Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Music
Marty Ehrlich brings a wealth of musical experience as a composer, performer, ensemble leader, and creative collaborator to his teaching work at Hampshire. He has been centered in New York City since 1978, performing internationally with his diverse ensembles. His compositions are represented on 30 different recordings of these groups, including the recent "A Trumpet In the Morning" for Jazz Orchestra on New World Records.
As a multi-instrumentalist passionate about improvisation and interpretation, he has performed with a who’s who of contemporary composers including Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette, Anthony Davis, Mark Dresser, Chico Hamilton, Julius Hemphill, Andrew Hill, Robin Holcomb, Myra Melford, George Russell, and John Zorn. He appears on more than 100 recordings with these and other composers.
Ehrlich's work moves across historical styles and cultural boundaries, with an active engagement with other artistic mediums. Ehrlich has performed with the Chicago Symphony, the BBC Symphony, the New York City Opera, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Northwest, and other classical ensembles. He has toured with the Jose Limón and Bill T. Jones dance companies, among others. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Composition, the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist Residency at Harvard University, composition grants from Chamber Music America, the NEA, and NYFA, “Clarinetist of the Year” from the Jazz Journalist Association, and a Distinguished Alumni award from the New England Conservatory of Music, from which he graduated in 1977.
This semester, our ensemble course will jump into the wide road of the African-American music continuum at the whistle stops commonly called Funk and Rhythm and Blues. As musical artists, we will look to meet its rigorous standards of performance practice. From there, we will look at the connections, the ways this philosophy of the groove has informed so much spiritual, political, and cultural creativity in America and across the world. This ensemble course includes weekly practice, individual and in groups, as well as readings and written assignments. We will present a concert at the end of the semester. This course is open to all instrumentalists and singers. There will be an informal audition for the ensemble the Tuesday before the first day of classes.
This class builds upon the work done in Tonal Theory I. We will continue the process of understanding and using basic chromatic harmony, in ways connected to both Jazz and Classical music continuums. Composition assignments will be included along the way as we assimilate new theoretical knowledge. We will look to enrich how we hear musical language, and how we understand musical syntax, where form and language intersect. The course involves weekly homework of an additive nature, periodic quizzes for diagnostic purposes, listening and concert assignments, and two final composition projects.
This is a course where we look to grow collectively into a dynamic performance ensemble. Our work culminates in a final concert at the end of the semester. Full attendance is crucial to the work of this class. Within the ensemble, each student will be encouraged to develop her or his skills as an interpretive musician and as an improvising soloist. All instruments, including voice, are welcome. We look to engage a pan-stylistic, pan-historical, celebratory approach to the African-American musical continuum. This semester we will focus on the work of Thelonious Monk and of Charles Mingus, two musical masters whose creative work defined just that approach. The course requires rehearsal and practice time outside of the weekly class meetings. An independent research project will be assigned based on historical study and musical analysis. Informal auditions for the Jazz Improvisation Orchestra will be held on Tuesday evening, January 19th to set the instrumentation of the ensemble. (The first class will be held on Tuesday Jan. 26th.) Information on this audition will be sent to all students registered for the course. Second year and above students are given preference in the make-up of the ensemble. Please contact Professor Ehrlich with your questions.
This "comprovisation" course will look to the inspiration of the poetic for our creative work. What a huge subject! Here are our limitations. We will do a series of composition assignments where we each set the same poetic text, but with diverse musical languages. We will be studying how masterful composer/improvisers, from Franz Schubert to Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell to George Crumb, and many more, have set and interacted with words. We will work on the technical challenges and possibilities of writing for the voice. We will compose for the instruments in our class, and for our voices. We will work on in-the-moment improvisation with words and music. We each will aim to engage a complexity of musical styles, and of cultural lineages, using a range of notational and improvisational methodologies. We will write some settings as songs, but we will not be using our own lyrics. (In this regard, this course will differ from a songwriting class.) We will have the opportunity to write a work for guest professional singer(s) with both Afro-American and Euro-American, classical and jazz performance practices.
The Improvisor's Laboratory:This is a class for musicians interested in developing their expressive and creative skills through improvisation. It is open to all instrumentalists, including voice and electronics. It is open to students from any musical background. You will be challenged to expand your instrumental vocabulary, and to use these languages in a context of collective improvisation. We will look at improvisational music making from a multitude of angles, breaking it down and putting it together again. This is an intensive course, requiring weekly rehearsals outside of class with small groups, listening and reading assignments involving periodic papers, and compositional exercises. Familiarity with traditional musical notation is required, as we will be exploring the role notated elements play in an improvisational work. We will be giving a final concert of the musical pieces you develop during the semester.
Duke Ellington spoke of certain musicians and the music they made as being "beyond category." How can we listen to music across the breadth and length of American music to hear this? Our listening and reading will move backwards and forwards in historical time, and will question easily defined ideas of musical style and genre. Our curiosity will be aimed at how these musical streams cross and interact. We will look to engage the sense of radical possibility the artists themselves brought to their work. Along the way, we will ask some critical questions about the expressive power of music. How does a work of art function within its historical moment (politics and culture), how does it function within itself (aesthetics and philosophy), and how do all these forces interact? We will engage a number of different approaches to writing about music in the class assignments. A background in music performance is not required for this course, but music making may well become part of it.