Listening in double time Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Medwin, Marc Howard
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • The music of John Coltrane’s last group—his 1965-67 quintet—has been misrepresented, ignored and reviled by critics, scholars and fans, primarily because it is a music built on a fundamental and very audible disunity that renders a new kind of structural unity. Many of those who study Coltrane’s music have thus far attempted to approach all elements in his last works comparatively, using harmonic and melodic models as is customary regarding more conventional jazz structures. This approach is incomplete and misleading, given the music’s conceptual underpinnings. The present study is meant to provide an analytical model with which listeners and scholars might come to terms with this music’s more radical elements. I use Coltrane’s own observations concerning his final music, Jonathan Kramer’s temporal perception theory, and Evan Parker’s perspectives on atomism and laminarity in mid 1960s British improvised music to analyze and contextualize the symbiotically related temporal disunity and resultant structural unity that typify Coltrane’s 1965-67 works. I also filter all of this through my experience as a listener. My investigation treats, separately, Coltrane’s solos of the period 1965-1967 as well as temporal and structural complexities in Coltrane’s deployment and expansion of a jazz rhythm section; I then demonstrate, based on new historical research, the manifestation of similar but hitherto unexplored modes of expression in today’s jazz and classical avant-garde as a way to begin to gauge Coltrane’s long-term impact on improvised music that exists outside the “jazz” canon. In Chapter 1, I present my bipartite analytical model of soloistic atomism and rhythm section laminarity, relating these to Kramer’s concepts of multiply-directed linear and vertical time respectively. I then explore Coltrane’s own words concerning his final music and regarding unity and disunity as he conceived them. Chapter 2 constitutes an examination of atomism in Coltrane’s solos, in which I demonstrate that atomistic features increase in Coltrane’s late works; this soloistic atomism is one component of my analytical model. Chapter 3 explores rhythm section laminarity, demonstrating the abandonment of tempo and pulse in favor of a more minimal aesthetic. Chapter 4 is devoted to a study of the way in which the innovative structural principals in Coltrane’s final works are used by improvising composers Anthony Braxton and Paul Dunmall. As with Coltrane, both artists’ compositions blur the boundaries between jazz and classical music, their work representing two transgenerational approaches to Coltrane’s legacy. The sound examples in chapters 1, 3 and 4 can be found attached as accompanying wave files.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Music."
  • Garcia, David
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2008

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