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Creative method. The National Association of educational broadcasters presents George Shearing on Jack. Hello this is Norman Bryson. How does a composer of change history see the relation of his music to music in general. Now can we just discuss this with George Shearing. The music is lullaby of Birdland All told there are some 75 recordings of lullaby of Birdland but this one is definitive. It is by the Creator the composer arranger and pianist George Shearing. Maturing. What we're trying to find out is how a jazz musician like yourself goes about creating a piece like lullaby a bird. Well I suppose the same ideas prevail as if with the creation of any melody if it is to be read in the acceptable melody it must be within the single boy writing to some kind. For instance this is a melody.
That it is a succession of notes but nobody would recognize it as a man because well as you are extremely contemporary in thinking it goes along with. The get back to the basis of melody something which can be very easily sung. If he jumps into jams. Two neighboring towns up there when they are. This him to be some logic which.
Pays for the whole thing. Oh. The jazz musician as creator one of 10 conversations with creative Americans about the nature of their work. A creative method prepared by WGBH and family in Boston under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio center. Later we'll tell you how you may obtain excerpts from this and 21 other radio essays on the creative process in American arts sciences and professions. But now George Shearing on jazz. And here is Bill cavernous. Isn't it true that there was an earlier lullaby of Birdland. Yes. And the funny thing about it is that this one that I had just played took me only 10 minutes. The whole thing yeah. That's right from top to bottom. And
the earlier one which I discarded took me about five. It was a jazz sort of a jazz thing with. So the reason it took less time is because it's nothing more than a phrase repeated. Maybe the bridge to the performer. There are Bridge passages to stand. This is the most elementary progression. But the difference the essential character difference of these two
guys is that the first one is so marketed vocal and the other one is metal. That's right. Primary quality is a rhythmic quality rather than melodic. That's right. Is this ever really the most important element in the composition of you or does the rhythm itself suggest the piece. In some cases I can't exactly think of a composition of mine where the rhythm is the only. But when we get to the Afro-Cuban compositions in many cases the rhythmic count. The most importance. That's just the baseline.
That of course is. In there the rhythm is the starting point for the whole factor. That's right. Well isn't this an amazing thing that can happen to human history. Different different way took way to come and call in a Chinese god. And when I get to the stand sometimes it's tough to say the guys are
playing the Chinese guy play a few bars so they know what we're going to play and play a few bars of it. I will very often play it rhythmically. The same melody with the melodic decoration to take care of the rhythmic content and the whole character of the thing changes when you simply change the approach to it. In fact if you were to play me a tune if it were not too extraneous it too if you were to play me I turn I could tell whether the type of harmony it should have. For instance if you played. I could tell that it should have some kind of a mode.
Home is which drive. Now you say that if I were to play you a tune for example you would know what kind of harmony would fit with it is this. An instinctive sort of thing is it something you're born with or is there specific training that give you that I think to a degree one is born with it. If you have an inclination towards it I think you can develop the intonation. But I think what you can learn it if you have the material to start with I think you can learn it if you don't have something there to begin with. I don't think so. If you do you sort of tend to learn it parrot fashion after somebody else has taught you.
Well how about harmony does a sequence of harmonies or a harmonic structure ever serve as your starting point or is that something that gets itself filled in. Well on a number of cases that gets filled in later on. But I think in this case the whole thing came to me one. Of the leading voice of the self is somebody. Playing it that way purposely to show you the logic exists you know this is something that is common in your own chosen field of. Jazz and the classics. Yes. The idea of sequence
and voice leading and harmonic and melodic logic preventing at all times. This idea both jazz and classical and do with the two would me would be the common ground. Well this is true then of any kind of serious music. I think so. That's right. That's why when people say I mean do you play jazz or serious music. They forget that there is serious jazz. And its serious students of jazz a kind of pseudo definition that doesn't fit the case. That's right there's a tune which we played in. Movie called The Big Beat. And somebody else count data was also given to me and Rob Cowles arrangement of it was sort of swinging. I had had that kind of. This kind of feeling to it and the rhythmic content of the tune
changed to go along with that. To me this is nothing but a very beautiful ballad which should almost be conceived in triad form. Voice is there. And as you heard. The construction of the tune is far too beautiful
to be given that swaying treatment the greatness in which the rhythm is the most important feature I think because there are many other tunes that do not have this melodic quality and do not have this quality. That's right. Well this brings up an interesting point and very much germane to this discussion and that is. Where the differences in these concepts. I mean how is it that you haven't been here to do it in one way and another. Do you suppose that your own background your training in the classics had some influence on this. I think so I think it's a question of a broader conception. I think that if you try to conceive of a number of different types of music the Impressionists. The contemporary field in classical music and then a number of different jazz forms you will know that when you get into such as the
one recorded by Jimmy Lunsford in the 30s which was called What To Do. Now that's a very simple tune but it doesn't it doesn't have the lyrical and singing quality. So. There you there. This swaying business is quite permissible. That's right. But to take it to the lyrical quality. It's swings and very pixilated very light but
it has its own reason for existing. Yes certainly certainly does but it I don't think you should exist in that particular form. Not with that because because of the harmonic quality the baseline and the course this is a matter of personal opinion. But I do think that it's based on. What should prevail in categorizing music. I imagine you have to guess and correct me if I'm wrong that part of the reason for your feeling for a vocal line. Some of the influences on the harmonic structures that you buy come from studying people like enough and that was that area. That's true. The romantic late romantic in the Impressionist composers because these things were so important to them. On the other hand the influences on you people like Well of course Bach is a great influence on anybody that studies you know
from the point of view of a baseline. It almost gives it such a solid grounding in the whole structures also.
