The Importance of Creative Listening Musical Production

Not directly related to my Zappa work, but I have just submitted an abstract for a book chapter on the importance of listening when engaging in musical creativity. The info is copied below, and at some point it would be interesting to apply what I have learned to the listening practices of Zappa and his band. As always – interested in any thoughts anyone has.


An Emic and Etic Analysis Of The Impact Of Creative Listening When Recording And Performing With The James Taylor Quartet

Dr Paul Carr

University of Glamorgan


This chapter proposes to explore the creative listening roles employed by myself and other band members when working with the ‘Acid Jazz’ ensemble The James Taylor Quartet (JTQ). The chapter will specifically focus on the years 1989 – 1990, during which time the band recorded their 2nd album Get Organized (Polydor Records 1989) in addition to undertaking several European tours, releasing two mini albums, a promotional video and a single. It is proposed that my dual role today as both an ex band member and academic will enable a unique opportunity to analyse factors such as the impact of creative listening on the progressive development of compositions, arrangements, productions and performance paradigms. Gioia’s (1988) comment that ‘jazz musicians cannot look ahead at what [they are] going to play, but can look behind at what [they] have just done’[1] is pertinent, and this chapter will apply this philosophy by including my own and others reflections on the creative listening process. As noted by Keith Sawyer (2007), ‘all innovations result from a collaborate web’, and the epistemological means through which listening is an essential aspect in the group creative process will be discussed, drawing on personal reflection, interviews with colleagues and academic insights from the likes of Copeland,[2] Cahn,[3] Sawyer [4] and Clarke.[5] At the moment, it is envisaged that the chapter will be constructed to progressively examine research questions that have particular relevance for performing musicians/composers, including –


  • How do musicians employ listening to recreate ‘pastiche’ sounds of the past?
  • How and why do musicians incorporate listening skills to integrate authenticity into their work by ensuring specific sounds, styles, production techniques and performance conventions comply with the canon?
  • How does creative listening impact group composition and performance activities?
  • How does creative listening impact group and individual improvisation?


As JTQ have a wide range of commercial recordings from this period, both live and studio based, the chapter will also include textual and phenomenological analysis of specific compositions, arrangements, productions and improvisations.


[1] Ken N. Kamoche, Miguel Pina e Cunha, and João Vieira da Cunha, Organizational improvisation (Routledge, 2002), p.55.

[2] Aaron Copland, Music and imagination (Harvard University Press, 1980).

[3] William L. Cahn, Creative music making (Routledge, 2005).

[4] Robert Keith Sawyer, Group genius (Westview Press, 2007).

[5] Eric F. Clarke, Ways of listening (Oxford University Press US, 2005).

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s