Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Emily McClay
Title Parker, Kerouac, and Innovative Sound: The Rhythms of Bebop in Beat Writing
Department Music & English
Advisors Stephen Siek, Rick Incorvati, and Gwen Scheffel
Year 2007
Honors University Honors
Full Text View Thesis (354 KB)
Abstract Charlie Parker, as one of the main innovators of bebop, had an obvious impact on the Beat poets. Parker's innovations in bebop can clearly be seen as an influence on Beat writers and on Jack Kerouac especially, both in his writing and in his method of writing. Kerouac's new jazz-writing style, in turn, influenced many writers of his generation. The concept of bebop's spontaneous improvisation and the sounds it produced, both on intellectual and emotional levels and as a representation of a vibrant form of rebellion, had a radical impact on the sound of a generation of writers. The spontaneity in sound, and the uniqueness of each bebop solo as it occurs in the moment, was emulated in writing by listeners like Kerouac. Likewise, in Beat writing, it becomes important for the reader to respond to the emotions being conveyed by the sound and rush of the words on the page. It was also important that the listener. and reader. be rooted in musical traditions, as bebop musicians and beat writers, despite the seemingly meaningless technical virtuosity and spontaneity of their music and poetry, often quoted other works and composers as well as thematic ideas from other pieces. Kerouac's unique sound became a way of identifying his voice in a similar way that Parker's innovative use of rhythm characterized and typified his music. Although each was heavily influenced by others in various traditions, as well as by the time period in which they lived, they emerged with styles unique enough to revolutionize both the music and the literary world.

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