“An analysis of the construction and role of collaborative circles among jazz musicians in Barcelona”

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By Marta Casals Balaguer

This paper studies the relationship between musicians’ collaborative circles and the generation of work opportunities in the music field. The analysis is aimed specifically at the discipline of jazz, a musical genre characterized by a dynamic of interaction among its musicians that favours the constant exchange of new ideas and knowledge regarding both the sector and the artistic language itself. One of the main instances of member interrelation, the live performance, where improvisation is king, plays a key role in shaping the music scene. At the same time, jazz, as an artistic language, feeds on the collective creative process to develop as such. Therefore, this paper considers the jazz artistic collective as one of the starting points for studying the professional practices of this sector.

The present research focuses on analysing the group of musicians that comprise the jazz scene in Barcelona, a city that during the 20th century became a nerve centre of the Catalan jazz scene and whose presence in the jazz world is now strong both locally and internationally. The focus of study looks at two dimensions assumed to be crucial in evaluating the impact and influence that the social and relational factor has on members of the music scene in terms of favouring the emergence of artistic-labour opportunities. The first dimension is in relation to the professional circles and contact networks that musicians construct throughout their artistic career. Therefore, one of the main objectives of the present research will be to study the correlation that those collaborative circles and contacts have in generating work opportunities within the jazz music scene. The second analytical dimension deals with the artistic collective as a basic platform for creation within the jazz language. A first analytical approach will attempt to study the fundamental role played by groups of musicians in their multiple forms of interaction and to see how the collective work becomes a crucial artistic and creative platform both for the development of musicians’ individual careers and in the field of joint exploration of the musical language itself.

The research has been framed mainly using the perspective of Pierre Bourdieu’s artistic field (1984, 1987), where musicians and the different agents of the jazz sector relate to each other. It also takes into account the main characteristics of collaborative circle conformation studied by Michael P. Farrell (2003), which become primordial when it comes to describing and analysing creative and artistic activities. The methodology used is qualitative and is based on thirty semi-structured interviews and participant observation carried out with professional jazz musicians living in Barcelona between October 2015 and November 2016. Other players in the music sector and qualified informants belonging to both the professional field of music and the academic field were also interviewed.

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