which Canarian musicians must improvise performances in musical and social environments will be examined and resonating with an approach imbued with the same improvising, subjective unfolding—both in terms of research methodology and of writerly perspective. The dissertation could be read as an unfolding, improvised construction that is constantly accruing new meanings: its chapters are not so much driven by an overarching or individual theses so much as by the spinning out of possible responses to the questions surrounding the project's initial premises.