This article examines music auditions in jazz education and the artistic valuation of music performances by gatekeepers working in two prestigious schools. Using the inherent insecurities of the entry-test situation as a site of ethnographic fieldwork, the article explores the whole chain of valuation needed in order to produce a hierarchical ordinal ranking of the candidates. By drawing attention to the distinction between what is being said and what is being done by the gatekeepers, a structural ambiguity is identified in the selection game: on the one hand, it is dependent on romantic notions of artistic uniqueness (originality, personality, authenticity) and on the other, it relies on the requirements of jurisdiction and equal assessment (numerical grading, standardized repertoire). The artistic doxa of jazz is constituted in opposition to two negative characters, either by framing the candidates as epigones – echoing the standard repertoire too closely – or framing them as heretics, considered as traitors to the local interpretation of the standard.
American Journal of Cultural Sociology – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 1, 2013