The multi-sensory object : jazz, the modern media, and the history of the senses in Germany



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This dissertation traces the perceptual history of jazz in Germany between 1918 and 1960. It argues that jazz was a multi-sensory cultural object: jazz was never just sound but was fundamentally composed of many different media and their respective combinations of sensory address. This work follows the major transformations of the perception of jazz. During the 1920s, it argues, jazz was primarily a visual and textual phenomenon; by 1960, its audience considered sound to be its most important attribute and its consumption involved a well-developed hermeneutics of listening. As an intersection point for multiple media—it was a subject in newspaper articles, books, street advertisements, film, radio, and sound recordings—jazz opens a window onto the larger history of media and perception in Germany. During the twentieth century, Germany witnessed a shift in its dominant media regime. Before the rise of sound film, Germans public communication was dominated by images and text; between 1929 and 1940, German society became inundated with sound. These media regimes shaped both the contours of perception and the form and presence of cultural objects.