The assimilation of jazz aesthetics in the work of post 1970's electric guitarist composers
The Ph.D. will comprise of two interrelated parts:
• A 85 minute compositional portfolio which will be notated and recorded
• An associated commentary/dissertation
The intention of the commentary is to place my compositional portfolio in a theoretical
and philosophical context with other 'post 1970's jazz electric guitarist composers (JEGC)
who have assimilated the jazz aesthetic with other music forms'. This will be achieved by
examining the evolution of the portfolio at three distinct levels:
Inspiration, conception, and production. Throughout the document I will corroborate
comparisons with JEGC whose influences, approaches and catalogue are cognate to my
own, regarding these musicians not as technical practitioners, but as jazz composers, who
have fused their primary influences with other genres of music.
The task of defining what constitutes 'the jazz aesthetic', 'other music forms', and
more importantly the mechanism through which they 'assimilate' is potentially
speCUlative, precise detail being beyond the scope of the proposed commentary. When
attempting to compare 'early jazz' to 'classical music', Schuller refers to a 'hierarchy of
values' (Schuller, 1968, p.7-8). However his hypothesis that the former places emphasis
on rhythm, whilst the latter prioritises pitch does not transcend all subsequent styles, and
does little to define precisely how classical music/other music forms influence jazz in my
opinion. Stuessy, in his PhD dissertation 'The confluence of jazz and classical music
from 1950 - 1970', presents a more relevant working model, outlining the following two
categories of assimilation. (Stuessy, 1977, p.6-7):
1) The 'Integrated Confluent Style', in which elements of both genres are fused into
a new style.
2) The 'Adjacent Confluent Style', in which elements of both styles are juxtaposed
in the same composition.
Regarding the latter, Stuessy delineates two further paradigms of confluence:
1) The 'Adjacent Vertical Style' - both styles sounding simultaneously.
2) The 'Adjacent Horizontal Style' - both styles appearing alternatively.
Although not incorporating classical music as my primary additional influence, I will
refer to this model, adapting it accordingly in order to measure the inherent confluence of
works within the portfolio.
Before examining my portfolio in detail, I will briefly outline an overview of the
emergence of both the electric guitar and its germane players/composers pre 1970,
followed by an explanation of why I have chosen to focus on the post 1970' s generation.
The value of my portfolio and its position within the repertoire will be consequently
demonstrated through discussing key JEGC, their respective works and methodologies,
alongside extensive musicological analysis of the compositions themselve~.
My portfolio will represent a lifelong association and interest in composition, jazz,
and of course the guitar. The initial pieces will represent a statement of my primary
stylistic interests up to the 'MPhil progression' stage. I envision the works to be
immersed in the "Jazz-Fusion', tradition, in conjunction with my own compositional
influences and approaches.
For the PhD aspect of the portfolio I am interested in examining a wider spectrum of
influences, composers and procedures, as well as the consequential development of a
more identifiable personal style. I will attempt to adopt an 'art before commerce'
philosophy that is congruent to that offusion's early practitioners, consciously avoiding
the musical banality and commercialism of guitarists associated with the 'smooth jazz'
genre, attempting to compose accessible music, which is subliminally complex.
Throughout the portfolio, I am interested in examining the compositional possibilities of
'real' musicians against a technological/sequenced framework. It is envisaged this will
include an exploration of guitar based midi technology in the latter stages.
All compositions will be recorded onto CD and digitally notated in score form
using Sibelius software. For ease of access, all scores will be annotated in the appendix,
to be submitted along with the commentary.