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Beyond the Sound Barrier: Improvisation, Repertoire and Narrativity in the Wayne Shorter Quartet, 2000-2015

Petrucelli, John (2018) Beyond the Sound Barrier: Improvisation, Repertoire and Narrativity in the Wayne Shorter Quartet, 2000-2015. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Wayne Shorter is a Grammy award winning jazz saxophonist, NEA jazz master and Guggenheim Music Composition Fellow. While he is revered by historians for his recorded oeuvre during the 1960s, he is simultaneously regarded as being at the cutting edge of the contemporary jazz scene due to the reception of his current quartet, formed in the year 2000. The band, composed of Shorter (saxophone), Danilo Pérez (piano), John Patitucci (bass), and Brian Blade (drums), has evaded scholarly treatment because they elude normative customs associated with the performance and presentation of jazz compositions made famous by Shorter earlier in his recording career. This research takes significant steps to advance the field of jazz studies not only by focusing on a previously under-researched segment of Shorter’s career, but by recasting the site for study as the band itself. The band serves as a site for understanding the ruptures and continuities at play in contemporary jazz when expectations, predicated upon the relationship between band and the jazz community, are challenged or even undermined. In order to interpret the Wayne Shorter Quartet, this dissertation presents a multi-tiered methodology. Four frames of reference are presented: The Band, The Repertoire, The Audience and The Concert. This approach necessitates a constant negotiation amongst cultural and historical imaginaries which implicates memory and present experiences mediated via understandings of a canon. Analysis of performance practice, through the historical lineage of recordings as well as live concert recordings, reveals the flexibility and malleability of a musical concept devised by Shorter – “zero gravity.” By engaging with performance practice, socio-cultural and historical context, this project is in dialogue with multiple disciplines, including performance studies, sound studies and cultural studies. Ultimately, the Wayne Shorter Quartet is a site of nested knowledge that clarifies and recasts historical understandings of Shorter as the band forges a new kind of performance practice that gestures to contemporary and future understandings of jazz.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHeller,
Committee MemberRosenblum,
Committee MemberJohnson,
Committee MemberButler,
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 April 2018
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 8 June 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 285
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: jazz, jazz composition, free improvisation, improvisation, music theory, music history, jazz history, jazz theory, African American studies, musicology, sound studies, audience studies
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Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 19:25
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2018 19:25


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