Cultivating a Unique Musical Idiolect Within Jazz Improvisation

Paul Williamson (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formMusic PerformanceResearch


How can jazz practitioners cultivate musical idiolect through examining their decision-making processes within jazz improvisation?

This research investigates the cultivation of a musical idiolect over a five-year span by examining decision-making processes within jazz improvisation from a participant-observer perspective. The term ‘idiolect’ is used by music researchers such as Moore and Ibrahim (2005) and Pareyon (2009) to describe a performers unique sonic identity.
The research aim was to document transformative change in my improvisational language and musical identity. Four areas were targeted for mapping idiolect across multiple performances: extended techniques, polyrhythms, phrasing and timbre.

This research is innovative in its longitudinal nature of examining and developing musical idiolect within jazz improvisation. The performances revealed new understandings of existing knowledge on how a musical idiolect can be individuated, by demonstrating that personal idiolect can be cultivated by the choices made in selecting, shaping, and expressing existing language.
The use of a generative Iterative Loop Cycle methodology (Gander), comprising iteration, selection, transcription and replication phases, led to the identification of idiolect patterns and habits in the four target areas of my improvisation. This methodological approach is an important heuristic avenue for future research by music performers.

The research excellence was evidenced in reviews acknowledging a unique idiolect, including in The Australian (4.5 stars), The New York City Jazz Record, Loudmouth and Extempore. Performances at prestigious festivals, including the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival (China) and the Taichung International Jazz Festival (Taiwan), highlight the prestige and recognition of performance quality.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputCD
SizeRecordings: 272 minutes & Concerts: 960 minutes
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • jazz
  • improvisation
  • musical idiolect
  • performance

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