Jazz Guitarist Jared Tinkham Composes “The Gaze” In Response To COVID-19 Pandemic

Jared Tinkham is one of many jazz artists, composers, arrangers, teachers, bandleaders, and band members who have seen their world come to a complete halt. Staying at home as we endure the COVID-19 pandemic and do our part to protect ourselves and others. Jared is an example of the creative talents we are lucky to have using ingenuity to be expressive with their art.

Tinkham is a young rising star in our jazz community. Performing with several groups, such as the Buffalo Jazz Composers Workshop, and leading his own trio and quartet efforts. He moved to Buffalo from Rochester in 2012 and received his degree from SUNY Buffalo State College in 2015. In 2015, he was hired as the Guitar/Music teacher at Buffalo’s Academy of Visual and Performing Art.

Image may contain: Jared Tinkham, playing a musical instrument, night and guitar

In these few short years, Tinkham established himself in Buffalo as one of the finest jazz guitarists in the area. Working with many prominent local musicians. Jazz fans took notice. In 2015, he was recognized as favorite Jazz Guitar of the Year in the annual JazzBuffalo Poll. And, is consistently voted near the top of the poll every year.

In addition, Tinkham has performed in regional jazz festivals. Including the Northwest Jazz Festival in Historic Lewiston, NY.

A prolific composer of original material, Jared recently composed a spectacular tune reflective of our current time. Entitled “The Gaze,” Tinkham brings together, via digital technology, his quartet. Featuring Harry Graser on keyboards, Ed Croft on bass, and John Bacon, Jr. on drums. I reached out to Jared to share with us on how all this came together.

Before you get into the interview, take a view and listen to Tinkham’s superlative jazz composition, “The Gaze:”

The song showcases both Jared’s composition imagination and his superb guitar playing.

In this interview, Tinkham’s generosity shines through. He shares his thoughts for both general jazz fans and jazz musicians interested in composing. Offering his thinking on several topics yet providing technical details to his fellow musicians.

TZ: The video is split into four screens with four musicians playing their part of your composition.  For the audience not familiar with such technology, how do you make that happen?   Do you plan to make more?

JT: For this video, I used a combination of software, including Logic Pro X (for all Audio components), Final Cut Pro (for all Video editing components), a USB audio interface (for all audio recording components) and my iPhone (for all video recording components). Final Cut Pro was the one used to finalize everything, and create the four screens. It’s not really user friendly, but you can create the same kind of movies using other software, such as iMovie, the Acapella App, and there might even be a way to do it on Instagram. If you’ve never used any of the following before, I would start with iMovie, as I found it to be very user friendly, and free if you have an Apple product that utilizes it. Anything you might need help with can be easily googled, and that’s actually how I figured out how to do the four screens!

And yes, I definitely plan on making more videos! Right now, I’m working on one for my Classical Guitar Ensemble arrangement of “Pure Imagination,” that originally debuted in 2017 through my HS Guitar Ensemble at the Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts!

TZ: You titled the song, “The Gaze.”  What was behind your thinking on the song and why the title?

JT: To me, one of the most beautiful things about music is that regardless of the composer’s intentions behind a composition, the audience can almost always feel/interpret something different than what the composer meant! This song was inspired by “The Gaze,” which is the act of seeing and, in the philosophical and figurative sense, how an individual (or a group) perceives other individuals, other groups, or oneself. The concept and the social applications of the gaze illustrate the dynamics of socio-political power relations and the social dynamics of society’s mechanisms of discipline. The Gaze can be understood in psychological terms: “to gaze implies more than to look at – it signifies a psychological relationship of power, in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze.” The Gaze is the anxious state of mind that comes with the self-awareness that one can be seen and looked at. The psychological effect upon the person subjected to the gaze is a loss of autonomy upon becoming aware that he or she is a visible object. (Summarized from Wikipedia)

All that being said, I realized that we all deal with this Gaze, in several occasions, such as relationships, friendships, and various situations in which a power dynamic is being used. We have all been the Gazer, and the Gazee, if you will, and I think we have a lot to learn about our actions/perceptions and the accountability that we must provide.

