Rituals of Creativity: Tradition, Modernity, and the “Acoustic Unconscious” in a U.S. Collegiate Jazz Music Program



ABSTRACT  In this article, I seek to complicate the distinction between imitation and creativity, which has played a dominant role in the modern imaginary and anthropological theory. I focus on a U.S. collegiate jazz music program, in which jazz educators use advanced sound technologies to reestablish immersive interaction with the sounds of past jazz masters against the backdrop of the disappearance of performance venues for jazz. I analyze a key pedagogical practice in the course of which students produce precise replications of the recorded improvisations of past jazz masters and then play them in synchrony with the recordings. Through such synchronous iconization, students inhabit and reenact the creativity epitomized by these recordings. I argue that such a practice, which I call a “ritual of creativity,” suggests a coconstitutive relationship between imitation and creativity, which has intensified under modernity because of the availability of new technologies of digital reproduction. [modernity, creativity, imitation, media technologies, intertextuality]