Last Week at the Jazzinstitut
(New) books we read
Among the books on our desk the last couple of weeks was "John Tchicai. A Chaos with Some Kind of Order", by Margriet Naber (see the Jazzinstitut's book review page).
Sun Ra Archive
The Jazzinstitut Darmstadt has acquired the Sun Ra Archive of writer, musician, cultural promoter and researcher Hartmut Geerken. It is the world's most comprehensive private archive on the life and work of the U.S. free jazz pioneer and mastermind of Afrofuturism. The collection includes recordings of nearly 500 previously unpublished concerts, interviews and rehearsals of the Sun Ra Arkestra, film footage on more than 70 videotapes or DVDs, Sun Ra's entire poetic œuvre, some with corrections in his own hand, 1,200 photographs, a comprehensive archive of secondary literature, correspondence with leading Sun Ra researchers as well as with Sun Ra himself, which Geerken used for his extensive books "Omniverse Sun Ra" and "The Immeasurable Equation," and much more. "Hartmut Geerken's Sun Ra archive is a great and important addition to the Jazzinstitut's collection," says mayor Jochen Partsch who is also in charge of cultural affairs of the city of Darmstadt. "Sun Ra was a pioneer of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and thus also of the Black Lives Matter movement of our time. The collection of Geerken, who knew Sun Ra personally and was friends with many of the musicians in his Arkestra, documents how Sun Ra was a pioneer of Afrofuturism and how his art reverberated in the music of George Clinton in the 1970s and became part of the international cultural discourse from the 1980s on." The Sun Ra archive will complement other special collections at the Jazzinstitut, such as that of the Berlin free jazz label FMP. Geerken himself is pleased that his collection has found its place in Darmstadt, of all places. A radio broadcast by jazz expert Joachim Ernst Berendt, whose estate was the founding stone of the Jazzinstitut's archive, had drawn drew his attention to Sun Ra in the early 1960s, Geerken says. In the historic Kavaliershaus in Darmstadt's Bessungen neighborhood, the collection is now being examined box by box. Sun Ra is not only of interest to music historians, as Wolfram Knauer, head of the Jazzinstitut, points out, but also to young musicians, who are fascinated by the bandleader and composer's lived visions. "By the 1950s he had already succeeded in combining tradition and avant-garde," Knauer explains. Ra had his roots in the big band music of the swing era, but quickly became one of the pioneers of freer paths in jazz. The concerts of his Arkestra, which sometimes lasted for hours, and the contemplation of old African rituals lived from the colorful costumes, from the performance which always involved the audience as well, and from the rousing hymns that sounded between free improvisations and swinging arrangements. Last but not least, Ra was also a pioneer of electronic music, one of the first musicians to use the Moog synthesizer for live concerts. And in 1986 – another Darmstadt reference – he met John Cage, the mastermind of contemporary music, at a joined concert in New York. "Space is the Place" was the name of one of the reverberating hymns the Arkestra sang in its concerts. The Darmstadt Jazz Institute has now cleared "space" in its shelves to make room for documents about one of the most dazzling and outstanding figures in African-American music. (Darmstädter Echo)
30th Darmstadt Jazz Conceptions + open air concerts
Music, finally! As everybody else we had to cancel most last years' music events, among them our annual summer workshop Jazz Conceptions. The restart was planned cautiously, less participants, bigger spaces, open-air concerts, and it was a warm, happy and musically satisfying affair. Luckily the weather was on our side, as well: all sessions in the open air could proceed as planned, and the final concerts were cheered by the audience, happy to hear live music again. At the same time, our local jazz initiative has restarted the concerts in front of the Jazzinstitut's historic location with an all-star band from its ranks (Outline '21) and with flutist Stephanie Wagner's quintet Quinsch. How we all missed the wonderful sound of live music!
17th Darmstadt Jazzforum
Our biennial Darmstadt Jazzforum conference is fully planned by now. You can attend in person or online. Should you wish to visit Darmstadt for the event, please drop us a line – all attendees must be pre-registered. The conference from 30 September through 2 October 2021 will discuss matters of "openness" and marginalization within in the German jazz world. Our website links to a short survey of the three day event, but also to abstracts of the papers and subjects of the panel discussions. There will be music as well: saxophonist Luise Volkmann will receive the Kathrin Preis award 1 October at Bessunger Knabenschule and perform with her new LEONEsauvage ensemble which was formed in Darmstadt this April. And from 4 September the Jazzinstitut's own gallery will show an exhibition of posters created by Swiss graphic designer and concert promoter Niklaus Troxler, who will himself be present during the conference and talk about the connection between his art and his musical experiences.
Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (Darmstadt Summer School)
Darmstadt is a city of jazz, however it always has been a city of contemporary composition as well. As can be witnessed these days during the Darmstadt Summer Courses which were postponed from last year and started with a wonderful concert featuring compositions by Malin Bång, Brigitta Muntendorf, Olga Neuwirth and Alvin Singleton (Ferienkurse für Neue Musik).
World Cultural Heritage
Apart from music Darmstadt is known for as a birth place of Jugendstil and the regular exhibitions between 1901 and 1914 which served as a major stimulus to the art nouveau movement of the early 20th century, and constitutes a bridge between 19th century art and architecture and 20th century modernity. The Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt which is at the center of this development, has now been named World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, a decision registered with pride by many of the city's inhabitants (UNESCO). Thus, next time you plan to visit the Jazzinstitut, make sure to add some days for a visit to Mathildenhöhe.
Current opening hours of the Jazzinstitut
The Jazzinstitut is open to the public by appointment. Research slots will be given out with exact time slots for one visitor at a time. At the same time we continue our offer for research help by phone, e-mail or video-call. If you would like to schedule a video call, please send an e-mail to make an appointment and give us an idea what you want to talk about. We will then reply with a link for a Webex video session for your meeting.
The editor of this newsletter will take some time off, thus the next edition of this newsletter will only arrive in early to mid-September.