Tao, Zen & All That Jazz

On November 14th, Dr. John Hanagan shared his insights into the creation of jazz music and its relationship to philosophy. Dr. Hanagan is a dynamic and engaging speaker and he made the topic come alive for the audience. Our journey took us from the lyrics of Lush Life to the final verses of the Tao Te Ching with brief stops to visit The Duke, Billie and the Buddha. It was a wonderful evening for everyone involved and a perfect way to begin this year's Colloquium series.

Explanation of the presentation by Dr. Hanagan:
This presentation comprises a talk and piano demonstration on the use of the jazz idiom to shed light on the tensions in every art--including the art of living--between structure and improvisation, technique and freedom, or in Zen terms, form and emptiness. Using standard Jazz classics, I will show the metric structure of a jazz tune, and how a jazz musician approaches a song in order to explore the many facets of improvisation: melody, harmony, and rhythm. I will then use verses from the Tao Te Ching and other Oriental classics to demonstrate the levels of artistic consciousness. During the presentation, I will play a series of songs to illustrate that structure and technique are not necessarily enemies of Beauty and Soul (although sometimes they can be), but that in its highest expression, jazz blends structure, technique and Aesthetic Wonder, performer and audience, into a unified field where nothing is left but the Music itself.

Center for International Education