Pareidolia for Clarinet / Tenor Saxophone, Percussion / Drum Set, Piano / Synthesizers, String Quartet, and Electronics; Implied Reharmonizations in Postbop Improvisations over the Twelve-Bar Blues
This dissertation consists of two parts: a composition for ensemble and electronics, and an analytical article on jazz improvisers’ modern approaches to the Twelve-Bar Blues form.
Chapter 1, Pareidolia, for clarinet/tenor saxophone, percussion/drum set, piano/synthesizers, string quartet, and electronics, is born out of my interest in auditory illusions and the spontaneous perceptions of meaningfulness known as apophenia and pareidolia. The composition combines prepared electronics comprised of field recordings of various machine noises and pre-recorded musical material with live manipulation of the ensemble’s sound, uncovering hidden harmonies and rhythms lurking in the recorded noise materials. The two main machine noises are the Duke University’s Biddle Music Building’s elevator and the washing machine at my house. Pareidolia is in seven sections, lasts about twenty-five minutes, and weaves together disparate musical ideas and genre influences with mindful transitions.
Chapter 2, “Implied Reharmonizations in Postbop Improvisations over the Twelve-Bar Blues,” constitutes an effort to illuminate the process jazz improvisers go through when they decide to diverge from lead-sheet harmony. The vast majority of the scholarship on jazz harmony is concerned with the lead-sheet versions of jazz tunes. Jazz improvisers have been manipulating chord progressions found on lead-sheets for decades. Most of the contemporary techniques employed by jazz performers during improvisations are unknown to, or misunderstood by classical music audiences and scholars. The Twelve-Bar Blues has been a vehicle for jazz improvisers to expand on the jazz language from the very beginnings of the idiom, to bebop, to postbop, and more recently jazz-fusion. With the use of chromatic approach tones and superimposition of non-diatonic scales and upper structure triads, the vocabulary of jazz improvisation expanded the tonal scope of solos. Within the context of the Twelve-Bar Blues, improvisers tonicize distant key areas and imply complex harmonic structures.
Secondly, it aims to form a bridge between the distinct languages of jazz performers, and theorists in academia. Scholars like Paul Berliner, Steven Strunk, Keith Waters, Dariusz Terefenko, and Garth Alper have helped establish jazz scholarship with their research on the expansion of tonality in jazz and the invariant properties of the idiom. Yet a disconnect has persisted between jazz vocabulary and common practice terminology due to the improvisational nature of jazz. To remedy the discrepancy between jazz vocabulary and common practice terminology, this article aims to present its findings in a manner which is accessible to scholars of both worlds.
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