Dissertation Index

Author: McGowan, James J

Title: Dynamic Consonance in Selected Piano Performances of Tonal Jazz

Institution: University of Rochester

Begun: October 2003

Completed: February 2005


This dissertation presents a new approach to “consonance” and “dissonance” in tonal jazz, specifically as manifest in solo and small-group recordings by jazz pianists from 1929 to 1966. First deconstructing the complex history of the terms, the dissertation proposes a pluralistic understanding of “consonance” that encompasses both music-syntactic and psycho-acoustic meanings in a harmonic sense. The work goes on to describe a theory of dialects of consonance that recognizes and defines contextually stable chord tones beyond the triad. Consisting of the added sixth, blues seventh, and major seventh, these three principal dialects of consonance can also include ninths and elevenths, in major and minor modes. A diachronic model accounts for the development of the dialects from sources in European classical and African influences. The work also explicates specific criteria of voicing and other sonorous factors, showing how they impact the perception of consonance.

The study then reconsiders the phonological dimension of consonance within the syntactical dimension. The dissertation argues that chords with Dominant function lead to Tonic at different hierarchic levels, and this harmonic succession by descending fifth implicates consonance. A theory of extended assemblies of scale degrees clarifies potentially ambiguous harmonies caused by rootless voicings and unaccompanied solo lines. The dissertation then defines moments of consonance based upon the rhetorical fulfillment of closure, achieved when sonorous repose is appropriately balanced in a resolution relation with its preceding dissonance. Contextual factors, such as performance rhetoric, harmonic evasion, pitch-class destabilization, and functional mixture, determine whether a moment of expected consonance is actually realized as such.

Finally, the dissertation describes a comparative methodology for the analysis of tonal structure, and systematically analyzes performances by Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and Bill Evans. Analytical results demonstrate unique features of each pianist’s harmonic approach, including ranges of dialects and choices for reharmonizations that create heightened or lessened syntactic expectation for consonance. Using models adapted from sociolinguistics, two performances demonstrate how improvisational interaction between piano and bass affects consonance. The dissertation concludes by summarizing the various aspects of dynamic consonance in tonal jazz, and offering suggestions for future applications of this research.

Keywords: tonal, jazz, analysis, consonance, jazz piano, Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell


Table of Contents

Curriculum Vitae ii

Acknowledgments iii

Abstract v

Table of Contents vii

List of Figures ix

List of Tables xi

List of Musical Examples xii

I. Introduction 1
1.1 Overview 1
1.2 Tonal-Jazz Repertoire for Piano 4
1.3 Linguistic Analogies and the Musical Language of Tonal Jazz 11
1.4 Dialects of Consonance and Other Applied Sociolinguistic Models 19

II. The Definition of “Consonance” in Tonal Jazz 24
2.1 Definition of “Consonance” and “Dissonance” 24
2.2 Conceptual Dichotomies in the History of “Consonance” and “Dissonance” 25
2.3 Relativity and “Dissonance” in Jazz Parlance 37
2.4 Pedagogical Discourse about Consonance in Jazz Theory 45
2.5 Schenkerian Discourse about Consonance in Jazz Theory 56
2.6 Resolving Tension and Motion: Musical Meaning and Consonance 67

III. The Phonological Dimension of Consonance: Individual Sonorities 76
3.1 Dialects of Consonance 76
3.2 Diachronic Development of the Dialects of Consonance 82
3.3 Voicing and Euphony of Individual Sonorities 97
3.4 Explanatory Models 120
IV. The Syntactic Dimension of Consonance: Hierarchic Harmonic Function 133
4.1 Harmonic Syntax: Extensions and Function Theory 133
4.2 Extended Assemblies of Scale Degrees: Functional Implications
of Voicing 153
4.3 Hierarchic Bass-Harmony Sketches 173

V. Relating Sonority to Syntax: Form, Function and Rhetoric 182
5.1 Rhetorical Assertion of Closure and the Resolution Relation 182
5.2 Dissonant or Weak Tonics and Consonant Subdominants 190
5.3 Terminology and Graphic Representation in Formal Analysis 207
5.4 Determining Moments of Consonance: Chords, Cadences, and Context 214

VI. Dynamic Consonance in Selected Jazz Piano Performances: Analysis and Conclusions 226
6.1 Summary and Overview 226
6.2 “Ain’t Misbehavin’”: Fats Waller and Art Tatum 228
6.3 “April in Paris”: Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk 249
6.4 “Come Rain or Come Shine”: The Bill Evans Trio 264
6.5 Interpretation of the Analyses 280
6.6 Pluralistic Dynamism and Future Directions 289

Discography 294

Bibliography 296

Appendix 326


School of the Arts TSH417
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4M2

905-525-9140 ext. 23675

Date Listed: 08/22/2006

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