Upper Styrian Big Band Folk: Exploring Local Identity and Authenticity in Jazz (2013)

Michael Kahr

About this exposition

Upper Styrian Big Band Folk is an arts-based research project which has aimed for the exploration of local identity, authenticity and meaning as manifested in and interrelated with jazz composition and performance. This exposition outlines the project, its underlying aesthetic values and presents a critical reflection of the work. Two videos show the musical scores and audio recordings of two selected compositions for large jazz orchestra which represent a significant aspect of artistic research in this project. A hermeneutic reading of the music offers insight into the work's contextual background and aesthetic matters.
typeresearch exposition
last modified18/06/2013
share statusprivate
affiliationUniversity of Music and Performing Arts in Graz
licenseAll rights reserved
published inJournal for Artistic Research
portal issue3.

Simple Media

id name copyright license
37571 Video_1.1_Kahr Michael Kahr All rights reserved
37554 Video2.1_Kahr Michael Kahr All rights reserved
37552 Video_1.1_Kahr Michael Kahr All rights reserved
37540 Video 2_Kahr Michael Kahr All rights reserved
37538 VIDEO 1_Kahr Michael Kahr All rights reserved
22515 Video2 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
22481 Video 2 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21914 Video 2 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21892 Steirerbua.mov Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21879 Steirerbua Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21770 Part II part 2 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21768 Part II, 3 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21765 Part II Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21764 Part II new Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21741 Steirerbua Video Michael Kahr All rights reserved
21473 Steirerbua Score - Recording - Video Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373116 Ex 16 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373117 Ex 15 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373118 Ex 14 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373119 Ex 13 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373120 Ex 12 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373121 Ex 11 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373122 Ex 10 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373123 Ex 8 MIchael Kahr All rights reserved
373124 Ex 7 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373125 Ex 6 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373126 Ex 5 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373127 Ex 4 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373128 Ex 3 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373129 Ex 2 Michael Kahr All rights reserved
373130 Ex 1 Michael Kahr All rights reserved

comments: 4 (last entry by Michael Kahr - 15/03/2020 at 16:32)
anonymous 18/06/2013 at 23:38

The comment was deleted by Michael Kahr on 29/05/2019 at 10:16.
Monica Herzig 18/06/2013 at 23:40

Final Comments to Michael Kahr “Upper Styrian Big Band Folk: Exploring Local Identity and Authenticity in Jazz “


The idea of exploring authenticity by combining aspects of local culture with a style of music that was distinctly local to a very different part of the world and expanded to a global music is compelling. The author provides an interesting analysis of the unique integration of jazz into the musical practices of a community far removed from the original jazz community. The similarities of the Austrian folk traditions and jazz are exemplified in this piece through the traditions of improvising harmonic parts and impromptu jamming in homes and social gatherings. The fusion of the two traditions as an expression of local identity remains questionable though. Several times we get the reference of being “cool”, meaning the younger generations adopted jazz as their expression of a distinct social status in contrast to their peers. The analysis is also quite personal from the perspective of someone who joined the “cool” crowd to the extent of leaving for several years before returning home due to a job opportunity. While the project is a wonderful example of community engagement and bringing together a variety of art forms, the descriptors ‘identity’ and ‘authenticity’ should be used with caution. In Part III, the author himself replaces these concepts with ‘significance’, which seems much more appropriate. In our current global culture, many indigenous art forms are endangered of losing their authenticity through fusion with other art forms. Hence, I perceive the outcome of the project as a significant collaboration between the practitioners of authentic Austrian traditions and the adapters of the “cool” art form of jazz, hence validating the variety of musical engagements and opportunities in the area rather than an expression of authenticity.


The author mentions meaning and enjoyment as outcome but no specific evaluation methods on how that was determined. Of course, there is no objective evaluation method for such subjective feelings, but an attempt to get feedback in terms of surveys, testimonies from the participants, from the community, from support personnel (i.e. recording engineers, concert producers), numbers for CD sales, distribution methods etc would be extremely useful for the process of transfer. I would be intrigued by a follow-up project that collects comments/ reflections from all personnel involved, the audiences at initial performances, buyers of the CD, as well as statistics on ticket and CD sales and promotional efforts for the project.


Overall, this is a most valuable and current topic and the reader is immediately intrigued by the potential of such combination of distinct art forms. The musical piece is unique and deserves acknowledgement, and the pride of the composer in being able to validate his and his region’s diverse musical background is obvious. The work is reminiscent of Vivaldi’s attempts to capture nature in his music, or the work of nationalistic composers as they combine classical with folk traditions. Now that the composer “gave birth” to this offspring of two separate folk traditions, we would like to learn about the reception of the relatives and peers and the investment of the community.

Patrick Schenkius 22/06/2013 at 17:27

The exposition is interesting, both artistically and intellectually. The quality of the composed big band arrangements is high and they are well executed. The musical content is interesting, as well as the harmony, melodic development, instrumentation and form.

The idea of combing/blending a local music style with jazz is more and more common these days, so in that respect a suitable subject for research.

This art-based research is for a great deal describing the process of making in all facets, not only musically, but in general what it takes to get it done on this large scale. As the author states in the end, the research could serve as a kind of model for other musicians/organizers to do a similar project.

The exposition has clear research questions and all of them are worked out very well. The underlying literature about social, philosophical and artistic issues is well chosen. The author’s reflection upon these aspects and the whole process is quite clear and honest. The description of the whole process is profound; every step is described in detail. For the author, the research seems to be a logic step to take as a jazz musician, arranger for big band, publicist and member of this local community.

Part 1 of the submission is very thorough and is a complete story by itself.

The analysis in part 2 is clear concerning the artistic choices during the writing process. The influences of seminal big band arrangers/composers like Bill Hollman, Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneider are audible in both arrangements in this exposition. The musical material of the folk music was very well re-worked in the big band arrangements and show the delicacy of the arranger to combine ‘old’ and contemporary music.

The artistic outcomes of this research project are evident. Two thriving big band pieces, which proves, to my opinion, that jazz can incorporate practically every other music style in it because of its flexibility. The way it is done here shows thoroughness in all stages of the process.

Michael Kahr 15/03/2020 at 16:32

A detailed response to the comments is published in Michael Kahr, “Artistic Research in Jazz: A Case Study and Potential Developments”. Music and Sonic Arts: Theories and Practice. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, eds. Mine Dogantan-Dack and John Dack (2018), 184–199.

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