Transformation is one of about a dozen pieces I composed in the early 1960s in which I sought a true fusion, (in a variety of different ways) of jazz and contemporary classical concepts and techniques, including the involvement of improvisation. In those years this kind of music making came under the heading of “Third Stream”.
In the case of Transformation, the opening section is indistinguishable from any of my non-jazz compositions. It makes free use of the “passacaglia” idea, in this instance a constantly reiterated though changing line of single held notes (horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, etc.) connected into a long Klangfarbenmelodie. Ever so gradually, however, against this background tiny embryonic fragments of jazz material are introduced. These fragments grow in size and frequency until they predominate and the music has transformed itself into jazz. At a point where the original passacaglia idea (horizontal form) has been condensed into a single chord (its vertical form), the instrumental background suddenly breaks off and the vibes, piano and rhythm begin an improvised section. Most listeners will probably be unable to tell where one ends and the other begins
As the piano improvisation runs its course, a riff is introduced in the wind instruments, at first barely audible, as if from far away. As the riff gains momentum and power, a kind of stretto develops, opposing the wind instruments against the others. At the same time, the rhythmic structure is broken up, and in rapidly alternating juxtaposition of jazz and classical rhythms, the composition reaches a climactic ending.