Corey Mwamba


Re-inventing the rhapsody

Thinking aloud and in a very incomplete sense about the connections between improvised music and rhapsodic form.

My thinking started [as most things do] from thinking about the music Dave, Josh and I make; and also the solo gig I did on Saturday in Nottingham. The work has a narrative flow—at least, I feel it does and intend it to—and emotional shifts within one piece. This in itself strongly allies it to rhapsodic work. This is a reframing of an old idea—the connection of jazz to griots and jeli is well over fifty years old. All I'm doing is expanding it—the skalds of Scandinavia and the rhapsodes of ancient Greece all had similar functions.

In Western through-composed music, the rhapsody is described as a piece with various emotional shifts written in the style of an improvisation. My suggestion is that in improvised music we have been and are actively extending and re-inventing this form: we are all rhapsodists.