Professor Emeritus 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.
All the great jazz composers/improvisers have found an individualized voice within the collective ethos of the blues form, language, and sensibility. The range of innovative and expressive work within this form is one of the glories of the music. This semester we will perform repertoire from the whole lineage, traditional and re-constructed, looking backwards and forward. Students will be challenged to heighten their skills as improvisers and as ensemble musicians. Our goal is a final ensemble concert. A commitment to weekly practice and study on your instrument is an important part of this course. There are listening and writing components as well, connecting to the repertoire and history we will be exploring.
How do we hear when we compose? How can we hear more? Improvisation and musical notation are tools we use in generating and extending our ideas and feelings. We will compose music each week, using a progression of compositional prompts that we workshop in class. This work will lead to a multi-sectional final composition. Our focus will be on both through- composed, fully notated works, and works that involve improvisation in their structure. Each student will present an in-class study of an individual work or creative artist, with a set of compositional questions as a guide. We will write primarily on the instrumentation of the class, as well as for invited artists.
This is a performance course, in which we engage repertoire and methodologies from the rich worlds of African-American and African-diasporic musics. A prime goal of our work will focus directly on rhythmic acuity, sharpening our sense of rhythmic feel and swing. We will work both in small groups and in the full Orchestra of the class. Weekly rehearsal time outside of class is required. We each will research an artist of inspiration on our instrument, looking at how their musical work was shaped by the world around them, and how it in turn shaped worlds to come. We will aim to grow as improvisers, individually and collectively, and to present an accomplished and creative final concert. This course is open to all instruments, and to voice.
Throughout its history, the artists who innovated the music called Jazz have given both voice and vision to creating new spaces of possibility within African-American culture. The music and its artists have both supported social movements, and inspired cultural change with ideas of radical imagination, often against great societal obstacles. As a musical art form, it has spread across the planet, with its artists welcomed and celebrated throughout the world. In this tutorial, we will read and listen, discuss and respond with critical writing and creative work to the music and its practitioners, throughout its history to the present day.