Jazz Composition Courses
Five- and six-part writing for instruments. Application of voicings in seconds, thirds, and fourths. Upper-structure triads, clusters, and other nonmechanical voicings derived from chord scales. Extensive score analysis.
A comprehensive study of the evolution of jazz arranging and composition from the 1920s to the present. Score analysis of representative works by Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Thad Jones, and others. Extensive listening. Written arrangements not required.
Development of individual writing creativity. Emphasis on the building of confidence in writing clear, memorable lead lines based on standard song forms. Discussions on the relationship of speech patterns to melody. Individual conferences with the instructor when necessary. Written projects required.
The arranging of original tunes combining both traditional jazz techniques and contemporary compositional concepts. Analysis of taped examples.
Methodology of big band arranging. Analysis of scores by classic and contemporary big band arrangers. Library assignments and class discussion. Written arrangements and score analysis projects required.
Jazz arranging techniques for the rhythm section and various small-group instrumental combinations of up to three horns (melodic voices). Emphasis on developing complete rhythm section sound (with or without winds) and advanced voicing techniques (including interval-based voicings, linear approach techniques, and constant structure).
Extended applications of standard big band scoring techniques. Analysis of devices found in the compositions of major jazz writers.
Through the study of major artists and recordings, the student will identify the compositional and instrumental practices of the jazz fusion idiom and apply those to writing assignments and projects. Jazz fusion is looked at broadly and may include a variety of idiomatic 20th-century world music and popular music techniques. The course does not follow a particular methodology, but rather encourages the student to find his/her own voice within the genre. The class begins with a historical survey of the jazz fusion idiom starting with Miles Davis's landmark Bitches Brew recording and continues with the music of the alumni of Davis' influential bands, up to today. As students apply techniques and ideas learned, they will gain perspective as to how jazz fusion is part of music as a whole and examine some of the underlying principles that make for good composition. A special section of the course will be dedicated to introducing students to some fundamentals of Indian ragas (scales) and to Konnikol (Indian rhythmic solfege) and their application to contemporary jazz-fusion composition. Groups such as Shakti, Miles From India, Trilok Gurtu, The Marc Rossi Group, and others have brought this information to the forefront, and it is helping to redefine jazz fusion.
Indian music, one of the great musical traditions of the world, has influenced composers and improvisers of all stripes for generations. Its musical resources and techniques offer a wealth of ideas that can both inform and be integrated into jazz and contemporary composition. Artists as diverse as The Beatles, John Coltrane, John McLaughlin, Miles Davis, Anoushka Shankar, Terry Riley, Geetha Ramanathan Bennett, Steve Reich, Naina Kundu and Sheela Bringi; and film composers Dave Robbins and Ry Cooder (Dead Man Walking), A.R. Rahman (Slum Dog Millionaire), and the legendary Saraswati Devi (Bollywood talkies) all exhibit the influence of Indian music in their works.
In this class, students will learn about ragas (melodies) and talas (rhythm cycles) and how to compose, arrange, and create improvisational models based on these resources. It also includes a styles survey, exposing students to the two main Indian classical music systems (Hindustani and Carnatic), which both use ragas and talas, but in somewhat different ways. There is also a special section on konnakol—South Indian rhythmic solfège. In addition, we will examine selected Indian film and popular music, which can serve as inspiration for students as they compose their own pieces.
Students will compose right from the beginning, through weekly writing assignments and mid-term and final projects. This will capture their first compositional impressions, and lead to the more informed work they will compose by the semester’s end. Musical techniques from other traditions, such as African, Brazilian, or Indonesian Gamelan may also be included, to illustrate cross-cultural compositional principals.
A systematic approach to the art of composing in the jazz idiom. Exploration of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic principles. Standard jazz song form. Analysis of jazz standards. Arranging considerations applied as a means of enhancing a composition. Projects for small jazz group required.
Composition of non-song-form jazz pieces based on motivic development. Discussion of form and content as it applies to episodic composition in jazz. Examination of representative works by various jazz composers. Various assignments and the composition of an episodic five-minute piece are required.
Composition of multisection extended jazz compositions. Discussion of form and orchestration as it applies to extended composition in jazz. Examination of representative works by various jazz composers. Composition of a short chamber piece without rhythm section and a large-scale ten-minute piece are required.