"A Lot of Different Streams": Questioning "Jazz" and Composing Beyond Genre
Many composers currently prominent in the jazz world draw upon multiple musical traditions or genres to create their work. The varied compositional activities of composers Nicole Mitchell, Tyshawn Sorey and Wayne Horvitz problematize attempts to classify their work as belonging to a single genre. Drawing on my interviews with these three composers and my analysis of selected works, I seek to understand how they conceptualize their compositional work and its relationship to the various musical traditions that have influenced them. Using Fabian Holt’s genre framework and George E. Lewis’s concept of the Afrological as critical tools, I propose that the work of these composers prioritizes spontaneity and agency, foregrounding process and transformation instead of a more fixed work concept, and claiming a mobility of practice that connects them strongly to the legacy of the AACM. I also use these concepts as ways to reflect on my own creative work developed throughout the DMA, and my relationship to the genre label of jazz.
The creative portfolio developed as part of this research incorporates influences from multiple streams of music-making, particularly the traditions of jazz, creative music and Western classical music. The submitted works include Cerulean Haze, for jazz octet and 5-piece chamber ensemble (13:00); Sanctuary, a suite in three movements for 11-piece ensemble (18:49); “Noche Oscura” for 10-piece ensemble (6:48); “Moorings (Titahi Bay)” for chordless jazz quartet (6:00); “Jimmy,” “Nuevo Azul,” “Neither Here nor There” and “Metamorphosis” for improvising quartet. These works explore extended jazz and modal harmonic language; strategies for extending songform-derived compositional forms into larger, through-composed works; and varying degrees of notational specificity. The inclusion of improvisation is prioritized in each work.