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The Life and Music of McCoy Tyner: An Examination of the Sociocultural Influences on McCoy Tyner and His Music

Merrell II, Alton (2013) The Life and Music of McCoy Tyner: An Examination of the Sociocultural Influences on McCoy Tyner and His Music. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study is a historical, sociocultural and analytical examination of McCoy Tyner’s life and music. McCoy Tyner is a preeminent voice in the history of modern jazz piano performance, and his style is not only one of the most recognizable in jazz history, it has been studied and assimilated into the musical vocabulary of renowned pianists worldwide. Although Tyner’s influence is vast, there is a paucity of research on how he achieved his signature style, and the sociocultural and musical influences that cultivated his early musical talent and signature piano style have not been researched. This study details significant historical and sociocultural influences that nurtured Tyner’s musical talent from his birth in Philadelphia in 1938, through his brief professional tenure with the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, which ended in 1960. These influences include the Great Migration, immediate and extended family, musical influences, formal and informal training and professional experiences prior to becoming a member of the John Coltrane Quartet. This study also details the musical influence John Coltrane had on the development of Tyner’s signature style in the early 1960s. As a member of Coltrane’s quartet, Tyner not only received valuable lessons from Coltrane, but was also exposed to Coltrane’s multifaceted compositions, an amalgamation of modal jazz, Indian classical music and African music, all of which influenced the development of Tyner’s signature style in the early 1960s. Through transcription and analysis of select improvisations, this study also examines how Tyner generates dissonance and consonance (tension and release) – a fundamental attribute of his signature piano style – delineating melodic devices he regularly played with his right hand in tandem with harmonic devices regularly played with his left hand. Overall, this study reveals the sociocultural influences on McCoy Tyner that were the seedbed for his unique style and offers an in-depth examination of what makes that style unique.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Merrell II,
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDavis, Nathanndavis@pitt.eduNDAVIS
Committee MemberMoe, Ericemoe@pitt.eduEMOE
Committee MemberRosemblum, Mathewrosenblu@pitt.eduROSENBLU
Committee MemberGlasco, Laurencelag1@pitt.eduLAG1
Date: 1 July 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 March 2013
Approval Date: 1 July 2013
Submission Date: 20 May 2013
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 296
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: McCoy Tyner Jazz Piano Sociocultural Influences Life and Music Improvisational Style
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2013 15:31
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2018 05:15


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