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A Musical Life

A Musical Life: William Flynn

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This edition of A Musical Life originally aired on May 15, 2015.


William Flynn is assistant professor of jazz guitar at Wichita State University. He is involved in a variety of jazz-based musical ensembles including Driver, Friendly Skeleton, and The Songbook Project.

“One analogy that’s used a lot in jazz improvisation education is the language analogy. It’s kind of overused but it’s overused because it’s such a good analogy to make.

We’re having a conversation right now. We’re not inventing new words. We’re not reinventing grammar, syntax. We’re using the rules of speech that we both know and that we both have learned. That’s kind of like the chords, scales, arpeggios within Western music—the stuff that everyone learns and that stuff that basically all of this stuff is based in.

The improvisation part comes in the fact that we’re both having a conversation about something—about a similar topic. So you could draw the analogy between that and the song that everyone’s playing. Everyone’s playing the same song, everyone knows what the topic of conversation is. The improvisation going on is that you’re using words that you’ve used before; you’re using the letters, the syntax, the grammar. You’re not necessarily inventing on the spot but you’re using it in a new way based on what’s going on in that conversation about that particular topic.”

Hear William Flynn with the William Flynn Group: http://williamflynn.bandcamp.com/