Expressive musical process: exploring contemporary jazz musicians' views on the use of expressivity in compositional practice
Pallarés Catalán, Jorge
Although there is a wide range of literature exploring expressivity in contemporary jazz music, I have found little to address the way that jazz musicians apply their expressivity in acts of composition. Moreover, I have found little academic research into the way that jazz musicians conceptualise their own expressivity in relation to their practice. This thesis uses this as an opportunity to interrogate the notion of ‘expressivity’ as a motivation for new compositional practice. I harness this concept explicitly in my own practical work, in order to illustrate how expressivity can be deliberately exploited within jazz composition. This investigation addresses the following questions: How does expressivity impact communication between jazz players? How do jazz musicians understand the relationship between expressivity and improvisation? How do composers of contemporary jazz talk about expressivity in relation to instrumentation? How do contemporary jazz musicians discuss the use of expressivity in modal composition? The methodology of this research can be broken down as two different strands of investigation. First, I interviewed a number of contemporary jazz musicians about the notion of musician’s expressivity, and how they embody this concept in their own practice. Secondly, I have composed new jazz music that responds to these themes and practically illustrates the concepts that I discuss. Throughout this analytical and practical process, I discuss expressivity in relation to four core concepts which are engaged with throughout this text: communication, improvisation, instrumentation and modal composition. Each of these themes is used to unpick, define and explore the concept of expressivity from different perspectives. Underpinning this high-level conceptual framework, around sixty lowlevel theoretical themes have finally shaped the musical trajectory of this project. Seven original compositions of new work support this written thesis, featuring two hours of musical experimentation. This sonic component is used to evidence key claims made in my thesis. Overall, my analysis leads me to conclude that expressivity allows us to see contemporary jazz from a very human-sensitive perspective. Expressivity encourages us to study the complex range of distinctive musical, cultural, technical and social factors that intersect when jazz musicians meet in performance. The unique expressive aptitudes of these various relational qualities can be channelled in the design of original musical works which treat expressivity as a mobilising factor for musical composition.