Trope in a Balsamic Reduction

A Savory Gourmet Adventure in Succulent Driftage


Fillet of Trope:

A Succulent Fillet of Trope Dredged in the Flour of Reconfiguration, Lightly Seared Over the Flames of Artistic Inspiration, and Dressed with a Piquantly Collaborative Balsamic Reduction.

Troping is Delicious Well-Done, & Even Better Rare! 

Fillet of Trope in a Balsamic Reduction

Riffing on Troping: A Brief Foray into Michael Jarrett's "Drifting on a Read"

            Despite the assignment’s short stature (a mere 23 pages, versus 94 in the other text), Drifting on a Read is fascinating to me for its exploration of the Law of Trope (5). Troping, jazz’s creative process of endlessly and constantly reconfiguring set pieces of existing music through the act of improvisation, is a concept that in Michael Jarrett’s hands slides itself almost seamlessly around the shoulders of composition and reading theory. When a musician is troping, he or she is playing both an instrument and a game, not just reinterpreting but actually reinventing the artistic reality around him or herself through the study and remolding of traditional elements into something new. Jarrett would argue that the same process can benefit writers, readers, critics, and theorists, all of whom can, by rereading and reconfiguring aberrant text, take part in the play of invention (5).

            This image of troping, or “drifting on a read,” is a new one for me, at least as far as metaphors are concerned. The basic concepts involved, however, such as the reopening of a text, creative play, collaboration, heteroglossia, reinvention, and improvisation, already compose a large portion of the vocabulary used in many modern academic conversations on composition theory. By clearly hypothesizing about the parallels (and connecting rods) inherent between the two seemingly separate forms of expression - jazz and writing – Jarrett is making what is in my opinion a very strong and supportable stance for the importance of fluid jazz concepts in reading and composition theory, and, perhaps, vice versa. I particularly appreciate the ways in which Jarrett himself embraces the art of troping, demonstrating his own commitment to play by exploring, rereading, and repeatedly reconfiguring jazz great Louis Armstrong’s famous (or infamous) much-quoted words, “Lady, if you gotta ask what it is, you’ll never know.” Interesting, sir. Quite interesting.