Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Charles F McGovern

Committee Member

Grey Gundaker

Committee Member

Arthur Knight

Committee Member

Anne Rasmussen

Committee Member

Kevin Fellezs


This dissertation examines the life and work of jazz drummer/composer Paul Motian, tracing his journey from sideman to bandleader as a musician laboring in the American twentieth century. I argue that Motian used his status as an Armenian American to float outside jazz’s black/white binary. Throughout his working life, Motian transformed his musical experiences into what I term “performance capital.” I call upon Pierre Bourdieu’s dual concepts of cultural and social capital to contend that Motian’s gathering of performance capital was simultaneously tethered to tropes of the jazz musician’s quest for originality and the process of “paying dues.” I explore the ways in which Motian used his accumulated performance capital to become an influential composer and bandleader during the mid-1970s and beyond. My study utilizes a wide array of materials in the Paul Motian Archive, including his unpublished memoir, Drum Music, as well as interviews conducted with musicians that worked closely with Motian. Situated within the interdisciplinary discourse of American studies, this project employs cultural and musical analysis to unpack the racial identity, economic agency, and artistic expression of a key figure within jazz culture.



© The Author

Available for download on Saturday, August 14, 2032