Dissertation Index

Author: Kahr, Michael

Title: Aspects of Context and Harmony in the Music of Clare Fischer

Institution: University of Sydney

Begun: October 2005

Completed: March 2009



This study presents socio-cultural and harmonic analyses of Clare Fischer’s compositional approach. It incorporates not only the results of interviews with Fischer himself, family members and long-time colleagues, but also introduces a large collection of private letters, used exclusively in this study by permission of Fischer’s wife Donna. The harmonic component includes detailed comparative analyses of one composition and one solo piano performance, which reveal aspects of influence and considerable detail regarding Fischer’s idiosyncratic harmonic style.

Various methodological and theoretical considerations are outlined and a pragmatic approach towards the examinations of both Fischer’s socio-cultural context and distinctive harmonic process proposed. The study discusses aspects of Fischer’s status and influence within the jazz community, his stylistic network, his work in the popular music sector, the concept of emotion in his music, and his relationship in socio-cultural and musical terms with Dimitri Shostakovich and Bill Evans. The work continues with comparative examinations of harmony in Fischer’s composition ‘The Early Years’, which shows parallels to passages from Shostakovich’s first symphony and Fischer’s solo piano interpretation of the folk song ‘Du, Du liegst mir im Herzen’, which reveals significant differences from the mainstream in tonal jazz as exemplified by Bill Evans’ harmonic treatment of the folk tune ‘Danny Boy’.

A more precise definition of the relationship between Fischer’s harmonic techniques and his contextual background emerges from these analyses. The study concludes with a summary and analysis of Fischer’s harmonic choices as expressions of personal experiences and general socio-cultural matters, and offers perspectives for future investigations of jazz music utilizing interdisciplinary methodologies.

Keywords: jazz, jazz research, jazz theory, jazz analysis, composition, improvisation, transcription, Clare Fischer, Bill Evans, Dimitri Shostakovich



Abstract iii
Acknowledgements iv
Table of Contents v
List of Illustrations vii

1.1 Overview 1
1.2 Overview of Methodology 4

2.1 Functional Analysis and Chromatic Resolutions 12
2.2 Current Tendencies in Jazz Theory 17
2.3 Semiotics in Music 29
2.4 Interrelation of Jazz Improvisation and Composition 33
2.5 The Fundamental Structure and its Basic Elaborations in Jazz Harmony 41
2.6 Burnett and Nitzberg’s ‘New Theory of Tonality’ 73
2.7 Notes on Musical Transcriptions in Jazz 82
2.8 Nomenclature for Chord Symbolization 89
2.9 The Voice-Leading Graph: Technical Notes and Method 103

3.1 Fischer’s Status in the Jazz Community and a Stylistic Categorization 106
3.2 Fischer — Shostakovich 125
3.3 Fischer — Evans 146
3.4 Fischer’s Use of Harmony in his Popular Music 153
3.5 Harmony, Emotion and Meaning 165

4.1 Dimitri Shostakovich’s 1st Symphony 183
4.2 Clare Fischer’s ‘The Early Years’ 205
4.3 Technical Comparison of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1 and Fischer’s Composition ‘The Early Years’ 241
4.4 ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Du, Du liegst mir im Herzen’: Historical Information and Harmonic Analysis 249
4.5 Bill Evans’s Two Recordings of ‘Danny Boy’ 255
4.6 Clare Fischer’s Performance of ‘Du, Du liegst mir im Herzen’ 270
4.7 Statistical Comparison of Fischer’s and Evans’s Versions of the Folk Tunes ‘Du, Du liegst mir im Herzen’ and ‘Danny Boy’ 289

5.1 Summary 301
5.2 Conclusions 304
5.3 Implications for Further Research 310

Bibliography 312
Appendix 325


Dr. Mag.art. Michael Kahr (MMus.)
Project Associate (Senior Artist) in Research and Teaching
University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz
Moserhofgasse 39-41
8010 Graz, Austria
+43 (0)699 1151 7605

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