Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Murphy, John P. “Jazz Improvisation: The Joy of Influence.” The Black Perspective in Music 18, no. 1 (1990): 7-19.

One of the central questions in jazz research is the relationship of a specific jazz musician to his or her jazz predecessors. Harold Bloom’s anxiety-based model of influence, despite its current popularity across the humanities, is not an effective starting point in the ethnomusicological discourse surrounding quotation or allusion in jazz. Alternatively, Henry Louise Gates Jr.’s model of “Signifyin(g)” offers a better tool for understanding jazz musicians’ relationship to their precursors, as well as the ways they can generate meaning from this tension. Gates’s model is better for two reasons. First, it directly addresses jazz music and folk improvisation in addition to literary traditions whereas Bloom’s model focuses on literature. Second, it reflects the vernacular, communal nature of African American art versus the refinement and monolithic originality idealized by nineteenth-century authors. In other words, the influence of predecessors is felt joyfully rather than anxiously in jazz improvisation, and musical quotations tend to reflect homage. In the context of “Signifyin(g),” Joe Henderson’s quotation of a motive from Charlie Parker’s Buzzy in a chorus of his 1965 recording If, or in his 1981 recording of Freddie Hubbard’s Bird Like, generates a joyful dialogue between the performer and an audience or ensemble who would recognize the reference, rather than an anxious dialogue between the performer and his predecessor. Repetition, interpretation, and transformation rest on the assumption of a communal language which accurately reflects the nature of mainstream jazz improvisation more broadly.

Works: Joe Henderson: If (10-11, 13); Joe Henderson (performer) and Freddie Hubbard (composer and performer): Bird Like (10-17).

Sources: Charlie Parker: Buzzy (10-17).

Index Classifications: General, 1900s, Jazz

Contributed by: Felicia Miyakawa, Molly Covington, Matthew G. Leone

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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