Alex W. Rodriguez

Alex W. Rodriguez is a writer, trombonist and PhD student in ethnomusicology at UCLA. After performing with jazz and popular music groups across North and South America, he recently received an M.A. degree in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers. His current research focuses on the “hot clubs” of Chile and Argentina.



"Deconstructing the Hang: Urban Spaces As Cross-Cultural Contexts for Jazz Improvisation"

In the late 1980s, when academic jazz studies was coming into its own, the enthusiastic critical theorist and amateur jazz trumpet player Krin Gabbard wrote, "It is . . . likely that jazz scholars will develop a professional discourse that may at first draw at first on the vocabularies of musicology, sociology, critical theory, and other disciplines but will be ultimately unique to jazz studies."

That moment has long since passed; terms such as "signifyin(g)," "diasporic interculture," and "participatory discrepancies" now pervade written commentaries on jazz. In this presentation, I consider another term, “hang,” taken from the other, mostly separate discourse that has continued to surround jazz since the 1980s: that of jazz musicians themselves. Both noun and verb, the (to) hang is a location and process of social interaction that has coexisted alongside jazz since its early days in New Orleans and prohibition-era New York City.

Like jazz itself, this four-letter word carries multiple meanings; the (to) hang is a central characteristic of jazz improvisation, with roots in urban life. A space where social interactions are less inhibited by dominant cultural mores, the hang allows for improvised discourse on many different levels. It is at its most generative when participants from different cultural, gender, and generational perspectives gather together; however, this has not always been the case throughout history.

This presentation discusses how current musicians conceive of the hang and its implications, discusses various manifestations of hangs around the world, and considers the impact of new technology in facilitating and transforming the nature of the hang today.

My Speakers Sessions

Saturday, March 24

4:00pm EDT