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Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain Hardcover – 25 Jan 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (25 Jan. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822335603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822335603
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,010,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George McKay is a writer on alternative cultures, popular music/media, cultural politics, disability. From jazz to punk. Via gardening. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland though mostly raised in Norfolk, England. He is Professor of Media Studies at the University of East Anglia, and currently an AHRC Leadership Fellow. George's website is at http://georgemckay.org.

His most recent book (2013) is Shakin' All Over: Popular Music and Disability (University of Michigan Press). It was supported by a grant from the AHRC. 'A brash, brilliant and fist-pumping book' (Popular Music & Society), 'a first for the field' (Times Higher), McKay a 'genre-shaping writer' (Wordgathering).

In 2015 his new collection, The Pop Festival: History, Music, Media Culture, is published by Bloomsbury.

His 2011 gardens book, Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism & Rebellion in the Garden (Frances Lincoln), was a Book of the Year (Independent on Sunday), 'a truly important book' (Times Higher Education), 'highly original and compelling' (Daily Telegraph).

Contact George at: george.mckay@uea.ac.uk

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Review

"Circular Breathing is quite simply the best book so far on jazz in Britain. George McKay acts as cultural archaeologist, digging up traces of a 90-year musical presence, and writing them back into history. He comments acutely on a music which can be peripheral and exclusive, but which he rightly sees as vital to the story of Britain's social and political evolution." Andrew Blake, Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Winchester "Circular Breathing is a marvellous book. I admire George McKay's knowledge of jazz, the British left, and cultural history. His ability to blend those elements is to my knowledge unique and unprecedented, and his interviews with jazz musicians enrich the story that he is telling immeasurably."--Dennis Dworkin, author of Cultural Studies in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and the Origins of Cultural Studies " ... moving and stimulating ... McKay states that his goal has been "to refigure British jazz history to more comprehensively include its ideological assumptions and actions". He has succeeded ... "--The Wire, January 2006 "This is a book that has been waiting to be written for some time, namely a survey of aspects of postwar British jazz from the perspective of cultural politics. George McKay tackles head on the knotty question of why New Orleans revivalism, and laer the free improv movement, had such close links to the politics of the left. Woven through it is a fascinating web of observations about the reception of American culture, and the way in which it is simultaneously identified with freedom, and a new imperialism... [McKay] has trawled through an impressive amount of jazz literature and propounds some stimulating thoughts about why jazz has always been a counterculture in Britain."--Alyn Shipton, Jazzwise, March 2006 "The title could mean that the book is long-winded, but it is not! George McKay has assembled a vast amount of documentation to give us a history of Jazz in Britain... [A] fascinating book! Highly recommended."--Lawrence Brazier, Jazz Now "It is only by reading Circular Breathing, George McKay's skillful examination of race relations, gender issues, and the Left in relation to British jazz, that we can understand why British jazz wasn't at the center of the European free-jazz revolution... [V]aluable and imaginative scholarship."--Stephanie Hanson, Bookforum "McKay has written an excellent study of one of the many new cultures and cultural spaces of postwar England. His emphasis on space and culture, gender and space, and race and identity make this a strong work well worth the time to read... [H]is book places the playing and study of jazz music in clear class terms as few scholars have before him."--Gordon J. Marshall, Journal of British Studies

About the Author

George McKay is a professor of cultural studies at the University of Salford in England. He is the author of "Glastonbury: A Very English Fair" and "Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties"; the editor of "DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain"; and a coeditor of "Community Music: A Handbook "and "Social Movement Studies" " Journal of Social, Cultural, and Political Protest."

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First Sentence
In Paul Gilroy's bold phrase, the "planetary force" (quoted in Hutnyk 2000, 215) of black music today has come about in part through the circulations of jazz. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By J. Mcdonald TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 July 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George McKay's excellent study is both a valuable and very readable dissection of the political history of Jazz in Britain, shedding light on aspects of the culture and music that have rarely been discussed to this depth in most of the literature on the subject.

A lot of ground is covered here; though McKay touches on the early days of the music's arrival and effects on the British music (and dance) scene, his study chiefly begins in the post-war period with the counter-cultures of the Trad movement and the rival modernists - but this is no "mouldy figs/dirty be-boppers" narrative; his highly detailed study considers - across five chaptered sections - a multi-faceted range of broad political issues such as protest, race, colour, gender, leftist politics, and the idea of "Britishness" in an essentially imported music, further formed by the strong and vibrant input of Commonwealth and "black Atlantic" musicians and influences.
I was particularly fascinated by the chapter on the free improvisation movement of the 60s and 70s, a formative period and influence for me personally.

McKay is a professor of cultural studies, so there is a certain level of formal language and referenced footnotes, but don't be put off - this is an engaging and wholly engrossing volume, highly recommended to anyone with a serious interest in this rich and diverse area of music.
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