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Michael Veal's "Living Space: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Free Jazz, from Analog to Digital"

General Programming

dateMay 2, 2024 timeThursday, 5:00pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University

This event has been postponed until the fall 2024 semester.

  • Registration required even by those with CU/BC IDs

  • African American and African Diaspora Studies
  • Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required.
Abstract of trumpet and saxophone players

Living Space: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Free Jazz, from Analog to Digital draws on the discourses of experimental photography and digital architecture in order to illuminate the music of two jazz icons. Coltrane's odyssey through what became known as "free jazz" brought stylistic (r)evolution and chaos in equal measure. Davis's spearheading of "jazz-rock fusion" opened a door through which jazz's ongoing dialogue with the popular tradition could be regenerated, engaging both high and low ideas of creativity, community, and commerce.

About the Author

Michael E. Veal is Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music at Yale University. His books include Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon, Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, and Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat.


Farrah J. Griffin is the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, where she also served as the inaugural Chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies. She is the author or editor of eight books including Who Set You Flowin?: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995), If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (Free Press, 2001), and Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II (Basic Books, 2013).

Robert O'Meally is the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has served on the faculty for twenty-five years. The founder of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies, O'Meally is the author of The Craft of Ralph Ellison, Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday, The Jazz Singers, and Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey. His edited volumes include The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, Living With Music: Ralph Ellison’s Essays on Jazz, History and Memory in African American Culture, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (co-editor), and the Barnes and Noble editions of Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Frederick Douglass. For his production of a Smithsonian record set called The Jazz Singers, he was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Mark Rakatansky is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia GSAPP and principal of Mark Rakatansky Studio. His work as an architect and writer focuses on the transformative capabilities of design. His projects include the Jakarta housePermana, the Brooklyn apartment Inner Liner, the headstone For Ira, the urban installation Open Stacks, the clock Roman Time, and the sound-work My Favorite "Favorite Things." He is the author of Tectonic Acts of Desire and Doubt (Architectural Association, 2012—which includes the essay “John Coltrane’s Sample and Scratch”), as well as the transmedial essays “The Transformations of Giulio Romano,” “Signifying Media: TheImprinting of Palladio,” and “‘His Conduct is Mischievous: Piranesi and Soane” (current and forthcoming on the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative website

Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. is a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a music historian, pianist, composer, and Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. A widely published writer, he’s the author of Who Hears Here: On Black Music Pasts and Present, The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History and the Challenge of Bebop, and Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop. As a producer, label head, and bandleader, Ramsey has released five recording projects, including A Spiritual Vibe, vol. 1. He recently scored the prize-winning documentary Making Sweet Tea and the play The Black Feminist Guide to the Human Body. His documentary Amazing: The Tests and Triumph of Bud Powell was a selection of the BlackStar Film Festival.


Knar Abrahamyan is is an Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University. She is a music scholar whose work examines the historical and political entanglements of cultural production. Her book project, Opera as Statecraft in Soviet Armenia and Kazakhstan, re-envisions Soviet music history by analyzing the power dynamics between the state and its ethnic and racial Others. It explores opera as a contested imperial space through which the Soviet state pursued colonial subjugation under the guise of cultural modernization. Abrahamyan has presented at major national and international conferences, and her work on Soviet music and politics appeared in the DSCH Journal and a collected volume, Analytical Approaches to 20th-Century Russian Music.