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Dancing in His Head: The Evolution of Ornette Coleman's Music and Compositional Philosophy

Frink, Nathan (2016) Dancing in His Head: The Evolution of Ornette Coleman's Music and Compositional Philosophy. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) is frequently referred to as not only a great visionary in jazz music but as
also the father of the jazz avant-garde movement. As such, his work has been a topic of discussion for
nearly five decades among jazz theorists, musicians, scholars and aficionados. While this music was once
controversial and divisive, it eventually found a wealth of supporters within the artistic community and has
been incorporated into the jazz narrative and canon. Coleman’s musical practices found their greatest
acceptance among the following generations of improvisers who embraced the message of “free jazz” as a
natural evolution in style. Performers such as Jamaaladeen Tacuma, David Murray, Pat Metheny and John
Zorn incorporated the techniques of spontaneous group improvisation and what Coleman described as
“harmolodic” organization into their own performance.
This dissertation traces Coleman’s rise from relative obscurity to a place of greater celebrity in jazz
and other musical circles. Coleman’s acceptance by the academy, other composers, notable jazz musicians,
and the public is discussed in terms of how these shifts were made, and in what ways Coleman—who often
felt victimized and mistreated by record company executives, critics, and musical establishments—
transcended the gaps in his musical training in order to create his own distinctive and influential
compositional style. This “harmolodic theory” was then refined over a period of nearly 55 years.
The work discusses harmolodics in detail by building on the taxonomic models described by
Ekkard Jost and Peter N. Wilson. It describes the variations in compositional practice as Coleman’s style
evolved from 1980 until his death in 2015. The analysis supplements transcriptions and harmonic analyses
with spectrograms and waveforms in order to illuminate specific areas of Coleman’s work. These graphic
representations clarify observations made through transcription and reinforce some of the concepts
embodied in Coleman’s unique philosophy of music.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Frink, Nathannaf21@pitt.eduNAF21
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMoe,
Committee MemberHelbig,
Committee MemberGlasco,
Committee MemberRosenblum,
Date: 29 September 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 November 2015
Approval Date: 29 September 2016
Submission Date: 13 April 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 228
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: Coleman, Ornette, Denard, Denardo, Cortez, Jayne, Tacuma, Jamaaladeen, Allen, Geri, Metheny, Pat, Prime Time, Harmolodic, Harmolodics, Musical, Music, Composition, Free Jazz, avant-garde, black music, jazz, improvisation, Nix, Bern,
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2016 00:29
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:32


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