Photo: Number 52. Jackson Pollock 1950

Pattern Making
and Breaking

Hearing the order and chaos in jazz

Jazz music is based on ideas of improvisation within structure. Often described as a craft, many musicians intensely study basic jazz patterns and forms in order to create a framework with which to create standout freeform improvised elements. Jazz beats are often syncopated – off beat- breaking the formulaic patterns of more traditional music styles.
Jackson Pollock used this to help aid the conception of his lively and abstract pieces. His wife, painter Lee Krasner, said Pollock “would get into grooves of listening to his jazz records – not just for days – day and night, day and night for three days running, until you thought you would climb the roof!”. Pollock used the movement inspired by jazz to create his ‘action’ art – reacting to his bodily urges and subconscious movement.
‘Take Five’ by The Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959) is one of the most well known pieces of jazz to date. Starting with a simple off beat ‘pattern’ the song builds to more dynamic areas and then back to the simple refrain.
"[Recognising] the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people"
UNESCO International Jazz Day
Jazz compositions are often collaborations with soloists improvising against a more structured back beat, or entropic fusions of instruments where listeners and players alike notice waves of unison and dissonance. In this way, jazz has come to be a way of thinking – seeking order and chaos simultaneously. Mondrian recognised the value of jazz, being captured by the “destruction of natural appearance; and construction through continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm”: something which is reflected in his geometric compositions that are simultaneously both abstract and ordered.
Photo: Broadway Boogie Woogie. Piet Mondrian 1942-43
This abstract and order, pattern making and pattern breaking, defines jazz, encouraging creativity and collaboration between musicians and making it one of the most dynamic and vital music forms. It still inspires visual culture and human contemplation today.
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