Applied History

In an article in the 'NRC' one of the leading newspapers in The Netherlands, published on the 29th of January 2022, Beatrice de Graaf writes about 'applied history'. Where as the traditional writing of 'history' describes important events on a timeline, 'applied history' makes use of a array of methods in order to translate lessons from the past into insights of today. The lessons from the past can be 'applied', made generate useful insight in policy making, management, and all sorts of collaborations.

Correlating insights from the past to challenges of the present is the latest direction in historiography, Beatrice de Graaf explains. It can be seen as a reaction to the post-modernism and deconstructionism of the 10980's and 1990's as well as explanations of the past done in social sciences.

Applied Jazz History

How does 'applied history' works in jazz? Can there be 'applied jazz history'? Is it possible not to focus on the most important events and players in jazz but to use insights from the past of jazz to explain and gain insights in for the present day jazz? What if the question 'who is the John Coltrane of today?' is left behind and we look at how things worked in the times and life of John Coltrane and try to apply it to jazz of today, of the last few decades?

Old School Jazz History

In almost all academies, conservatories and universities where jazz history is in the curriculum, the jazz time-line is followed. Jazz started in New Orleans in the 1920's, Swing became the popular music in the 1930's, Bebop revolutionized the music in the 1940's, Cool Jazz tamed things down in the first part of the 1950's, to make place for Hard Bop in the second halfof the 1950's with its grooves and long and experimental improvisations, opening the doors for Free Jazz in the 1960's, gaining back large young audiences in the 1970's with Rock Jazz. So far everbody more or less agrees.

The first historian to write in an objective, well balanced way about the historical styles in jazz from the beginning until the end of the 1970's, is James Lincoln Collier in his book 'The Making of Jazz'. Almost all historians such as Stuart Nicholson, Ted Gioia and Gary Giddins followed the approach of Jim Collier. From the 1980's on, jazz historiography seems to have lost direction and focus. No agreement is reached on how to name the style of the 1990's, the 2000's, and the the 2010's.

There is only one conclusion possible: Old School Jazz History, boxing styles in periods of approximately 10 year, does not work anymore after the 1970's. A new approach is needed. Can 'Applied Jazz History' give solutions? If so, what does that mean?

The new historiographical approach: appleid jazz history

Changing the way to think and write about jazz history, changing jazz historiography, is not an easy task. Grouping events on a timeline is the default way in history in general, in music history as well. Round 1950 ethnomusicology tried to bridge musicology with anthropology. In ethnomusicology music is not only studied as it appears on a timeline but also as a cultural phenomenon. However, both 'historical musicology' and 'ethnomusicology' fall short in explaining jazz history form the 1980's on.