Destination Unknown:
The Future of Jazz

Jazz looks back on a history of more than a hundred years, during which it was repeatedly declared dead, only to be resurrected again with new sounds and musical ideas. Jazz has shaped the image of America in the 20th century, it has influenced popular music, it has inspired musicians all over the world to go their own ways. In doing so, it has confronted Western-influenced art music with an alternative concept that places individual creativity not only in the hands of individual composers, but in the hands of all musicians within the ensemble. One reason why jazz has remained so productive and alive is that it is not so much a genre as a musical practice that can be reinterpreted by each generation, by artists of different backgrounds and cultural traditions.

So what is the future of jazz?

The 18th Darmstadt Jazzforum dares to look ahead, asking what this musical practice makes possible and where its limits are likely to be. We will discuss the balance between respect for the origins of jazz as an African American art form and the tasks of a current avant-garde, about the role jazz plays within the discourses of the time and the region in which it is received. We ask about the future of the recording or streaming industry, about the task of radio, internet or podcasts, about an education that not only has future jazz musicians in mind, but creative music as a whole. We talk about sustainability in all areas concerning this music. We ask about the awareness of the jazz scene for topics such as climate neutrality, gender equality, diversity. And we discuss the role of “jazz” as an idea and musical practice in a world where genre boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred.

We have used the one of Sun Ra’s titles, “Destination Unknown” as motto of the 18th Darmstadt Jazzforum. Sun Ra’s music is a prime example of how music can think future (as in “Afrofuturism”) without forgetting the tradition. Of course, we don’t really know what the future holds for jazz, but we can, we want to and we will talk about it in September 2023 with those involved, with professional observers and with interested parties.

The Darmstadt Jazzforum has been established as a platform for exchange between musical practice and discourse. We invite scholars from various disciplines, journalists, concert promoters, educators, but above all musicians from the active scene. The Jazzforum aims to provide food for thought as well as to open up musical spaces and thus to stimulate an exchange focused on the contributions of jazz and improvised music to the present cultural discourse.

— see also: Random Thoughts (Blog about the 18th Darmstadt Jazzforum) —

Call for Papers (Presentations / Panels):

We welcome proposals for 25-minute papers on the above topics, but we are also happy to receive papers that go beyond, as long as they fit within the basic theme of “The Future of Jazz”. Thematic blocks might for instance be (please add as you see fit):

  • possibilities and limits of jazz (musically, aesthetically, socially)
  • African American roots of jazz vs. universal meaning of music
  • future of music marketing / music distribution
  • sustainability in making music, presenting music, experiencing music
  • gender equity in jazz / diversity in jazz (c.f. Jazzforum 14 + 17)
  • Jazz or no jazz: a musical practice in a world of disappearing genres

Please send the title and a concise abstract of your paper proposal by 31 December 2022 to: jazz@jazzinstitut.de.

In addition to the presentations, we are planning panels in which we want to discuss the views of artists and other actors in the music business. Proposals for the panels, each with about three participants (plus moderator), can also be submitted.

Date of the 18th Darmstadt Jazzforum:
28-30 September 2023

Since the Jazzforum is all about exchange and discussion, we invite all participants to stay for the whole conference (not just the day of their own contribution). We are able to pay an honorarium, and reimburse you for travel expenses.


Since 1989, the Darmstadt Jazzforum combines the discourse on jazz and improvised music with the practical experience of music in a unique combination of international conference, concerts, workshops and exhibitions. All Jazzforums have been documented in our book series “Darmstadt Studies in Jazz Research” (Wolke Verlag).