Christmas Jazz

Christmas Jazz

Ever heard of Christmas jazz? We don’t usually associate Christmas with jazz. My favourite Christmas jazz musician would be Tigran Hamasyan. Tigran is Armenian, lives in Los Angeles and is one of the most versatile jazz musicians of today. He strings together voice with the most refined piano and radio noise whilst also leading, on occasion, a miraculous jazz band. He sings, makes strange sounds with his larynx, combines folklore with Christian music from as early as the 5th century and replaces voice with piano whilst sometimes performing in old churches, monasteries and ruins.

What makes his jazz so extraordinary is that Tigran Hamasyan is the travesty of music into noise and back, the unfamiliar handling of musical instruments, the polyphonous musical constructions and the light touch that creates unexpected patterns. One long musical performance involves a choir in which one of the voices is replaced by piano. The decor is an old church. The song is sacred, supposedly from before the 5th century, yet the music is fresh and sparkling.

Many years ago I fell in love with a phenomenon that I know well as a visual artist, that of painting myself into a corner. Jazz musicians play themselves into corners when improvisation forces them to re-arrange the score. You see them almost anxiously searching for directions from one another yet there is no director. Then there is a moment when a beautiful new tune emerges from the improvisation and you see the musicians’ eyes opening wide as the public excitedly connects with the new direction. Despite the apparent messiness, the structure of the music stays intact.

The World Campus feels a bit like jazz. The computer screens connect us around the topic of cancer during our meetings. This most tenacious subject is the underlying structure which does not change as we share the emotions through our stories which are calibrated as we speak.

Christmas is when we celebrate the coming of new life. From everyone here at the World Campus, we wish you all a wonderful Christmas – may we string together strands that will give birth to new ideas, new initiatives and…new life!

Jan Gerrit Schuurman

Chair World Campus, Inspire2Live