Music frequently requires more than one performer to be created. Perhaps two or more musicians are required, each playing a “part” – without the presence of all the musicians, the song would be incomplete. Perhaps one musician will accompany a singer, each performing distinct but interdependent roles. Human relationships of love and friendship easily can be seen in a similar light. It takes two, as they say. Also similar to this musical analogy is the act of creating and reading literature. For each performer, there must be an audience, if the work is to be realized. Of course jazz could be used in this analogy. Jazz music has the same requirements for partnership and role-playing. However, jazz frequently builds upon the notion of improvisation. One or more of the performers must create the music as it is being played, and the other performers must react to those creations in real-time. Jazz then becomes a powerful analogy for relationships that exist in a rapidly changing environment. If circumstances change rapidly, the partners must improvise their roles.
[...] Thinking of them, their relationship, and even the narration of events from the perspective of the jazz analogy I have just discussed, we can see their migration holds the potential for successful adaptation, a success modeled after the formation of jazz music itself. All of this can be seen in Toni Morrison's novel Jazz. Jazz music, as it functions in the novel, becomes a social tool of empowerment via improvisational creation and interpersonal connection, unifying the community and providing an outlet to express its social and political needs. [...]
[...] The novel structurally unites these fragments of images and ideas into one larger work in the same way a person would link together individual notes of music to make a melody while creating contact between formerly un-reconciled ideas of interpretive possibility. It does so by showing that the often oppositional ideas don't necessarily struggle towards one singular point of meaning and resolution, but rather can merge into a complex three-dimensional sphere of coexistent yet separate resolution. The crossing of the paths of meaning does not disable one reading of the text from completing its aim, but rather gives it the empowerment to fertilize the other interpretive possibilities with added perspective, dimension, and resonance. [...]
[...] term[Ed] mourning, weather for the ‘phantom limb,' the phantom parent, or the phantom beloved: mourning for the lost possibilities, lost selves, and (for Faulkner) the ‘lost' South itself” (Faulknerian and Postmodern Voices in Jazz 159). Morrison also explores “mourning” with respect to the lost or limited knowledge of history the black community yearns for. Through the geographical and cultural dislocation resulting from the slave trade and the fracturing of the black family during slavery in America, the black community has lost its immediate connection to its history. [...]
[...] I find these moments in the text to be analogous to jazz improvisation as defined by Clarence Lateef, a renowned jazz musician and jazz philosopher, who states that the theory of emotional memory . specifically links improvisational music to personal experience and training, wherein ‘mind and body are unified through memory and muscle. In memory lie the seeds of improvisation: in technique, the means by which to cultivate the memory.' (Porter 249). The narrator recalls his/her memory” and “experience” of Violet and Joe, which is inseparably “emotional” and “personal,” and through verbally telling the story in his/her interpretation of Joe's and Violet's own voices, he/she can thereby “cultivate the memory,” which can then only be expressed through improvisation. [...]
[...] The ensemble nature of jazz music supports this collaborative effort between the narrator and the reader: a melodic riff is offered by the narrative voice, and as we answer the call-and-response that is both outwardly and subtly encoded in the text, we chose to create dissonance or consonance, and to fill in the “black spaces” with whatever material we compose, creating a unique creative masterpiece each time the book is read. Jazz, an art of improvisation and performance, is a form of music in which the same song is never played twice in quite the same way. [...]
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