Thursday, March 27, 2003

Chromaticism and Jazz

Chromaticism: a) of, relating to, or giving all the tones of the chromatic scale; b) characterized by frequent use of accidentals.

It is useful to consider chord/scale relationships when playing chromatically, so that you can deliberately choose a scale that will increase tension, and then resolve it by returning to an expected scale. It is not always necessary to relate everything to the original scale, however. The line itself is more important than its relationship to the chord. Sometimes the melodic line that follows most naturally from what you have played so far is not one that would have been suggested by the chord specified at that point in the progression.

Listening to Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and John Zorn certainly does conjure rhizomatic lines of flight...

(Update) John Zorn on game composition:

From 1974 until about 1990, a large part of my compositional time was spent devising music for improvisers, what I now call "game pieces." Tying together loose strings left dangling by composers such as Earle Brown, Cornelius Cardew, John Cage, and Stockhausen, I began to work out complex systems harnessing improvisors in flexible compositional formats.

Working on a blackboard, ideas would come slowly, often staying on the board for months before all the various elements seemed balanced and complete. I tried to make every piece a world in itself, and often they took over a year to write. These pieces have somehow lasted, taking on a life of their own ...

Xu Feng was written right after Cobra and was quite a departure in many respects, in a sense moving from abstract to concrete, theoretical to practical. After perfecting the concepts of infinite systems in the large scale pieces Track and Field and Cobra, I began to mold subsequent game pieces more toward specific sound worlds, giving pieces exact instrumentations and introducing sound "modifiers" (specifying sound parameters) into the options available in structuring form and content. The intention of this place was to create a fast-moving, energetic, almost competitive Kung-fu environment, inspired by the Martial Arts actress for which the piece is named.

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