Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Strout, Nicholas L. “I’ve Heard That Song Before: Linguistic and Narrative Aspects of Melodic Quotation in Instrumental Jazz Improvisation.” M.A. thesis, Indiana University, 1986.

Melodic quotation is the process by which a jazz instrumentalist quotes melodic fragments from one or more jazz compositions, while improvising on another. This technique is used to import various elements from the source material, such as the imagery of the lyrics or title. Depending on how they are combined, these elements can generate meaning through ironic juxtaposition, thematic unity, or narrative coherence. Additional meaning may be generated by the ways and the degrees to which the quotation is altered in the moment. This is both a musical and rhetorical phenomenon, and recognition by the listener is required. Since quotations may come from multiple sources—of varying degrees of obscurity—different levels of competence will result in a unique meaning for each listener. Melodic quotation in jazz improvisation is still seen somewhat as gimmick and is not as likely to be heard on commercial recordings as it is in live performance in small clubs. Despite this, the technique merits consideration, especially for studies of audience experience.

Works: Dexter Gordon (performer): There’s a Small Hotel (6-7); Jimi Hendrix (performer): The Star-Spangled Banner (20).

Sources: Wagner: “Bridal Chorus” from Lohengrin (6); Richard Rodgers (composer) and Lorenz Hart (lyricist): There’s a Small Hotel (6-7); Francis Scott Key (lyricist): The Star-Spangled Banner (20); Daniel Butterfield: Taps (20).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Jazz

Contributed by: Molly Covington

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