Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
In November 1959, Ornette Coleman arrived from Los Angeles to present his quartet at New York's Five Spot Cafe. Coleman's New York debut is often cited as the beginning of the "free jazz" style that became prevalent in the 1960s. His music polarized the jazz community between positions of avid support and stem disapproval. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's concept of artistic and intellectual "fields" can offer important insights to the dynamics of Coleman's reception. Bourdieu's depictions of the role of the avant-garde, the movements between "positions and position-takings," and the influence of "consecrating figures" in an artistic field, fit perfectly the range of reactions that greeted Coleman's music. It can be shown that many of the reactions to Coleman were not a reaction per se to how his music sounded, but to the exercise of power by the combined forces that helped bring Coleman to the Five Spot in 1959. On the side of his supporters, we can often see a "high modernist" agenda that was not always shared by the era's jazz musicians. Coleman's detractors often objected less to Coleman's music than they did to the combination of critical, scholarly and music industry forces that they felt were forcing Coleman into the limelight.
Lee, David, "The Battle of the Five Spot: Omette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field" (2004). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6139.
McMaster University Library