Skip to main content

Orality, Literacy, and Mediating Musical Experience: Rethinking Oral Tradition in the Learning of Jazz Improvisation

Buy Article:

$47.50 plus tax (Refund Policy)

In this essay, I critically examine the place of oral tradition in the narrative of jazz history, as well as how and why assumptions about its development persist in the music's discourse. Specifically, I argue that the continued identification with oral tradition imparts to the jazz community a unique identity vis‐à‐vis other forms of Western music, which are often described as “written” traditions. Through a critical re‐reading of historical and contemporary texts, as well as from interviews with jazz musicians, I illustrate how certain musicians and critics position jazz as a cultural and musical system that departs significantly from the practices of the Western art music tradition, chiefly in relation to the latter's employment of written scores. Such an oppositional discourse positions jazz not only as a distinct stylistic entity, but indeed as a unique music culture in relation to Western forms, invoking binary oppositions such as “African/European” or “black/white” in laying claim to cultural authenticity. Finally, I propose that neither “oral” nor “written” can adequately describe the complex processes that have given jazz its unique character in both performance and pedagogy, and that reflect its history of assimilating and transforming myriad musical and cultural practices.
No Reference information available - sign in for access.
No Citation information available - sign in for access.
No Supplementary Data.
No Article Media
No Metrics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-07-01

  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more