Writing Assignment: All That Jazz

by Randy Murray on December 2, 2011

Louis Armstrong said, “Man if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.”

There are some things that are next to impossible to describe with words. Not impossible, just pretty damn close to it.

There’s even a quote: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” And the quote itself is popular enough that it’s close to impossible to figure out who first said it.

But describing, writing, isn’t the thing itself. You can write about music, you just have to remember that writing about music isn’t the same as making music or listening to it, experiencing it. Writing about something can be about the emotions and sensations experiencing it produces. It can be about your specific point of view. It can be about the thoughts, the images, the impact.

Satchmo may be right. If you want to talk about jazz, you’ve signed up for a climb to the summit of Mt. Everest. Without oxygen.

Jazz is a fundamentally American art form, one that speaks to virtually all people, everywhere. Jazz and the Blues are the roots of pretty much all modern popular music, and yet, it’s something much more. Jazz is elusive. It takes great skill, and yet is explosively improvisational. It has deep roots, yet it defies being fixed and categorized. It shifts, moves, and changes.

And it’s the topic for today’s assignment.

For today’s writing assignment, listen to a selection of jazz music. It can be recorded or live. But listen. Hear it. Think.

And then write. You can write directly about it, critiquing the performance or composition. You can write about yourself and what the experience was like for you. Or you can simply write what the music inspires in you.

Whatever you write, look for the rhythms, the harmony and dissonance, and follow the trails blazed by the musicians. Let your writing breathe, take on a life of its own. See where it takes you.

Just assume the groove, and blow.


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The Writing Assignment: All That Jazz by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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