Third Stream - Earlier Fusion Attempts

Earlier Fusion Attempts

Schuller suggested that a similar fusion was made by Béla Bartók, who earned great acclaim after incorporating elements of Hungarian folk music into his music, which had earlier been heavily influenced by Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss.

Attempts to integrate jazz and classical music began in the early 1900s almost as soon as the former became recognised as a distinct style of music. Some Ragtime music drew upon classical music, and symphonic pieces such as George Gershwin's 1924 Rhapsody In Blue blended jazz and symphonic music. The piece La création du monde by French composer Darius Milhaud includes jazz-inspired elements, including a jazz fugue. Igor Stravinsky drew upon jazz for several compositions, such as "Ragtime", "Piano-rag Rag Music" and "The Ebony Concerto" (the latter composed for jazz clarinetist Woody Herman and his orchestra in 1945). Other notable composers who utilized jazz elements in at least a few compositions include Maurice Ravel, Bohuslav Martinů, Paul Hindemith, William Grant Still, George Antheil, Aaron Copland, Ernst Krenek, Kurt Weill, Dmitri Shostakovich, Morton Gould, and Leonard Bernstein. Though few of these examples can be strictly classified as Third Stream as they do not involve improvisation, they do demonstrate that there was widespread mutual interest and appreciation between the jazz and classical traditions.

Much of Duke Ellington's work has often been recognized as being among the early efforts to blend the elements associated with both genres. His music has been described as sharing characteristics with that of classical composers such as Delius, Debussy, and Ravel, particularly in impressionistic mood pieces such as "Mood Indigo," "Dusk," and "Reflections in D," as well as in more extended composed works such as "Creole Rhapsody," "Reminiscing in Tempo," and "The Tattooed Bride." These tendencies were also shared by his frequent co-composer Billy Strayhorn.

Pianist Art Tatum drew upon elements of classical technique and recorded jazz versions of short pieces by European composers such as Antonín Dvořák, Jules Massenet, and Anton Rubinstein.

Another important jazz-classical fusion was Artie Shaw's "Interlude in B-flat," recorded in 1935 with the most unusual ensemble of a string quartet, a jazz rhythm section, and Shaw on clarinet and saxophone.

Much of Charles Mingus's oeuvre before and after the coining of the term "Third Stream" parallels Schuller's idea. Indeed, the title of Mingus' two-part album Jazzical Moods (1955), a blend of "jazz" and "classical," may have helped to inspire Schuller; the two men were also friends.

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