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Black Social Improvisation from Jazz to Turntablism

Beyond the entertainment value of black expressive cultures, what might be the social utility of improvisational artistic engagements? Moving through Marc Anthony Neal's essay "Jazz, Hip Hop, and Black Social Improvisation", this Thinking Spaces Session examines the wide-ranging and productive ways in which improvisational acts within black expressive cultures do more than simply entertain others or generate income. The aesthetic logic that allows for stylistic and expressive acts of improvisation within urbanized African American communities, dating back to the 1940s, suggests rich possibilities for the pursuit of social justice within marginalized communities via improvisatory acts. Moving through examples in bebop, hip hop and turntablism, Postdoctoral Fellow Mark V. Campbell will lead a discussion that explores some of the ways in which the building and maintaining of health communities, cultural and geographic, are made possible through improvisatory acts embedded within black expressive culture.

Improvisation implies a deep connection between the personal and the communal, self and world. A “good” improviser successfully navigates musical and institutional boundaries and the desire for self-expression, pleasing not only herself but the listener as well.

– Rob Wallace