“It Should Always Be a Give-and-Take”

The Transformation of West German Music Diplomacy in the 1960s

  • Mario Dunkel TU Dortmund


The 1960s and 1970s are regarded by some historians as being particularly creative decades for jazz in Britain, when British jazz developed its own sound that was distinct from that of American jazz. While not denying that this was a creatively fruitful period in British jazz, in this paper I argue that a ‘British sound' in jazz is difficult, perhaps impossible, to define, even though some authors have referred to a sense of ‘Britishness', particularly in the work of certain musicians discussed by Ian Carr in his book Music Outside: Contemporary Jazz in Britain. Some British jazz, performed largely by white (and mostly male) musicians at this time, was influenced during the 1960s by the contribution of immigrant black musicians from South Africa and the Caribbean; at the same time, musicians such as Michael Garrick and John Surman were drawing to some extent on British folk music for inspiration. Referring to examples from the period, I suggest that although much British jazz from 1960 to 1980 was innovative and became less ‘American', development of its styles was affected by many musical, cultural and political factors. To what extent this music sounds ‘British' is debatable, but its influence has led to the pluralism of jazz styles in Britain that continues today.

Author Biography

Mario Dunkel, TU Dortmund
Mario Dunkel is a researcher and instructor in Musicology at TU Dortmund University, Germany. He holds a PhD in American Studies, which he completed in 2014 with a thesis on ‘The Stories of Jazz: Performing America through Its Musical History'. His articles and reviews have appeared in American Music, Jazz Research News, Musiktheorie, Journal of American Studies, Popular Music and Society, and other publications. He is a recipient of the Society for American Music's Cambridge University Press Award for an outstanding presentation by an international scholar. His current research interests include the practice and repercussions of transnational music diplomacy as well as the conceptualisation and performance of music history in Europe and the U.S.
How to Cite
Dunkel, M. (2017). “It Should Always Be a Give-and-Take”: The Transformation of West German Music Diplomacy in the 1960s. European Journal of Musicology, 16(1), 191–207. https://doi.org/10.5450/ejm.2017.16.5787