Prof. Paul Austerlitz, an ethnomusicologist, composer, and musician, combines his background as a scholar specializing in Afro-Caribbean music with his creative work as a jazz musician. Austerlitz is the author of two books: Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race, and Humanity (2005, Wesleyan University Press) and Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican Identity (1997, Temple University Press). Jazz Consciousness was awarded the Merriam Award for Outstanding Book in Ethnomusicology by the Society for Ethnomusicology and an Honorable Mention for the Woody Guthrie Award by the International Society for the Study of Popular Music. It focuses on issues of race, nation, and transnationalism, looking at jazz in relation to national identity in the U.S., pan-Africanism, and global currents. Merengue considers Dominican music in relation to racial and national identity and has been translated into Spanish (2007, Ministry of Culture and Academy of Sciences of the Dominican Republic). Austerlitz has conducted field research on traditional music in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, Ghana, the Republic of Benin, Nigeria, and Finland. He has articles published in the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Nigeria.
As a jazz composer, Austerlitz weds his backgrounds in jazz and ethnomusicology, producing works that incorporate the music that he researches. He is especially active in blending Afro-Caribbean music with free forms of jazz, and in initiatives using music in the struggle for social justice. As an instrumentalist, Austerlitz has dedicated himself to mastering the bass and contrabass clarinets. He also plays Bb (soprano) clarinet and tenor saxophone. He has performed with musicians such as Ed Blackwell, Doc Cheatham, Davis Murray, Don Byron, Jimmy Knepper, and Julius Hemphill. Austerlitz has completed composing residencies at the Yaddo and Omi artist colonies, received grants from the Macoll Johnston Foundation, the American Composers’ Forum (among others), and worked with the U.S. Department of State and grassroots organizations in projects using multi-cultural music to foster social change in the Dominican Republic. His CD entitled “Journey” (on the Innova label) combines jazz with Afro-Dominican, African, and Indian music, as well as incorporates further influences from European composers such as Debussy and Stravinsky. His CDs "Double-Take," "Our Book on Trane: The Yaddo Sessions," and "The Fret Cycle" are collaborations with the acclaimed poet Michael S. Harper, presenting Harper’s poems in conversation with improvisational flights on the bass clarinet. Austerlitz's first CD, "A Bass Clarinet in Santo Domingo and Detroit" (X-DOT 25), features the brilliant Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba.