Books in Progress, Articles and Presentations
Books in Progress
Toward a Degree in Music: A New Vision for Jazz and Classical Study in the New Milennium
This book offers a critique of the current state of musical training,
proclaiming that both jazz and classical programs inhibit creative development and
thus compromise the overall personal and artistic growth of students. The book
begins with an analysis of why creativity is central to the learning process, and
the patterns of resistance to creativity-based models which have ironically prevailed
in the musical study. The book then presents an alternative musical core which is
rooted in improvisation and composition, and shows how this core can yield optimal
degrees of mastery in the areas essential to artistic success (craft, history, aural
skills, aesthetic awareness, expressivity, etc.).
A secondary theme developed in the book has to do with the relationship between creativity
and consciousness, and how creative-based musical study may generate entirely new educational
models where spirituality (or growth of consciousness) is developed alongside the study of
This book provides a practical resource for implementing the philosophical ideas presented in the prior-mentioned book. It is an outgrowth of an alternative course in basic musicianship I have designed and taught at The University of Michigan over the past seven years, where instead of the conventional approach to theory and aural skills, students follow an improvisation-based approach. My system covers the same basic scheme of content—e.g. chord structure, function, progressions, secondary dominants, applied chords, modal mixture, altered chords-as conventional approaches, but it does so in a hands-on, creative manner and draws from a wide variety of musics. The keyboard is an important part of this method, where realization of jazz chord progressions and voicings is juxtaposed with keyboard realization of figured bass lines. The book also includes rhythm and movement exercises for the development of inner pulse, and the ability to work with polyrhythms, odd meters and time feels. The book closes with a chapter which surveys important issues in cognition and aesthetics for today's musicians. This book is very much in line with the appeals made in MENC's National Arts Standards, the NASM curricular guidelines, and UNESCO's International Music Council for the inclusion of improvisation, composition and diverse musics in musical study.
Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness
The central theme in this book is that creativity is inherent in every human activity, from sports to science to art to religion, and that peak creative experiences involve a self-referential integration within consciousness which can be cultivated. Moreover, the manner in which this integrative consciousness occurs in musical improvisation serves as a particularly revealing model for how it manifests in many other activities. Thereby, in examining the inner mechanics of improvisation, we gain insights into the spontaneous moves and countermoves of the soccer player, or the scientist, or the therapist, or the classroom teacher. Moreover, we gain a framework for looking into the nature of consciousness as a nonlocal field (contrary to the academically fashionable reductionist viewpoints), for an inherent feature of individual integrative consciousness is a connection with others. A variety of empirical studies including those done at Princeton's PEAR lab, the University of Nevada's Consciousness Research Center and by the U.S. military seem to strongly support the nonlocality thesis. Interestingly, just as this research tends to be marginalized in mainstream scientific circles, improvisation is marginalized in musicological circles.
What is particularly unfortunate in both regards is that the very nonlocality resisted by the
science mainstream is an important aesthetic aspect of improvised music; in other words, in peak
improvisations, improvisers often describe a communion with audiences, as if, to use Denny Zeitlin's
terms, "we are all listening to the music together". This collective transcendence is a critical
feature of improvised music, and can be traced to underlying mechanisms in consciousness. While
transcendence also occurs in composed music; because improvised music is created as it is performed,
players, listeners and environment can be united into a complex, self-organizing system where the
collective merging in consciousness can actually impact what is played. Thus, the spontaneous and
interactive transcendence of improvised music differs from the structure-driven (but equally rich)
transcendence of composed music. Whereas improvisation is often defined as a subspecies of composed
music, I argue that-because of its unique modality of transcendence--improvisation needs to be
understood on its own terms. When this occurs we will gain insights not only into human creativity,
but also the interplay of improvised and composed musics in the contemporary landscape.
I am hoping all three books are out in the next few years. I am just now getting proposals out. Any leads?