Master Research

Jazz Singing Out Of The Norms – a Codarts Artistic Research

during the Codarts Research Festival in 2018

The topic of this research centers around an effort to incorporate non-diatonic vocabulary and the process of acquiring the skills necessary in order to access it during jazz improvisation, as well as treating a selection of patterns from the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slonimsky as compositional devices.

From a vocalist’s perspective, this is a challenging task, for it involves a dedicated and frequent reinforcement of this new knowledge and a fair amount of regular ear training. Therefore, in an attempt to pioneer such mechanisms for jazz singers, I have surveyed the field, interviewed several Slonimsky experts, composed pieces derived from my practice, sketched solos, developed a study routine for improvising vocalists, conducted a quasi-experiment and reviewed existing literature. As a result, this research can be taken as a model for experimental vocalists. However, this is not an inquiry into applying the patterns on jazz standards, but one that adapts pre-existing jazz knowledge to the necessity of writing new repertoire and the idea of expanding one’s melodic vocabulary while improvising.

The conclusion I have reached is backed by one of my network experts’ personal experience with the thesaurus, Marc van Roon, who thinks it is able to offer a creative way of thinking and interacting with any musical content, from motifs to chordal structures: the symmetries within these structures become more perceivable by the musician and as a result, the reaction to them while playing becomes less related to the implied functionality of the chords and freer, starting from the Slonimsky model of dividing content equally.

Distributing this material to musicians within an ensemble represented an opportunity to write an entire repertoire derived from some of these melodies. This paper signifies a solid beginning to an ongoing explorative study. I would advise the reader to keep the thesaurus at hand when viewing this thesis.