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Opened in 2008, The Dirty Dog is one of the premiere destinations in the United States for world class Jazz and cuisine. It combines the charm of an English-style pub with intimacy and meticulous attention to detail and hospitality.
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The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
February 13, 2020

The Elements of Jazz

 

Jazz Elements of Composition

 

In this week’s Jazz Notes we focus on the basics of compositional elements in Jazz. This gives us a rough “road map” as to what to listen for in the music. Although there are no two Jazz pieces that are completely alike, Jazz, like most genres does have some common elements that help characterize it and define it’s sound.

 

 

Generally, we can define these key elements as use of the blues and pentatonic ( scales, syncopation, swing (or “a swaying beat” also heard in funk and other rhythmic styles) and the use of improvisation.

 

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Music itself is an art form that combines or alternates sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch which is basic to melody and harmony, rhythm which defines tempo, meter, articulation, and dynamics, which affect sonic qualities such as, volume, timbre and texture. The word music, comes from the Greek word mousike, meaning “art of the Muses”.

 

 

Jazz ranges from strictly organized compositions, through free form/improvisational music to written forms such as scores and charts.

 

 

Compositional techniques are the methods used to create most styles of music. These range from using written musical notation, to the use of improvisation, musical montage, and arrangements for various ensemble configurations.

 

 

Improvisation is a key element of Jazz. It is the act of composing extemporaneously during the performance and assembling the musical elements.

 

 

One method to compose Jazz is starting with a base series of chords. Once the series of chords is selected, additional lines are added to embellish these, and usually include a lead melody line.

 

 

Another method involves free playing. For example, a pianist might simply sit and start playing chords, melodies, or random notes that come to mind in order to find some inspiration, then build on the discovered lines to add depth.

 

 

Creating structure to a piece means composers may decide to divide their music into sections. One common form in Jazz involves an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The end speaks to the beginning, concluding things, while the development allows for personal interpretation and improvisation.

 

 

Instrumentation is the task of adapting a composition for musical instruments and ensembles. This is known as arranging or orchestrating. A composition may have multiple arrangements based on such factors as its intended audience, musical genre or various stylistic treatments.

 

 

This breakdown of compositional elements is a useful tool to use while listening to many different genres of music, not just Jazz. Happy listening!

 

 

 

Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.

 

 

 

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