In The Performance of Authenticity: The Makings of Jazz and the Self in Autobiography Teófilo Espada-Brignoni analyzes the autobiographies of New Orleans musicians (Baby Dodds, Sidney Bechet, Pops Foster, and Lee Collins) who throughout their texts construct New Orleans jazz as an authentic musical expression grounded in their experiences and culture. The author argues the autobiographies reproduce and reinterpret modernist conceptions of authenticity to assert and affirm authority over the public representations and discussions of jazz. Through the autobiographers' use of ideas about authenticity, they establish the value of their narratives but at the same time reinforce some of the power dynamics they set out to criticize. Their narratives also reveal the complex ethics that emerged during the first decades of the music and problematize modernist values such as individualism, the dichotomy of work and life, as well as the self and the social. The book adopts Foucauldian and social-constructivist perspectives, complementing analysis of the autobiographies by drawing from literary theory, psychology, sociology, and jazz scholarship.
Teófilo Espada-Brignoni is assistant professor of psychology at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Subjectivation, Music, and Autobiography
Chapter 2: Storying Jazz: Bechet, Dodds, Collins, and Foster
Chapter 3: An Ethics of Authenticity
Chapter 4: Being a Jazz Man
Chapter 5: “Growing into the Music”
Chapter 6: Wise Old-Timers
Chapter 7: Stylizing the Self: The Mechanic and the Domestic
Teofilo Espada-Brignoni's book is a thorough and illuminating work that employs a Foucaultian approach to study how early jazz musicians depict their identities through autobiographical narratives. It deconstructs and problematizes the very notion of “authenticity” by looking at the diverse ways in which selves are narratively constructed. By so doing, the author shows how self is defined by a complex interplay of individual, social, political and racial issues: thus, “authenticity” is a social construct by which African-American jazz musicians make sense of themselves and their place within their community and the American society. The book will appeal to scholars in different fields such as social psychology, discourse analysis, sociology, and jazz studies.
Authenticity--a loaded term at best--is almost as difficult a term to define as jazz itself, but Espada-Brignoni teases out the many meanings of the term and its important function in the creation of jazz narrative and identity. This book is notable for its theoretical foundation, but it is also important for its focus on oft-overlooked musicians such as Baby Dodds and Lee Collins. The Performance of Authenticity is a crucial addition to the body of literature on jazz autobiography.