America can make very few claims to have made lasting contributions to global culture that are quintessentially American. But nothing is more American than jazz.
It’s ironic then that nowadays nowhere has a more vibrant jazz scene than Norway — thanks in part to a very un-American concept: public funding.
NPR: Did you hear about the Italian gallery owner who burned his gallery’s paintings last year — with the cooperation of the painters? It was a sort of desperate smoke signal to his government; a means of protesting funding cuts. If there haven’t been similar protests in the U.S. lately, it could be because we’re used to declining arts funding.
In today’s strained environment for arts support, the funding wonderland of Norway can incite jealousy. Yes, Norway is an oil-rich country; it also allots a respectable percentage of its oil wealth to pioneering art, making it a model for exactly what well-spent money for the arts can engender.
Especially in jazz. Public support has helped the country’s improvised-music scene expand from a handful of artists in the late ’60s to a thriving network of recording, performing and educational opportunities today. It’s not perfect, of course; I’ll address some chinks in Norway’s funding armor. But the country’s improvised music flourishes largely on public support. [Continue reading…]
And for those unfamiliar with Norwegian jazz, here’s a sampling of work by some of its leading figures:
Arve Henriksen — ‘Hyperborean’
Jaga Jazzist — ‘Toccata’
Bugge Wesseltoft — ‘Singing’
Nils Petter Molvaer — ‘Hover’