Style Sheets


Time Period: 1959 to the present

Origin and definition of the term:
The term "third-stream" was coined by Gunther Schuller in a lecture given in August 1957. It describes a style that is a synthesis of classical music and jazz.

From Jazz:
language, gestures, improvisation, and rhythmic drive

From Classical:
instrumentation (orchestra, string quartet, etc.), forms (fugue, suite, concerto, etc.), and compositional techniques

The lack of success of early attempts in this style was due to a lack of skill and/or lack of understanding on the part of the composer regarding one of the two styles involved (either classical music or jazz). Once composers became equally skilled and knowledgeable about both jazz and classical music, the quality of works in this style rose accordingly.

Most of the pieces in this style fall into one of four categories:
  1. Concerto Grosso types. These combine classical groups with jazz groups and often alternate idioms, i.e., a jazz group playing improvised sections alternating with a classical group playing composed sections
  2. Pieces written for classical groups but which borrow heavily from jazz
  3. Pieces written for jazz groups which use forms, compositional techniques, and other elements from classical music
  4. Pieces which are more thoroughly integrated works in which the two idioms (jazz and classical music) merge in medium (instrumentation), performance practice, compositional/improvisational techniques, etc. The jazz and classical elements are in relatively equal balance.
Some important composers who write in this style are John Lewis, Gunther Schuller, David Baker, and William Russo.

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