I recognize that this raises a very challenging re-description of our understanding of “adaptation” and may not be appropriate for our current course, but I’d like to hear whether any of you might find this a productive direction to take our discussions, later in the semester.
After coming out of a concert this weekend, I realized that there are two areas of “adaptation” that we’ve not so far included in the syllabus and are missing from the Hutcheon book: musical variations on a theme and (jazz) improvisations. Both assume that there is some central identifying text/motif/formula and that the critical issue is measuring how far a composer/performer can wander from that center and “adapt” it to a new context. In some cases (e.g., Coltrane) the navigation away from the core can be very complex and it may be very difficult to keep the core in mind and to predict when the performer is about to return to the central node. In some variations (e.g., the Beethoven “Diabelli” or the Bach “Goldberg”) the theme can be stated quite simply at the beginning and we then have to follow the series of adaptations that follow. But in other cases, the theme may be held in abeyance and not be fully or expansively presented until later in the sequence (e.g., the “Nimrod” variation in the Elgar “Enigma” variations, or the variation no. 18 in the Rachmaninoff variations on a theme by Paganini). I wonder, does this “delayed” full statement ever occur in jazz improvisation or do we always expect to get the basic statement before the adaptation?