Jazz-Philosophy Fusion in Oxford

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Posted on 10 February 2017

On the 21st January, Dr James Tartaglia – Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Keele and jazz saxophonist – took his Jazz-Philosophy Fusion to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for an event organised by the Oxford Forum.

Playing to a full house in a performance which explored novel ways of presenting philosophical ideas, James teamed up with Professor Andrew Bowie of Royal Holloway College, University of London – philosopher and tenor saxophonist – to combine live jazz performances with philosophical questions.

  • Do animals have souls?
  • Are you a different person depending upon who you’re talking to, or how you’re talking to them?
  • Is it safe to travel by matter transporter, like the ones in Star Trek? (Or will the thing just kill you dead and produce a replica at the other end?)
  • Is death really the end?

These are all questions you might have asked yourself at one time or another, and even tried to answer, but what shapes your opinions? Why do you intuitively think what you do, and could music change your mind?

Joining James Tartaglia and Andrew Bowie on stage were eminent jazz musicians, Mark Doffman on drums and Mark Hodgson on bass, with actress and jazz-philosophy vocalist Sonia Morgenstern reprising a variety of philosophical roles from James’ Jazz Philosophy Fusion band Continuum of Selves. Also on stage was Dr Roxana Baiasu of the University of Oxford and the Stanford University Centre in Oxford.

Both James and Andrew Bowie are interested in the intersection between music and philosophy, and whether and how philosophical issues can be presented effectively in musical form. To find out what effect the philosophy has been having on the audience, and whether jazz can alter philosophical intuitions, James has been collecting data on philosophical opinions both before and after the gig. Results on this philosophical experiment are still being gathered and will be published soon.

In the meantime, you can listen to Jazz-Philosophy Fusion here

Picture of James Tartaglia's Jazz band.