Accessing jazz and improvised music

Presented by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Australasian Jazz and Improvisation Research Network
Join Australia’s leading scholars and practitioners of jazz and improvised music to discuss the latest research in the field.

Conference details

Date: 5-6 June 2021
Venue: Online

Key Information

The 2021 AJIRN conference theme Accessing Jazz and Improvised Music invites participants to consider the networks, infrastructure, physical and ideological barriers, creative problems, privileges, and prejudices musicians and audiences routinely negotiate as they make their way to and through jazz and other improvised music. Inspired in part by the new platforms audiences and musicians have used to connect during the COVID-19 pandemic, this conference seeks to interrogate a spectrum of both physical and metaphorical barriers that have created space between artists, audiences, and researchers, and the bridges that have been built to span these gaps. We encourage participants to consider accessibility in broad terms and from various angles when grappling with the fundamental question of how jazz and other improvised music scenes might better cultivate cultures of inclusivity and respect. 

We welcome proposals for individual papers, panel discussions, and lecture-demonstrations that address this theme. Other topics may also be suitable for inclusion in the conference program. Proposals that fit with the sub-themes presented below are encouraged.


  • New and repurposed technology as a resource for improvisation
  • New media networks and online communities of practice
  • Technologically assisted jazz/improvisation skills development
  • Apps, platforms and websites
  • Developing as a musician in a global online context
  • Utilising online environments as performance spaces
  • Disability and music performance
  • Venue development and sustainability
  • The recording industry, recording as product, and the circulation of recordings
  • Jazz and improvisation in our schools
  • The influence of performance spaces on improvisation and composition
  • Engaging with the natural environment as a performer and composer
  • Practice based methodologies for developing artistry
  • Communities of practice and compositional/improvisational language
  • Arts infrastructure and artistic output
  • Historical and contemporary barriers to inclusion
  • Racialized and/or gendered frames in the analysis of jazz and improvisation
  • Social and political dynamics in diasporic jazz communities
  • Jazz institutions and their biases

Keynote: Nichole Rustin-Paschal  

Nichole Rustin-Paschal earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University and her J.D. from the University of Virginia. She is an Assistant Professor in Residence of Race and Ethnicity Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design where she teaches classes in African American cultural history, gender studies, and law. Her book, The Kind of Man I Am: Jazzmasculinity and the World of Charles Mingus Jr (Wesleyan 2017) is a genderended cultural history of jazz in the postwar period. Rustin-Paschal explores how Mingus's ideas about music, racial identity, and masculinity challenged jazz itself as a model of freedom, inclusion, creativity, and emotional expressivity. She is co-editor with Sherrie Tucker of Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies (Duke 2008), the ground-breaking anthology of work in jazz and gender studies. She is also co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies (Routledge 2019) with Tony Whyton and Nicholas Gebhardt, an anthology of cross-disciplinary and transnational studies in jazz. Her work has appeared in Critical SociologyJazzDebates/JazzDebattenRadical History Review, and the South Atlantic Quarterly among other publications. As a member of the Jazz Studies Collective, Nichole coordinates the Works-In-Progress group. She is also a proud board member of The Steel Yard, an industrial arts education and cultural center in Providence, RI.

Keynote: Roger Dean 

Roger Dean is a composer/improviser, and since 2007 a research professor in music cognition and computation at the MARCS Institute, Western Sydney University. His research folds into his creative work, currently particularly by means of deep learning computational models for music generation. He founded and directs the sound and intermedia creative ensemble austraLYSIS, which has appeared in 30 countries. He has performed as bassist, pianist, piano accompanist and laptop computer artist in many contexts, from the Academy of Ancient Music and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, to the London Sinfonietta, and from Graham Collier Music to duetting with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, and performing with leading improvisers particularly from Europe and Australia. About 70 commercial recordings and numerous online digital intermedia pieces represent his creative work, and he has published more than 300 journal articles. Current research concerns improvisation and computational creativity, affect, roles of acoustic intensity and timbre, and rhythm generation and perception. With Hazel Smith and Will Luers, he won the 2018 international Robert Coover prize for a work of electronic literature. Currently austraLYSIS is preparing a duo album, of sound and intermedia, featuring diverse pairings: such as human/computer, human/environment, text/improviser, image/improviser.  Prior to 2007, he was a full professor of biochemistry in the UK, foundation CEO/Director of the Heart Research Institute, Sydney, researching on atherosclerosis, and then Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Canberra.  


This conference will take place entirely online. All papers and lecture recitals need to be recorded in advance. Video files must be sent to scm.research@sydney.edu.au by the deadline set out below. The Sydney Conservatorium of Music will stream conference sessions on June 5 and June 6, 2021. Zoom discussion rooms will be utilised for question and answer exchanges with conference presenters immediately following the streaming of their pre-recorded videos. Links to both the conference session streams and Zoom discussion rooms will be provided in the conference program.

Submissions for papers and concerts/performances have now closed. Stand by for registration and full conference details!


Program Committee

  • Associate Professor Robert Burke, Monash University (AJIRN President)
  • Dr Christopher Coady, University of Sydney (Conference Convenor and Program Committee Chair)
  • Professor Roger Dean, Western Sydney University
  • Dr Louise Denson, Griffith University
  • Dr Joseph Toltz, University of Sydney
  • Dr Aleisha Ward, National Library of New Zealand