The shape of European jazz: On mute, mutable and pedagogical musical representations

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Readers of comics can easily call to mind images of musical notation they have seen on the page. It is a cliché of the medium that a speech balloon bearing a pair of quarter notes usually hovers near a singing bird, and it is no less common that floods of eighth, quarter, half and whole notes emanate from a turntable speaker or the bell of a saxophone drawn inside the panel borders. Yet the ways in which musical notation and musical expression take shape on the comics page are highly contextualized. For those comics that move beyond stereotypical depictions of musical sounds, how musical notes and emanations are depicted on the page are closely connected with the theme, critical aspirations and sociocultural context of a given work. Focusing on the representation of Black American jazz music in particular, and its transatlantic resonance in Europe (Germany, France and Spain) during the twentieth century, this article investigates three divergent manifestations of this phenomenon. By analysing innovative examples of musical representation from Berlin (Jason Lutes), Total Jazz (Blutch) and Montoliu Plays Tete (Gani Jakupi and Miquel Jurado), a basic typology is offered of mute, mutable and pedagogical representations of music in which comics form, audience reception and social context are interconnected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-86
Number of pages20
JournalStudies in Comics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Blutch
  • France
  • Germany
  • Jason Lutes
  • Spain
  • Tete Montoliu
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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