As president of the New England Conservatory for a decade, Schuller wanted audiences and student performers to experience the best of both worlds—so he brought #jazz into the curriculum. As a composer, he coined the term “Third Stream,” used to describe a genre of music “about halfway between jazz and #classical,” as Schuller put it. He was in many ways the paragon of a venerable creative figure: someone who teased apart labels and combined ideas.
But Schuller’s professional output is a model for more than just combinatorial creativity. Classical music versus jazz, fixed versus free, planned versus improvised… we grapple with these dichotomies in non-musical work, as well. Is it true, as scientific studies suggest, that a jazz musician’s brain is inherently more creative? And thus does other free form art make one more creative? The answer is complicated—psychologists are finding that plasticity, as opposed to genre, may be a more powerful measure of creativity.