With all of this in consideration, I thought the title was fitting because to many people right now, the Gaze is not the explanation I gave above, but instead the look they might get/give from others when they are out in public. Whether it’s forgetting our masks at the grocery store, or taking a walk with our significant other, a lot of judgement is being cast in society right now, both from the individual, and at the individual. Now this is not what I was thinking about when I was inspired to write this song, but I knew the feelings and emotions that might be conveyed when listening to it could resonate with the listener in a similar way. And so again, I think it’s beautiful that I can write this song that means one thing to me, and can be heard/felt/interpreted entirely differently to the listener. Regardless, my wish is still for all of us to not gaze at one another, but instead to gaze within ourselves, and examine our own actions, beliefs, and decisions, and how we can help each other, both during this COVID-19 Pandemic, and when our society resumes to its natural state.

TZ: You’ve been writing originals for the past few years.  What can you tell us about the uniqueness you are striving for?

 JT: For me, I think the ultimate goal is to be able to write tunes for my own sake but have their intentions be conveyed as clearly and specifically as possible. For example, if I’m struggling with a certain hardship in my life, I will write a song that helps pull those thoughts from my head and my heart, so that I can rid them from my body, and move on, just the same way Blues musicians have been doing for almost 200 years. But I want to be able to write and perform those songs with such complexity, yet also simplicity, where the listener knows exactly what I’m writing about, even if there are no lyrics. This goal somewhat contradicts what I stated in the previous question, however, it’s through the concept of subjective audience interpretations that will aid me in creating the perfect palette of musical vocabulary and skills, so that I can musically paint the song’s picture as beautifully and as accurately as I can. I remember always hearing that the music’s purpose was, “a vehicle for expression,” and “a tool to express ourselves,” but I never truly knew what that meant. It wasn’t until I realized that because we all hear/feel music differently, that the same would go for how we express things through music. I’ll never be a notable lyricist or vocalist for that matter, so my palette must be used through different means, which for me is totally fine, as some of my most favorite and important music in the world, has always been very difficult for me to explain to others as to why it’s so important to me. What I’ve learned about myself as a composer, as that I am very sensitive, and much of the connections I have between certain melodic/harmonic ideas, exist because of literal musical relationships. It wasn’t until I was beginning to analyze my own compositions, in the process, when I realized what this meant. Here are some examples from “The Gaze.”

The opening melody appears to be that of a Whole Tone scale, but with one connecting note removed, or “skipped” rather. This was supposed to represent the idea of someone not seeing the whole picture, or in relation to the pandemic, could be perceived as someone following all the rules, except one, hence skipping over it. And what happens when we skip over rules? They come back to haunt us, hence the second phrase is the same as the first, but a whole step higher. If we do the same thing twice, how can we expect different results? What usually happens is we give ourselves the satisfaction that what we did was correct, but in reality, in only seems different to us. Another example could be the chords used at the vamp in the solo section (0:49 in the video). I picked this chord progression on purpose, to attempt to create the various mental stages that one might experience during anxiety. The first chord is filled with tension (C7alt), before slightly resolving (C-13), but in an unorthodox way, and then adding more tension (Bb-69/C), before finally resolving (CMaj7b5) but with one note that is out of the ordinary, suggesting that this vicious cycle is not over yet. This process accurately describes how I feel when I have become very anxious, and it can be a detrimental repeating process. However, this same feeling is what I imagine many of us where experiencing during the initial weeks of the Pandemic, in which updates were given every day, on the hour. Just when we were starting to calm down, or have answers, a new measure or order was given, and more deaths, which just put our mental states back at square one.

So for me, composing is not about writing a catchy melody, or a hip chord progression. It’s about finding any and every way to accurately illustrate my thoughts and experiences, through music.

TZ: How are you coping during the COVID-19 pandemic and staying at home?

