Seeing the Perspective of Jazz Field in Taiwan from the Reflection of Thinking in Jazz: The Infinte Art of Improvisation by Paul Berliner

這篇文章是在上學期完成的,也是研究生爵士教學法課程上的其中一項大作業.此書的作者Paul Berliner為民族音樂學家,以非洲音樂以及爵士樂即興演奏的相關研究為其擅長領域.此書是他多年的研究成果之一,內容完整呈現一個專業的爵士樂手從個人,群體到環境的養成過程.其中作者本人也分享他如何練習爵士小號,也提供採譜分析以及不同身分爵士樂人的訪問(包括我的爵士作曲老師Bill Dobbins, 爵士教育家Barry Harris等大師)這些豐富的材料使得這本書完整建立一個樂手養成的資料庫.我相信這本書日後對於台灣爵士樂手的養成相當重要.在此分享給大家.

Paul Berliner’s Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation is the 繼續閱讀 Seeing the Perspective of Jazz Field in Taiwan from the Reflection of Thinking in Jazz: The Infinte Art of Improvisation by Paul Berliner

A Review of Teachers Teaching Teachers by Stuart Nicholson

此文章是我在碩一時,在大學部的爵士教學法的課程裡的其中一項作業.這是我第一次對於爵士教育多元性的議題有著相當大的興 趣.Stuart Nicholson為英國著名的爵士樂樂評家,出版的著作包括Jazz: The Modern Resurgence,Is Jazz Dead ?(Or Has It Moved To  A New Address)以及新書Jazz and Culture In A Global Age. 這些著作曾獲爵士音樂史學家Ted Gioia一致好評:”…may be the most perceptive critic writing about jazz today.”的確,Nicholson的著作是少數爵士樂界裡探討近代爵士的著作.這篇評論關於他在Is Jazz Dead一書裡的其中一篇章節:Teachers Teaching Teachers.這篇文章主要說明了當今爵士教育內容的多元性以及在追求傳統與創意之間的爭議.

Since many jazz institutions began to pop up in late 20th century, jazz education has provided opportunities for  students to cultivate themselves to become the most outstanding players in the future. However, there’s a debating issue that jazz education doesn’t put more emphasis on originality and creativity. That leads to educators find difficulty when making decisions between pursuing the spirit of art and conforming with traditional styles, in order to help students achieve their professional goals.

The reason why Jazz education in the U.S considers bebop-hard bop style in 1950~60 to be an important style is that it’ll be beneficial to learn common vocabulary before expanding to next stage where has a variety of perspective in Jazz language. But that causes the effect that students sound the same when following similar teaching methods of stylistic approach. And the lack of originality and creativity will decrease the artistic value of Jazz music and the motivation to become professional musicians.

Stuart quotes several musicians words from famous Jazz educators, such as Charles Beale and Gunther Schuller, to stress again that the formalization of Jazz pedagogy will limit students’ imagination when creating music. In educator’s aspect, he addresses the advantage of bebop is to let students have basic concept of frequent modulation and complicated chromatic enclosures. Nevertheless, students apply the concepts taught in class with only a single way, which means they’re unable to display their individuality. If they use the same patterns applied on tunes with strange chord progressions, irregular rhythms and incomplete forms, their mind will be restricted when acquiring unfamiliar styles in Jazz.

In Jazz learner’s aspect, there are 2 main reasons that students have no choices but imitate the style which can “survive” in the pressure. One is the advanced technology. With quick search results, students can repeat playing soundtracks again and again in order to acquire certain styles in every short time. Depending on certain methods of pattern learning will make students sound too plain and boring. No new stuff coming out from themselves appears. The audience will lose their patience because they can’t find any appreciation of Jazz on them. Consequently, it’ll get harder and harder to see originality from them.

The competitive environment where has peer pressure and group pressure is another reason why young musicians lack originality. They might have higher expectation to see how much they learned from school and how they do perfectly in techniques. This “playing alike” phenomenon can be explained in the situation of jam session. In order to prove themselves to be qualified to reach higher reputation, more attraction from audience, even making better fortune, young students have no choice but compromise with the marketplace to show off their techniques. The disadvantage of jam session is it focuses too much on exhibiting personal skills rather than communicative process. Because musicians have no time to rehearse and look deeper in music, it loses the centrality of group creativity and interactions. This brings alert of misconception on universe of music itself in Jazz field.

Stuart makes a contrast between Jazz education in the U.S and in Europe. In America, Bebop style is regarded as norm of improvisation, while in Europe, musicians tends to be more liberal, concentrating on the artistic value, letting young musicians have more space to develop their creativity. They’re not just following the musical standards to revere masters, but instead they’re trying to build expansive vision to any kinds of music. Classical music training is almost indispensable in internalizing the process of building individuality. Its appreciation of aesthetics can help students establish discipline of presenting melody and its variation of frames leads to open art of Jazz expressionism. What’s more, Jazz education in Europe are also seeking to new identity in their music and develop features which are meaningful to them, even through cultures from other countries. The process which is so-called “transculturation” has influenced on Jazz field in the U.S nowadays.

In Taiwan, Jazz field is facing the pressure from classical music field. Classical music education is dominant among music education in academic environment, while Jazz education doesn’t exist in academic environment but appears everywhere outside the campus. As a result, Jazz musicians are minority groups in music field. We should bring the concepts of Jazz educational system from both Europe and America because there is need for students to experience different genres from different cultures. Since the marketplace in Classical music is very narrow due to low birth rates, relatively, we can see potentials in development of Jazz education in Taiwan. That way, students will be motivated in their originality and creativity.

In short, what could we do if we want to help students retain the basic concepts and creativity at the same time? Although this is a long-term question which is still being discussed, all we have to do is to reach the balance between them so that the artistic meaning and value of Jazz education will be authentically exhibited in teaching.