European Jazz Conference 2021
The European Jazz Conference 2021 will take place in Tallinn, Estonia, between 16 and 19 September.
Looking into the future when recovering from a severe crisis is good therapy. That is what Ornette Coleman did when he started working on his groundbreaking record, The Shape of Jazz to Come, which searches for creative ways to steer the past into an inventive future. The record was sandwiched between two others, with iconic titles that could also have served as references to what we are experiencing: Tomorrow is the Question! and Change of the Century.
We all agree that, due to this pandemic, tomorrow will be different: just how different is the question. 2020 was all about finding ways to keep the bond alive between musicians and their audience by streaming concerts to existing, and new, audiences. In parallel, we moved our work and social lives online, still communicating and moving things on, while endlessly caged in zoom.
We have learned that streaming a concert is not a replacement for a live concert. Online, you can never experience the same energy, the unique qualities of live music, or the strong feeling of togetherness and ritual that is shared with everyone in the audience. Similarly, reunions with people around a table cannot be replaced by video conferences, despite the fact that many online meetings are effective, can easily cross borders and cultures, and are becoming a more ‘normal’ way to communicate. But as with live music, they miss the crucial human factor. It’s just something else…but also valuable and with new possibilities to discover and develop.
The danger now is that we move too fast and forget too easily. Focus on Sanity was the original title of Coleman’s masterpiece and this should also be our focus. Recent figures indicate that there is a rise in burn-out and depression of around 40%. The artists’ community has been severely affected, and so too have the people who were isolated at home without a job, or deprived of the social contacts that are so vital to their wellbeing.
There is the good and the evil – the challenge and the despair. Or as Charles Mingus commented about Coleman: “…it’s like organised disorganisation, or playing wrong right”. The important questions we need to ask are: How can we learn from this crisis? How can we place more value on what we have missed so much? What should we maintain of the new ways we have developed to deal with our world during this pandemic? How can a crisis make us better, more profound, and shape a new future?
The European Jazz Conference 2021 will try to answer these questions. And we aim to do it together in Tallinn with all the Europe Jazz Network community – an opportunity to meet in person after such a long time apart. We are sure it will be a very special moment for all of us.
The formal EJN General Assembly will take place during the European Jazz Conference 2021 on Thursday 16 September.