Nichole T. Rustin and Sherrie Tucker
listening for gender in jazz studies
n jazz circles, if someone says you have ‘‘big ears,’’ you have
to feel good about that. ‘‘Big ears’’ is high praise. Players
listeners (and jazz players are listeners) with ‘‘big ears’’
are equipped to hear and engage complexity as it happens. Paul
Berliner and Ingrid Monson both emphasized the importance
of listening in their ethnomusicological studies of jazz musi-
cians’ perspectives on their practice. As Monson wrote, ‘‘The
ongoing process of decision making that takes place in the en-
semble perhaps explains why musicians often say that the most
important thing is to listen. They mean it in a very active sense:
they must listen closely because they are continually called upon
to respond to and participate in an ongoing flow of musical
action that can change or surprise them at any moment.’’∞
The title of this anthology, Big Ears: Listening for Gender in
Jazz Studies, addresses readers and writers as cultural listeners
and takes gender not just as a peripheral, extra, or ‘‘special
interest’’ subtopic in jazz studies but as part of the complex
‘‘action that can change or surprise’’ which we value and listen
for. By assembling this collection of scholarship in jazz studies
that ‘‘listens to,’’ and ‘‘takes seriously,’’ a register that is par-
ticularly untheorized in jazz studies, we hope to contribute to
the field of jazz studies by advocating ear training that can
listen for gender and by encouraging a critical intervention in
the field of feminist theory and music studies that tends to
focus less on jazz than on classical music, opera, and pop.≤
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