The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 27th

Graduate students bring jazz lecturer to campus

A professional saxophone and electric bass player, author, and Yale University professor, Veal will provide an analysis of a unique style of jazz music in his lecture.

The lecture is part of UNC music department’s Carolina Symposia in Music and Culture Series, a program run by graduate students seeking to bring diverse speakers to campus.

“We were looking for speakers that seemed really interesting and we hadn’t had someone come in recently who talked about popular music or music from Africa, and that’s something professor Veal has written well on,” said Ph.D. candidate in musicology William Robin.

“He does work on jazz, on blues, on the relationships between African American music and African music, and seemed to be a really engaging choice to bring to campus,” Robin said.

Veal has traveled the world giving lectures, but today marks his first time in Chapel Hill. He will discuss the research he plans to publish on famous jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and his development of ‘free jazz.’

“Coltrane’s late music is very controversial,” Veal said. “There is still a very strong difference of opinion of people that value that music and people that don’t value that music. I’m trying to clear away some of the emotionalism of the topic and look at what’s really happening inside the music.”

Veal said in his later years, Coltrane started what would later be called free jazz, which operates under different rules than traditional jazz. He works to translate this untraditional style into a musical language that works from spaces, shapes and surfaces.

“We don’t really have an analytical language of that music,” Veal said. “What I’m doing, in an egg shell, is throwing out ideas about how we can talk about this music to understand what’s going on.”

The committee of graduate students, which includes Robin, is excited to hear Veal’s new research.

“We were all familiar with his work which we really enjoyed — his biography, “Fela: The Life and Times Of An African Musical Icon” — as well his other work,” Robin said.

“A couple of faculty members, when we proposed his name, said it would be a great choice, so that really pushed us forward to speak with him,” he said.

Music department Communications Coordinator Ben Haas said the Symposia Series is a unique opportunity created by the graduate students to get involved in their field early.

“Bringing in leading music scholars from other universities allows grad students the opportunity to build connections within their field, and all students the chance to encounter cutting edge research in music in an interpersonal way,” he said.

Veal said he is excited to come to Chapel Hill for the first time and hopes students will be open to a new way of thinking about a unique form of jazz by one of the greatest jazz artists.


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