JT: As extroverted as I may be, I am also just about evenly introverted, and for that, I’m very grateful. I’ve been using this time to catch up with old friends, clean my house, write/transcribe/arrange/record/listen to music, play video games, and spend time with my kittens. I’ve also been riding my bike several times a week, and getting in at least 20 miles per ride (whilst practicing social distancing of course!). However, I do miss my students and faculty members immensely!

TZ: You have been a teacher at BAVPA for the past 4 years.  What has it been like to adapt to teaching in this environment?

JT: I feel that I was very lucky to be so proactive about the transition to E-Learning. I took the two days that I had to report to school (during the week that everything was shutting down), to first create all of the materials that I thought would be helpful and necessary to teach, and then expanded upon each assignment by creating Youtube videos as tutorials for each task. I figured that if the students had access to the material, and access to myself explaining how to do each assignment (that is replayable, and pausible), that they would have as close to the real experience as I could get to them. I also included instructions on the various ways the students can all reach me individually for further help, including my email, google phone number, Remind.com class registration, and direct messaging through Schoology. I’ve been sending out group messages every week and calling all of my students to check-in every 2-3 weeks.

Image may contain: 5 people, people on stage and people sitting
Jared Tinkham leading his students.

 If we are in fact shut down for the remainder of the school year, I plan on doing individual projects with each of my HS students, in which the students come up with a 5-6 week project, and ends up with some kind of YouTube video presentation on their final product and a summarization on their work process. I will be checking in with each student for a weekly video lesson, in which I will guide them through the next process in their project, as well as assigning weekly goals for them to complete.

The way I see it, the best way I can adapt to teaching in this environment is to create learning tasks for the students that I couldn’t normally do in a classroom with 15-20 students. And with their final projects being posted to Youtube, the students will be able to learn about all of their peers content as well.

TZ: What do think the future will look like for teaching and concerts given the current state we find ourselves in?

JT: I think we’re all hoping that this doesn’t last any longer than it should, and even when things go back to being normal, they won’t be normal for musicians for quite some time. I think the only thing we can hope for is that all of the people in quarantine will realize that the only thing keeping them sane is the arts, and that hopefully, we will emerge from this quarantine with the general public having a severely increased appreciation for music and the arts, and just a different perception of live music in general. I also think that with much of society in isolation, that they will also begin to experiment with the different art forms in their own home. Such examples could be picking up an instrument, teaching themselves dance, writing original scripts and filming home movies, and drawing and painting. I myself have been very much into the idea of creating home movies for a while now, and it’s something I’d definitely like to start experimenting with, especially with all of the TV I’ve been watching.

As far as teaching goes, the idea of streaming lessons has been happening for a while now, especially with big-name musicians who live in NYC, and with students who live in other countries. In terms of concerts, I’m not sure what will happen. I think we can definitely expect a shift in popularity with the whole “music videos” concept, like what I did with “The Gaze”, but I think there will be many who raise the bar, in terms of production, but also in terms of the experience. I think it’s all we can do in terms of collaborating with other musicians until something like Zoom can eliminate latency, which unfortunately just might be too difficult at this time, or anywhere in the near future. I think in the meantime, all we can do is continue to practice, write music, e-collaborate, and think of ways to raise the bar for ourselves and each other, so when this whole thing is actually done, that we can hit it harder than ever before.

Image may contain: Jared Tinkham, playing a musical instrument and night

There is no doubt that Jared Tinkham is one of our brightest up and coming jazz artists and teachers in the region. Many of us look forward to the day where we once again are able to hear Tinkham’s talents in a live setting. In the interim, however long it may be, we can be excited about innovations like “The Gaze.”

(Photo Credits: Thanks to JazzBuffalo contributor Jack Zuff)

One thought on “Jazz Guitarist Jared Tinkham Composes “The Gaze” In Response To COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. Jared is really someone special.
    So are the young men on his interesting recording “ The Gaze”
    (Ed , Harry, and John)
    His words are thoughtful and as deep as his music.
    I look forward to hearing him in a public venue when it’s cool to socialize again.

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