Author: Geyer, Benjamin M.
Title: Meter, Phrase, and Form in the Compositions of Maria Schneider
Institution: University of Kentucky
Begun: September 2014
Completed: April 2016
The central claims of this study are that Maria Schneider relies on normative rhythmic structures from the jazz tradition, and that her expressive deviations from those norms are comprehensible to experienced listeners in real time. The study proposes a non-recursive model of hypermeter wherein the measure is formed through entrainment, the four-bar sub-unit is formed through recognizable qualia at the measure level, and the eight-bar level is formed through the expectation for sub-units to group into pairs. I introduce the “structural phrase” as a unit that, while normatively hypermetrical, is distinct from the issue of hypermeter in its formal aspects and its ability to diverge from hypermetrical organization. Structural phrases mediate our sense of place in the music, and they most often begin with an audibly clear attentional peak that I call the “structural phrase onset.”
I posit that experienced listeners understand how structural phrases operate in Schneider’s compositional style through awareness of the relative frequency of each structural phrase type. Based on data gathered from a corpus of twenty-four pieces, comprised of 1,105 structural phrases, I find that 61% of Schneider’s structural phrases are normative. Further, the influence of the normative structural phrase supersedes its literal appearance on the surface of an acoustic signal, serving as the conceptual background for nine dialogic deviations: 31% of structural phrases are deviational yet operate in direct dialogue with the norm. Only three deviation types, accounting for 8% of structural phrases, are entirely independent of the normative organization.
Structural phrases function as shallow-level formal units that group into deeper levels. This study categorizes Schneider’s formal approach as a hybrid between two practices: (1) traditional big band arranging, in its emphasis on improvised solos and idiosyncratic features such as the “ensemble feature” section; and (2) sonata form, in its motivic-thematic emphasis, freely unfolding sectional organization, and broadly three-part design. I refer to the three parts at the deepest structural level as “three-Spaces,” including Exposition, Solo, and Recapitulation Spaces. These Spaces are comprised of seven types of sections at a lower structural level: introduction, expositional, transition, soloistic, ensemble feature, recapitulative, and coda sections. Three “formal division criteria” specify how these sections audibly signal divisions between the deeper-level Spaces. An in-depth analysis of Hang Gliding explores how rhythm at multiple structural levels interacts with other parameters such as pitch, orchestration, and dynamics, to shape a composition’s dramatic arc.
Keywords: meter, phrase, form, jazz, Maria Schneider, rhythm
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Attentional Coordination, from Tone to Phrase
Chapter 3: Phrase Rhythm in the Corpus
Chapter 4: Form in the Corpus
Chapter 5: Conclusion