Jazz + Tech


Jazz + Tech is a working hypothesis of mine. The idea stems from a personal philosophy that I first attempted to articulate in the paper presented here. Jazz + Tech represents a process of discovery that speaks through the tradition and its collective language. As modern technology is intertwined with the history and practice of the music, my thesis explores an evolving aesthetic of modern musical technology as the primary creative instrument of jazz. The paper shows how technology is fundamentally changing the art's essential expressive element: improvisation. 


New Minds: Computers and the Jazz Improvisatory Tradition

- by James Mayr, May 2011, Rutgers University

Jazzʼ history of individual and group improvisation is one of an expanding, sophisticated aesthetic of how musicians interact and employ an historical body of shared musical language and culture. Emergent technology has played an important role in that improvisatory tradition and now places under artistic scrutiny the very activity of intelligent behavior: thought and consciousness. The power of this technology allows the musician to interact with his own awareness, not just the awareness of others, in the moment of creation. The musician finds himself suddenly able to react spontaneously to his own spontaneity, and this unique perspective is a broadening of awareness and perception of reality. This body of musical language, tradition and technology affords jazz a unique perspective through which the performer investigates his mind. The ability of technology to provide these sorts of mental constructs to the performer and eventually the ability to be able to react to the performerʼs changing improvisatory inclinations--this dynamic and recursive structure of technology is its power.

Traditional notions of musical mastery will be less pertinent to creative production, as a new aesthetic of mastery may exclude prior notions of virtuosity. The subsequent generations of jazz musicians who learn to improvise using this expanding techno-vernacular are predisposed to continue exploring the interactions of mind and machine through the landscape of their unique cultural-identity-as-art-form. Advanced virtual musical ecosystems, such as Abelton Live and Kyma software, will continue to map an increasingly complex terrain of musical expression and cognition. This acceptance and deployment of emergent technologies in the study and performance of jazz is an inherent part of the tradition, and the exploration of mind through improvisation is fertile ground for the continuation of the jazz spirit.

Download full paper here.