Beyond Borders: Broadening The Artistic Palette of (Composing) Improvisers in Jazz.

The goal of my research is to contribute to the variety of existing jazz idioms by expanding jazz languages with methods derived from twentieth century composers of “new music”. I will do this by showing how examples of these composers’ methods can be transmitted into the practices of jazz composers and improvisers. As a teacher of improvisation I am also interested in how I can offer alternatives to today’s common practices in conservatory jazz education.
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Dick de Graaf

Keywords: improvisation, saxophone, jazz, Messiaen, Bartok, Clock
Duration: 2010-2017
Period: 20th century music
Musician type: wind
Host institution: Leiden University

Apart from desk research on the art of improvisation as seen from different perspectives and the analyses of musical examples, this research consists of a series of case studies with professional ensembles and master students. Peter Schat’s theoretical model The Tone Clock, Olivier Messiaen’s Techniques De Mon Language Musical and a selection of compositional techniques by Béla Bartók are used to create jazz compositions. Dick's compositions contain characteristics of these composers’ models, to serve as vehicles for improvisation with their idioms.

With the data collected from these case studies he will design models that combine their characteristics as tools for the composer improviser. Although the research is mainly conducted as artistic research in and through musical practice, Dick also considers the historical, theoretical, ethno-musicological and pedagogical contexts of his approach.

The final result of this research project will be a series of performances of compositions by the various ensembles in a number of music stages in the Netherlands. Together with the defense and the publication of his doctoral thesis these performances are foreseen in the Spring of 2016.

The results of this research so far, are the composition Carillon (12 movements based on the 12 hours of the Tone Clock, finished July 2012) and a series of compositions using various Messiaen modes. Carillon is recorded end of January 2013 with my saxophone quartet Dicke Luft. With the Messiaen inspired compositions Dick is experimenting in various jazz ensembles, in constant discussion with professional colleagues and master students at Codarts and elsewhere.

A publication about the relation between theory and practice in Dick's work is foreseen in the Dutch Journal for Music Theory in 2014.

Walter van der Leur (promotor), Marcel Cobussen (promotor)

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