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The Music of Mike Westbrook

BAYLEY, GARY,KEITH (2014) The Music of Mike Westbrook. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The Music of Mike Westbrook Gary Bayley (Durham, 2013)
This dissertation – the first on the life and work of Mike Westbrook – proposes that his unique conception of English modern jazz was inspired by early 1900s New Orleans culture, where live music was contemporary, culturally relevant, and had a social function. Initially intended as art for a new post-World War socialist Britain, his drawing on cultural, social, economic, and political constraints became an artistic credo. The thesis argues (following Fischlin and Heble (2004), Horn (2002), Johnson (2002), and McKay (2005)) that jazz is primarily a cultural activity, not merely a style of music. While Westbrook has claimed that he was simply attempting to combine art and entertainment like Duke Ellington, this dissertation demonstrates how, as a trained painter, his jazz process is informed by Dada and Pop Art as well as by Bertolt Brecht’s Lehrstücke, lending his ensembles a social function as ‘mediating structures’ (Berger 1979). His central ‘brass band’ concept draws on English music-hall, circus and fairground, together with European cabaret, and his tendency towards theatrical performance was reinforced through his creative partnership with Kate Westbrook. The approach taken in this study is twofold: on the one hand field-work and extensive access to archival materials (much of it previously unavailable); and on the other hand cultural and historical interpretation. The thesis argues that Westbrook attempted a cultural revolution in broadening the terms of reference for jazz to construct a peculiarly English, polystylistic multi-media art. Accordingly, this dissertation locates Westbrook’s work in the larger cultural field of English contemporary artistic expression, rather than simply seeking to situate it stylistically within a narrower history of jazz.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:PhD, Mike Westbrook, jazz
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:21 Jul 2014 08:59

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