Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Analyzing musical interaction in jazz improvisations of the 1960s
by Michaelsen, Garrett, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2013, 283; 3599217
Abstract (Summary)

Collaborative practices of music making abound in jazz improvisation. Nearly every jazz performance involves the coordination of numerous individuals in a dynamic group environment. Many music-theoretical approaches to jazz improvisation have emphasized the individual contributions of the improvising soloist; this emphasis tends to reinforce the widespread view of jazz as a soloist's art. To shift attention to collective dimensions of jazz improvisation, I propose an approach to group improvisation that takes interaction and exchange as crucial components of music making.

In the first chapter of part I, I examine previous analytical approaches in both the “psychological” (individual-centered) and “sociological” (group-centered) traditions, then develop a new theory of musical interaction in jazz improvisation in chapter 2. I construe interaction as the process by which one player intervenes in the unfolding performance of another. Their processes of “intervention” produce projections of musical continuations in the subsequent musical content or character of the other performers. An analyst may interpret the utterances of individual musicians as converging (projecting similar continuations) or diverging (projecting dissimilar continuations). Throughout the dissertation, I offer and analyze transcriptions of music taken from the decade of the 1960s, a decade in which interaction came even more to the fore due to the eclectic and vibrant combination of styles in jazz performance.

In part II of the dissertation, I extend the conception of interaction from the moment-based and player-to-player influenced level discussed in chapter 2 to three expanded “domains” of interactional activity: musical referents, roles, and styles of jazz practice. Chapter 3 introduces these domains and the Miles Davis quintet's influential recording Live at the Plugged Nickel, from which I draw the majority of musical examples in part II. Chapter 4 examines the influence pre-improvisational referents, such as tunes, arrangements, and prior performances, have on the performative actions of musicians. Musical roles (horns, bassist, drummer, and pianist) and functions (soloing, comping, and keeping time) and their impacts on musicians' utterances are the focus of chapter 5. To conclude part II, chapter 6 explores the real-time demands of jazz style, particularly its fundamental uncertainty about the music's future state and the ways in which style can motivate interactional dimensions of improvisation.

Part III of the dissertation introduces a method for analyzing entire performances using this theory of musical interaction. Chapter 7 focuses on an intriguing piano-trio recording Money Jungle by Duke Ellington, an infamous album for the at-times-prickly relationships it exhibits between Ellington and his bandmates Charles Mingus and Max Roach. I analyze transcriptions of two complete performances on the record, “Fleurette Africaine” for its predominantly convergent impulses, and “Money Jungle” for its divergent trajectories. In both analyses, I “improvisationally” shift between different musical aspects and interactional domains in order to fashion an analytical narrative of their interactional projections and resultant outcomes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kielian-Gilbert, Marianne
Commitee: Ford, Phil, Horlacher, Gretchen, Ivanovitch, Roman
School: Indiana University
Department: Music Theory
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 75/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: 1960s, Davis, Miles, Ellington, Duke, Improvisation, Interaction, Jazz
Publication Number: 3599217
ISBN: 978-1-303-48380-6
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