Jazz Orchestra Portraits of Thailand: Exploring Hybridizations of Thai Music Traditions with Jazz
The objective of this dissertation is to document and critically reflect upon the creation of a collection of original works for contemporary jazz orchestra inspired by traditional Thai music, following extensive research on Thai music from the perspective of a jazz composer. This research, including the musical works, comprises a case study of the musical hybridization of Thai music and jazz that can be utilized in both Thai music studies and jazz research settings. Despite the increasing interest in Thai-Western musical integration among Thai classical composers and ethnomusicologists, no extensive studies have yet explored the integration of Thai music with jazz in the context of the contemporary jazz orchestra. Furthermore, while some musical traditions, such as those of South Asia and of the Arab world, have long been combined with jazz, there have been few such explorations of fusing jazz with Thai music traditions.
Unlike previous Thai musical hybridity projects or cross-cultural Thai musical composition studies, this research project considers four regional Thai music practices instead of assuming the existence of a single “traditional music of Thailand.” I approach such musical practices from a jazz composition perspective in this study. In my research methods I identified and described their key elements, including fundamental structures, performance methods, and idiomatic instruments. I then transcribed performances by prominent Thai musicians working in these traditions into Western notation. After that, I experimentally integrated such musical elements into jazz compositions and created prototypes before composing works for full jazz orchestra. Inspired by the practice of cultural cosmopolitanism in Thailand and the openness to foreign cultures witnessed in Thai musical traditions, I also incorporated other musical techniques beyond jazz, including elements of rock, hip hop, R&B, and electronica, into my contemporary jazz orchestra writing process to produce a unique creative output for the study.
The creative outcome of this research, Jazz Orchestra Portraits of Thailand, consists of seven original jazz orchestra compositions totaling 67 minutes. The compositions demonstrate musical hybridity in the ways the characteristics of Thai music combine with contemporary jazz musical elements to produce new styles. In my critical analysis of these works, I begin with general observations on compositional approach and an extensive theoretical analysis from the perspective of jazz composition. I go on to comprehensively examine the Thai elements that are infused, transformed, or otherwise present in the pieces, and then analyze the compositional techniques employed in my musical hybridizations, discussing some of the inspirations behind them.