They are just like life itself. They are symbiotic and connect different parts of your life. They can connect you with everything. That’s what life does. That’s what jazz and fiction do too.
Life demands a state of mind. Everyone is praised with life, but understanding its qualities and knowing how to use them, is a totally different matter. Understanding life, living your life the way you want it to be lived, for that you have to be in a state of mind. Life – for life you have to be in a state of mind.
There are different ways to express a state of mind. Art is one of these expressions. Through art we live life and express ourselves creatively and find a release. We express forms of life, whether it is with colours, sounds, words, or anything else. Although there are many different ways to express creativity, they all have life in them as the driving force. Life is a state of mind and you can express it.
Jazz and fiction are different forms to express life. Although they seem very different, they bare many similarities within them. The one is made of sounds, and the other is made of words. The one is music and the other is writing – jazz and fiction. Both are undeniably creative expressions of life.
Fiction is more than a mere reflection of life. Without knowing life, without living life, there wouldn’t be any stories, nothing to write about. Life generates stories. But jazz too. Where does jazz come from? From black America? It comes from life. Jazz is an expression of life just like any other creative outlet. It simply uses sounds instead of paint or words. But jazz can tell its own story. The sound of Miles Davis’ trumpet can cry in our ears just like a Shakespearean sonnet we read in a book.
Both generate and express emotions within us. They tell stories simply by different means. But exactly that makes it interesting. The question though is: how do they relate to each other?
Jazz and fiction don’t seem to be combinable immediately. But there are some striking similarities between them. The combination is appealing, but not in the sense of adapting them from one format to another, but rather in the sense of creating a symbiosis, just like in life. Jazz can tell stories. Fiction can be musical.
Fiction is often constructed, well thought through, revisited, edited, and so on. That’s how the desired sound of words is created. Jazz on the other hand works differently. It is spontaneous and unreliable, just like a narrator can be unreliable. Just imagine a story can be unreliable, which is not too hard to imagine, is it?
Fiction can also incorporate jazz. Not only as a theme in the background, not just as a colouring of the text. But also during the writing process itself.
A jazz novel – Toni Morrison’s Jazz comes to mind. She created a jazz composition in her writing, as instruments become characters and perform an improvised solo. The book itself becomes the musical composition that consists of individual and unreliable performances forming the whole piece.
But jazz can be more.
Just imagine you want to describe a writer’s style and someone says “jazzy”. How can a writing style be jazzy? What does “jazzy” really mean? An unreliable quality? An improvisation of words? The dictionary would suggest adjectives like bright, colourful, eye-catching, strong, brilliant, striking, exciting and stimulating. Those are adjectives that one can attribute easier to authors. Have you never read a book that took you by surprise, a narrative that gripped you instantly with its vivid imagery, a story that stroke you as smart but also exhilarating? That’s jazzy.
I believe that jazz and fiction are combinable in many different aspects. A writer can incorporate jazz on the story level, as it simply could be a story about jazz itself. Perhaps it might be a story about a jazz singer, a musician or a jazz club. In that case jazz would be the colouring of the narrative. It would continuously linger on the background. But that is not the only way jazz can be become a substantial part in writing. Jazz can be also a theme in the narrative. Through various techniques and stylistic elements jazz can be melted into the writing. Jazz musicians often experiment with solos, mixing up different styles and express empathy. Notes can be translated into words, metaphorically speaking, and one might catch the jazz.
Jazz, just as writing, is all about practice. However, there is another option, another possibility of how jazz can be an integral part of the whole of the writing. Jazz more than writing is about the now; about being in the moment. Instead of a highly constructed text, an author could write an improvised text. Not really like in creative writing classes, in which one is assigned a topic to write about. It is rather the initiation of a fluid form of writing. Imagine one catches the jazz, just like flu. As for example, one is possessed by jazz, literally taken by the spirit of the music. That is another form of jazz writing, in which jazz stands at the beginning rather than in the end of the process.
The combination of jazz and writing might seem strange at first, but once contemplated, one can see the similarities between them. There are already a few existing examples in which jazz and fiction were combined. I already mentioned Toni Morrison’s Jazz, but there are others. Michael Ondaatje’s Coming through Slaughter is a fictionalisation of Buddy Bolden’s life. The novel uses the style of jazz in the writing, as the author combines often unrelated and unpredictable scene into the main narrative. Other novels simply connect jazz to the story itself, like Roddy Doyle’s Oh, Play that Thing, but they are nonetheless interesting explorations of jazz and fiction.
The combination of jazz and fiction really is an exploration. It opens up possibilities between different genres and provides the opportunity to combine different media into one. It is not a matter of adaptation, but rather a symbiosis between music and writing, between jazz and fiction.