The Jazz of Writing

Music is one of those things that inherently has an incredible amount of power. It can move people, incite them to action, inspire creation, create moods, dispel fears, and ease pain, to name a few of the vast abilities it possesses. Music’s influence can be as individual as the carefully crafted playlist that hypes you up on your way to work or class, or as broad as that arena concert where you and thousands of others feel the bass beating its way through your bodies and the melody swirling around your collective figures.

Within this fluid and ever-changing experience of music is one particularly intriguing genre: Jazz. Since its inception, jazz has evolved into many different areas. There’s Gypsy Jazz that first arose in France during the 1930s, which combines a dark flavor with heavy swing to create a dramatic and deep series of songs. There’s Bebop Jazz, known for its fast tempo and instrumental variety that keeps a night alive for hours. There’s Afro-Cuban Jazz, which mixes strong rhythms with harmonies and served as the base for today’s Latin Jazz. These are just a few of the many styles that all lay claim to the genre of Jazz; though differing in details, what they have in common is a propensity towards improvisation, the root of this type of music.

Where jazz differs from almost all other genres is that it wholeheartedly embraces the idea of improvising, and never playing a song the same way twice. It’s a beautiful philosophy: there are no mistakes, only new paths created by fresh combinations of music notes. Rather than adhering to strict constraints or the claim that there is only one formula that defines a successful jazz tune, there is freedom to express emotions felt in the moment.

Similar to this genre of music is the empowerment that comes from writing. It is a unique experience for everyone, and is constantly evolving into new areas. There’s poetry, song lyrics, short stories, flash fiction, tweets, blog posts, and a whole host of other avenues that writing follows. And even within those categories are a large array of definitions and meanings; for example, poetry can be described as haikus, slam poetry, odes, prose, etc. The written word is literally a never-ending path.

Given that the definition of “writing” is so broad (and still growing), there needs to be respect and understanding of the personal voice within a piece. In the same way a trumpeter might create a new, slick run of notes during a tune, each writer is forming ideas in their own unique way. This works hand in hand with The Writing Center’s beliefs: the focus is not on altering the writing, because that interferes with a person’s right to their own voice. Instead, the philosophy is to work with the writer to understand better where they see their writing going, and to give writers that freedom to improvise and create new avenues in their work.

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