That's right my back trying to think for two voices. And two voices. Do you make use of box sort of contrapuntal technique. Yes we have a right in which. We stay. A little bit unusual in this day and time of the. Writing in this kind of 17th century contrapuntal technique. Yes but
it crops up occasionally I mean in the 30s. Temple I think all goes to. Using the older technique but applying to it a contemporary sort of using jazz techniques. Will find that kind of phrasing. This is. Sort of yes to this.
I want to see more jazz. I'M TAKING OFF ON THERE IS ACTUALLY THE BLUES. It's in the minor instead of in the Major and. Baseline.
Forming the basis for the counterpoint construction. Now you say that you'd like to see more jazz fields created simply because you'd like to see a closer tie between jazz and the classics or because of the basic nature of the form itself. Well it's a little both village a very good question. Certainly I would like to see a greater liaison between classical and jazz. Most of my life is devoted to this. When we make records we have. Very classical in construction. Now the other thing about the form. Do I want to say more because of the nature of the beast
the form of jazz. I certainly do because with few small combinations and the pots written out individually this would make for more linear writing. Then present. The improvised lines in the earlier jazz are not always carefully conceived to be. Well they weren't always the most desirable harmony for what they were they were fine they weren't meant to be anything classical in construction. But two or three or four voices moving and each voice written we would have somewhat the same idea as the original jazz. It would sound improvised and yet it would be more perfect than anything which is improvised because it's the fact that it was written in its own because it is not like it has been worked on this.
This begins us on one area that I did want to explore at least a little bit and that is your own working methods of approaching you and whether it's one of your own or somebody else's. And fitting it for your own use with the quintet do you first sort of noodle to the tune of the piano for yourself deciding on what's going to happen to it. Do you hear these things in your mind without having to sit out of the piano. Well I used to hear them in my mind without sitting down the piano. Well then this would be built on your own training your training in harmony and that's right. And I did an original composition. I called kind of cute and I heard that with this kind of. Separation Yes. I conceived of that. Maybe a flute based either by this. Three octave thing.
Then the quintet. But in order to avoid that simple. Lack of use with the piano now plays. Some slight extraneous chords. Yes. This is the differentiation between an up tempo medium tempo jazz time about loud or loud ballad almost of conception would be pretty much the same. But as we were saying knowing or hearing one of these things in your head to begin with is a product of a long and diversified training.
What would you suggest for a young person who was interested in going into the field of composing or arranging in jazz. Your recommendation for the kind of training they should undertake. Well judging by the standards of music today first of all the well-known top ten. I suppose my first recommend would be don't do it. But if you feel that you would eat a hamburger rather than a steak and be happy then study jazz and classical music currently. Yes so that you do not get a one sided conception because all types of tunes exist. Jazz tunes commercial tunes intermediate tunes
that demand their own individual interpretation. Harmonic construction. And as we have covered in this conversation the wrong construction for the wrong tune can only denote bad taste bad musical taste and who mind to say what is good taste and what is bad taste. Except that when musical logic prevails the question of good or bad taste is I think self explanatory to a well-trained ear and to a well ordered musical mind. George Shearing on jazz. And here again is our host and commentator for the creative method Lyman Bryson. I was much struck with Mr. sharings term the well ordered musical mind and with his insistence upon the fact that jazz is music and that the relation between jazz
and other kinds of music is simply as a different way of expressing musical ideas. But according to the same melodic logic and according to the same standards of taste. When Mr shearing talks this way one has to remember that he is a composer arranger pianist and leader of a group and this gives a good deal of importance to the fact that he says jazz might be better. Facts he thinks it would be better if it were composed like other kinds of music and not improvised. If a. And instrumentalist says this It has more weight than if a composer said it because naturally a composer Mr. Sharon is a very successful one. Poser would say the jazz would be better if it were more under the control of the creative mind that invents the musical ideas in the first place and puts them into some kind of permanent form instrumental as jazz instrumentalists. I am told tend to resist this thinking that spontaneity and improvisation are
more in the spirit of the jazz medium has to share things that jazz has a relation to the classics which is so logically close that this is not true. He wants more few books read more classical forms written in jazz and above all he says to the young person who wants to be a jazz musician. Buddy the classics after a lot of the classics have become the great musical ideas and the great expressions of musical ideas. And if jazz is to be a creative art on a level with the other kinds of music then it has its sources its its basic inspiration in them. One is struck by the fact that the really distinguished exponents of jazz think of themselves as belonging to the long line of creative musicians which goes back in our tradition at least to the time of the plainsong in the monasteries and that nothing is alien to him and he wants young people as every other of our creative artist has
said he wants young people to be as well-prepared as possible and to bring to this creative art as not only talent but as fine a preparation and as deep a devotion as they are capable of. Next week we'll hear from a great photographer Edward Steichen how the man with the camera goes about his creative activity. Thank you Dr. Bryson. You're very George Shearing the jazz musician as creator one of 10 Conversations furthering our understanding of creativeness in American arts and professions the creative method as recorded by WGBH FM in Boston under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. Producer Jack Dee Summerfield with little in fact you're a bill cabinet's US production associates. This is the National Education already on network.
Creative method
George Shearing on jazz
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents George Shearing discussing successful creative methods for performing jazz.
Series Description
This companion series for The Creative Mind presents radio essays on a creative activity by an outstanding representative of that activity. Dr. Lyman Bryson hosts.
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Guest: Shearing, George
Host: Bryson, Lyman, 1888-1959
Interviewer: Cavness, Bill
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-55-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:21
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Chicago: “Creative method; George Shearing on jazz,” 1964-10-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “Creative method; George Shearing on jazz.” 1964-10-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Creative method; George Shearing on jazz. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from