Practice based research in jazz – a reflective study in jazz performance (PhD)

Analysis and observations of pre-learnt and idiosyncratic elements in improvisation: a reflective study in jazz performance
PhD thesis: Dr. Robert Burke (Associate Professor)

Abstract

This exegesis examines influences, processes and idiosyncrasies in musical improvisation in a jazz context, identified through analysis and observation of selected, recorded performances by the author. It is a practice-based research project with two objectives, the first to uncover degrees to which pre-learnt skills and idiosyncratic creations occur and interact in spontaneous music-making, and the second to contribute to the body of knowledge in improvised music research: an area of the art which at this time is beginning to invite intense enquiry.

It is argued that deep investigation into one’s own playing, complemented by critical contemplation, offers insights into improvised performance that can add a significant dimension to the analysis and observations made by other people.

Notwithstanding the limitations of traditional musical notation, transcriptions examined in this study show clearly influences both from past learning and from musicians who continue to have a powerful influence – consciously and sub-consciously – on the author’s playing and thought processes in music. While formal study of these influential figures (players and teachers) is important, underpinning the learning process is the aural comprehension of sounds; the end product of recorded performances submitted here as the primary source.

The insights gained through this reflective self-examination approach suggests that not only it is a practice of great worth from a personal perspective but also offers a model for others who wish to remain alert to the quality of their own musical output, and the measure, as far as that is possible, of their creativity.

Please email for further details: robert.burke@monash.edu