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Augusta on Jazz Influences on her Work

Quoting Augusta Read Thomas on jazz influences in her work
and on her personal term: "CAPTURED IMPROVISATION":


"My favorite moment in any piece of music is that of maximum risk and striving. Whether the venture is tiny or large, loud or soft, fragile or strong, passionate, erratic, or eccentric — the moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul!"

"All art that I cherish has elements of order, mystery, love, recklessness, and desperation. For me, music must be alive and jump off the page and out of the instrument as if something big is at stake."

"It is clear, in all my works, that I have been listening to jazz for 30 years. I am not a composer who does empty-headed "cross-over" jazz pieces- where the jazz bits make all the jazzer"s blush with embarrassment.... rather, there is a deeply integrated and digested set of references and perfumes which can be sensed. That"s all I mean — set of references and perfumes — I am certainly not implying that I am a Jazz artist, nor anything of the sort."

"Although my music is highly notated, precise, carefully structured —and proportioned, etc.... and you may have 80 to 100 musicians all working elegantly together —from my specific text....I like my music to have the fee ling that it is organically being self propelled on the spot. Like we, the audience, were overhearing A CAPTURED IMPROVISATION. Comes from all my Jazz listening. I like my music to be played so that the "inner-life" of the different rhythmic syntaxes are specific, with characterized phrasing of the music- keeping it very alive —so it has a spontaneous energy — always within the frame work of the sublime, utterly precise TECHNICAL MASTERY OF THE MUSICIANS that is needed to play the notations. For this, I deeply thank the musicians who play my music."

Stephen Brookes, The Washington Post [on DANCING HELIX RITUALS]
"The standout piece was Augusta Read Thomas's Dancing Helix Rituals from 2006. It's a dance, certainly — but a wild, driving, exhilarating dance that hurtled out of the gate and built into a riot of jazzy rhythms and colorful gestures. Like all good rituals, it was intoxicating — and the trio brought it off with a fine, eloquent frenzy."

Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News [on HELIOS CHOROS I]
"...a logical connection: Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Helios Choros I is a brightly scored, and made much of jazzy figures."

Alan Rich, Los Angeles Weekly [on CANTICLE WEAVING]
"Some of the concerto teeters on the edge of jazziness, and does so quite nicely."

Clarence Fanto, The Berkshire Eagle [on SCAT]
"Scat employs some gestures and elements typical of jazz, but comes across as a free-form, propulsive chamber work infused with tightly-coiled energy. The Walden performers successfully captured the improvisational spirit of the eight-minute work. Thomas has created a fascinating piece that honors the jazz tradition while avoiding imitative "crossover" techniques. Scat is well worth additional hearings."

John von Rhein, The Chicago Tribune [on AURORA]
"...bits of Bartok, Webern and Messiaen here, a quasi-jazz riff there."