Guided Listening #5: Overlapping Influences

For this Guided Listening you will need the following:

A copy of these teaching steps
Text asset: Michael Colgrass, Delta
Audio asset: Excerpt II of Divertimento No. 6 by John Weinzweig
Audio asset: Excerpt of Delta by Michael Colgrass
All assets are provided below.

I. First Impressions

  • Listen to the audio asset Excerpt II of Divertimento No. 6 by John Weinzweig. Notice the saxophone. What genre of music do you most often hear the saxophone playing? Does this sound like jazz? What parts do? What parts don't?
  • Share the following quote:

"…jazz and swing elements have become the important elements of my works...[a]bout the only time I go out to hear music is when Harry Somers and I drop in at the Colonial Tavern to hear some good jazz." John Weinzweig, Canadian Composer, April 1975

  • Provide a quick description of the Colonial Tavern, an important centre for jazz in Toronto in the late 1970s. Located on Yonge Street near Queen (since demolished) it hosted many famous musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Oscar Peterson and Jeff Healey.
  • Ask: Can you hear the influence of Weinzweig's time spent listening at the Colonial Tavern?

II. Identify

  • Listen to the audio excerpt of Delta by Michael Colgrass.
  • Notice how:
    • In this section jazz and modern classical shift and at times overlap almost like changing scenes in a movie.
  • Ask: What effect does this back and forth have? How is the back and forth different from when the two styles overlap?
  • Write the words "New Eclecticism" on the board and tell them that this is a term used to describe the composition category that Colgrass is sometimes placed in. Based on what they have heard in the excerpt of Delta, can they make a supported guess at what they think the term means?
    • After students have had time to share a few guesses, read the text asset: Michael Colgrass, Delta for the answer. Check with students: Do you understand what "New Eclecticism" is? How close was your guess?

III. Reflect

  • Discuss: What are your favourite two styles of music? What would they sound like together?

Michael Colgrass, Delta
Michael Colgrass (b. 1932) began his musical career in Chicago as a jazz drummer. He also studied Western composition at the University of Illinois and has spent his life living and working in both the United States and Canada. He has been placed in a movement called The New Eclecticism because of his combination of jazz with various non-traditional Western compositional techniques. In Delta, composed in 1979, Colgrass often layers these two styles so that they are being heard at the same time. The combination is a very sincere portrayal of his background and interests. Delta was first performed in by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 1979.

Excerpt III from Divertimento No. 6 by John Weinzweig (0:00:52)

Excerpt III from Divertimento No. 6 by John Weinzweig - Play now

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Here, at the beginning of his sixth divertimento, the saxophone solo displays Weinzweig’s love of jazz rhythms and virtuosic playing. The solo flourishes are balanced by solemn twelve-tone string sections.

Excerpt from Delta by Michael Colgrass (0:01:22)

Excerpt from Delta by Michael Colgrass - Play now

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Michael Colgrass’ Delta is influenced by a variety of genres. Here, in the early half of this composition for orchestra, he switches between the use of jazzy swirling clarinet and muted trumpets, to a solemn violin solo with sparse accompaniment reminiscent of Schoenberg.

Credits and Copyright

  • Audio Asset: Excerpt from Divertimento No. 6 by John Weinzweig
    1972, John Weinzweig
  • Audio Asset: Excerpt from Delta by Michael Colgrass
    Excerpt 1972, John Weinzweig
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