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Jazz on the border: Jazz and dance bands in Chester and North Wales in mid-twentieth centuryThere was a high degree of overlap between western popular music and jazz in the mid- twentieth century. However, histories of jazz and histories of popular music are often puzzlingly separate, as if divided by strict borders. This article looks at some of the rea- sons for this (including those proposed by Frith (2007) and Bennett (2013). The impor- tance of musical pathways and hidden histories (Becker 2002, 2004; Finnegan 2007; Nott 2002; Rogers 2013) in the context of local music scenes is considered. The importance of taking live music scenes and provincial areas into account when discussing genre his- tories is discussed, in the context of examples from an oral history study of dance-band musicians and promoters in the Chester (UK) area. These examples help to demonstrate that boundaries between jazz and popular music are frequently less abrupt in practice than they are in theory.
Throwing sheep in the bandroom: Visualising a social and economic network of musicians in Cheshire and North WalesThe aim of this session is to apply some of the visual and technological tools of 21st-Century online social networking, e.g. network visualisation using "friend wheels", to a densely interconnected network of jazz and dance band musicians active in the Chester (UK) area in the 1950s, as revealed by research on the "hidden history" of live music in the area. Over 30 interviews with musicians, dancers and promoters have been collected, plus more than 200 photographs from personal collections, and an M.U. diary/address book belonging to local bandleader Wilf Field. The recent dramatic growth of online social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace has led to a revival of interest in the economic importance of social networks; Fraser and Dutta’s "Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom" provides an interesting survey of the issues, and was an inspiration for this session. But working musicians have long known the importance of knowing (and impressing) the "right people" in order to get work. Have social networks changed fundamentally since the advent of Web 2.0, or were they always there, and just a little harder to visualise when held in a pocket diary, rather than displayed on a Facebook wall?
Total war and its effects on the live music industry in Cheshire and North WalesGiven the profound effect which World War II had on the economy of the UK as a whole, it would be surprising if specific areas of that economy – such as live music in the provinces – were not affected as well. How did ‘total war’ affect the live music industry on a local level? Evidence I have collected for a study of musicians active in and around Chester during the period suggests that the large number of military bases in the area, combined with the effects of other wartime factors such as conscription, rationing and the need to maintain both military and civilian morale, did indeed affect the size and nature of the market for live dance music locally. For instance, the large US Air Force base at Burtonwood was a source of work for local musicians, as well as an opportunity to mix with American musicians and music fans. As well as presenting information obtained through interviews with musicians and their relatives, I will also look briefly at what happened to the musicians and the bands after the war, when economic and social conditions changed again, at the same time as advances occurred in music-related technology.