Dissertation Index

Author: Julien, Patricia A.

Title: The Structural Function of Harmonic Relations in Wayne Shorter's Early Compositions: 1959-1963

Institution: University of Maryland

Begun: October 1998

Completed: May 2003


Of the fifty-three compositions by jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter copyrighted between 1959-1963, six, representing the scope of Shorter's practice, are analyzed in this dissertation. The dissertation examines some of Shorter's compositional contributions to the transformations in harmonic practice after bebop, focusing on his treatment of tonality and structural use of harmonic relations. While some compositions (e.g., "Suspended Sentence" and "Callaway Went That 'A Way") from this period are organized according to traditional tonal relationships, others (e.g., "Pug Nose" and "Sakeena's Vision") establish an unequivocal tonic through atypical means (combining tonal roles of harmony and voice leading with a contextually-defined hierarchy); still others (e.g., "Sincerely Diana" and "El Toro") project ambiguous tonal function (establishing no single centric sonority whose influence acts as a basis for the harmonic relations). Analyses employ layered reductions distilling the essential harmonic relations that articulate the structure and form of the composition.

Several fundamental issues are revealed through the analyses. Shorter elegantly transforms melodic relations of the foreground level (such as neighboring tones, nonharmonic tones, and phrase asymmetry) not only to harmonic relations but also to formal relations at the deepest structural levels. Whether clearly tonal, atypically tonal, or ambiguous regarding an expression of tonality, stepwise chord roots often are more significant to Shorter's 'progressions' than traditional harmonic motion. In his frequent use of minor dominant chords, Shorter demonstrates that chord quality may be structurally inconsequential. This is part of Shorter's general practice of granting functional primacy to chord roots over chord quality and the function that might be suggested by such chord quality. Shorter's works also disclose the composer's critical interest in third relations.

These findings help fulfill one goal of the dissertation research, which is to gain an understanding of Shorter's early compositions, furthering an appreciation of his structural use of functional and non-functional harmonies. The dissertation adds Shorter's early compositions to the body of studied works that exemplify an expansion of both tonality and the structural function of harmonic relations.

Keywords: Jazz theory, jazz composition, analysis, Hard Bop, harmonic relations, structural function, Wayne Shorter, tonality


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Unequivocally Tonal
Chapter 3: Tonality Achieved Through Atypical Means
Chapter 4: Tonal Ambiguity


Patricia Julien
Southwick Music Complex
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT 05405
patricia.julien@uvm.edu 802-656-7760

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