The New School News

Popsicle Stick

Jane Ira Bloom plays music differently. Picking up her soprano saxophone, she begins to sway and dance, varying the distance of her instrument from the microphone. The result is an intense sensory experience, a surround sound with Doppler-like qualities.

Beyond creating a signature sound, the technique is also a part of the pedagogy she uses as a professor at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Research Radio caught up with Bloom to talk about her musical style in a special performing arts edition, Popsicle Stick.

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“Moving around while playing was intuitive at first,” Bloom explains. “Then, choreographers I worked with pointed it out, and I started experimenting.” Bloom’s compositions now include instructions to swing the bell of instruments in front of the microphone. To enhance the effect of these movements in her performances, Bloom uses a specially designed foot pedal and electronic effects box.

Her knack for experimentation and innovation stems from her own artistic philosophy. “I’ve always been a lateral thinker,” she said, describing her tendency to take inspiration from art forms other than jazz and even music. “I call it cross-talk—seeing techniques or forms of expression in all art and incorporating them into your own, regardless of the medium.” This ability is what originally drove her to appreciate—and be greatly influenced by—abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock.

“I remember years ago sitting in a museum and staring for hours at his Autumn Rhythm,” explains Bloom. “I was completely mesmerized. To me, Pollock’s painting was improvisation. It was jazz.” This piece eventually inspired her album Chasing Paint, which was recorded and produced with the help of a grant from Chamber Music America.

Bloom’s interest in cross-disciplinary collaboration informs her teaching. “To be a successful musician in our current global economy, you need to know how to talk to artists and professionals in different industries, to translate and harness a collaborative impulse,” she says. “Whether that’s composing music for a jazz quartet or for a video game, who knows?”

By encouraging students to develop their creative and collaborative abilities, Bloom helps The New School send well-rounded graduates into the workplace. “If ever there were a time when people needed a little inspiration and artistic expression—in all fields—the time is now.”

To hear Jane Ira Bloom play the soprano saxophone, visit her website.

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Research Radio is a New School podcast series that explores academic inquiry at the university. Our faculty and students have been researching pressing social and scientific issues, from sustainability to psychology to politics, for nearly a century—and now you can hear about their latest findings. 

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