Down beats and rolling stones: an historical comparison of American jazz and rock journalism
Jazz and rock have been historically treated as separate musical traditions, despite having many similar musical and cultural characteristics, as well as sharing significant periods of interaction and overlap throughout popular music history.
The rift between jazz and rock, and jazz and rock scholarship, is based on a set of received assumptions as to why jazz and rock are different. However, these assumptions are not naturally inherent to the two genres, but are instead the result of a discursive construction that defines them in contrast to one another. Furthermore, the roots of this discursive divide are to be found in the history of popular music journalism.
In this thesis I challenge the traditional divide between jazz and rock by examining five historical case studies in American jazz and rock journalism. My underlying argument is that we cannot take for granted the fact that jazz and rock would ultimately become separate discourses: what are now represented as inevitable musical and cultural divergences between the two genres were actually constructed under very particular institutional and historical forces. There are other ways popular music history could have been written (and has been written) that call the oppositional representation of jazz and rock into question.
The case studies focus on the two oldest surviving and most influential jazz and rock periodicals: Down Beat and Rolling Stone. I examine the role of critics in developing a distinction between the two genres that would eventually be reproduced in the academic scholarship of jazz and rock. I also demonstrate how the formation of jazz and rock as genres has been influenced by non-musicological factors, not least of all by music magazines as commercial institutions trying to survive and compete in the American press industry.Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Award