Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A Study of Long-Form Works for the Jazz Ensemble

posted on 2021-12-09, 10:55 authored by Ryan Brake

Reflections (In Mosaic) is a long-form work written for a modern jazz orchestra. While made up of seven smaller parts, it is intended to be listened to as a single continuous performance. Reflections (In Mosaic) serves as an exploration into formal structures more complex than the standard blues and cyclical AABA forms. This is achieved through the use of inter-related musical themes, transitional material that develops musical themes and propels the story of the piece forward, programmatic themes, and a consideration towards a more integrative approach to improvised sections in a modern jazz composition context.  This exegesis features a comprehensive musical and topical analysis of four case studies: Duke Ellington’s Harlem (1951), Charles Mingus’s Fables of Faubus (1959), Gunther Schuller’s Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959), and Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays’s The Way Up (2005). In my analysis I examine the features of long-form works from a range of different angles through discussions on: (1) the formal features of the symphonic jazz genre and the integration of concert-style gestures into the jazz big band tradition, (2) the role performance and improvisation can have in communicating an idea within a composed structure, (3) the use of programmatic themes, and (4) a model for a structural design which draws on comparisons to narrative structure.  Of particular importance to my compositional project is the use of a programmatic theme. Reflections is directly inspired by the film Magnolia (1999), written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. I do not attempt to mirror the narrative or structure of the film in Reflections but, instead, loosely base the composition on the film’s characters and topical themes. The culmination of this exegesis is a discussion of how the four case studies informed my own compositional processes.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Musical Arts

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Lisik, Dave; Wilson, Dave