Why not jazz?

People often ask me whether I've done animated graphical scores of jazz music and, if not, why not.

I've done some animations of jazz-influenced or jazz-like pieces, like these ...

  • Malinowski, Jazz Listening Exercise #2
  • Harrington, BlueStrider
  • Malinowski, Fantasy in F
  • ... and if you want to extend the definition of "jazz" to include its precursors like ragtime, there are these ...

  • Joplin, Heliotrope Bouquet
  • Joplin, The Entertainer
  • Joplin, Palm Leaf Rag
  • ... but the real answer is no.

    There are several reasons for this:

    Copyright    Almost all jazz compositions and recordings of jazz performances are protected by copyright. I'd most like to work with jazz recordings that are fairly well-known, both because more people would be interested in them and because it's easier to learn from my animations if you're already somewhat familiar with the music (because then you can focus your attention on things that you hadn't be aware of before), but the license fees to use these recordings are prohibitive (if you'd like to help out by underwriting these costs, please read this). I've approached some jazz artists I know personally to see whether they'd like to let me use their work, but so far that hasn't worked out.

    Score    My animations are based on a notated score, and since jazz is improvised, the score would have to be transcribed from the recording—a difficult and time-consuming task (which I'm not especially qualified to do, which means I'd need to hire somebody; see Underwriting).

    Percussion    Percussion plays a big part in much jazz, and in addition to being difficult to transcribe accurately from recordings, it's something I don't have much experience in representing graphically in a meaningful way (visualizing percussion instruments is a "whole 'nother" life's work that somebody could take up).

    Familiarity    I do my best work on music I know well, because I have a good sense of what's important, and what a listener can benefit from having clarified, highlighted, or explained; I don't understand jazz as well as I understand some other genres of music.

    That said ...

    That said, I would really like to do some animations of jazz. It would be an interesting challenge, I would learn from it, and even if the results weren't as good as with music I know better and have more appropriate tools for, they might be worth something. So, if you know jazz performers who would like to collaborate with me, please encourage them to consider that.