Progress Report for w/c 4/5/15 – ‘De-Composition’, ‘De-Harm./Re-Harm.’ and ‘Impressions’.

“There will be many other nights like this,

And I’ll be standing here with someone new,

There will be other songs to sing,

Another fall, another spring,

But there will never be another you.”

‘There Will Never Be Another You’ by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.

 

This week, I’ve been writing using a technique I learnt from Pete Churchill.

‘De-Composition’

As we’ve seen, one of the key considerations of the Mugaritz philosophy is looking to see what can be removed from a dish. Eliminating unnecessary elements and clutter lets the primary features really speak and shine.

I thought it would be interesting to play around with the musical equivalent so I’ve used a technique taught to me by The Guru, Pete Churchill.

This is a great way of getting started because you take something that’s already been written and twist it out of shape until it becomes something new. That troublesome first hurdle – the first idea, the embryo – is bypassed. You don’t need to wait for inspiration to strike. 

As my starting point, I took the Harry Warren tune, ‘There Will Never Be Another You’.

This is a great tune to learn because;

  1. It’s lovely. Check out Chet Baker’s famous version.
  2. It contains the bulk of the harmonic functions found in Jazz Standards: movement to chord VI/relative minor, movement to the sub-dominant, ‘minorisation’ of chord IV (What Jerry Coker calls ‘The Back Door Progression’ – specifically when it’s followed by its logical Chord V partner), secondary dominant function (or supertonic 7th for the Classical guys), major ii-V-i’s, minor ii-V-i’s, turnaround. From a harmony point of view, if you learn this in every key, you can pretty much tackle anything.

Look it up in the Real Book if you don’t know it. You’ll see there are a lot of chords. Especially the last 5 bars (two chords per bar).

My first goal was to remove as many chords as possible, to reduce the harmonic rhythm. This is what I ended up with…

 

 

6 5 15

Notice that it already looks less frantic on the page.

Let’s reverse-engineer it…

  • Bars 1&2 – just a slight tweak to the original – I’ve made Chord I EbMaj7 Augmented (#5) – mode 3 of C Harmonic Minor.
  • Bars 3&4 – here’s our first ‘removal’. In place of the original D-7b5 – G7b9, I’ve generalised the harmony by taking out the ii-7b5 chord and using the old III/I substitution for the Chord V7 – Eb/B. It’s effectively G7alt in 1st inversion. I’ve done a quick video lesson on this – I’ll send it to you if you subscribe 🙂
  • It also makes a little Augmented Axis theme. The EbMaj7+ chord in bar 1 can be written/played as G/Eb. Therefore we’ve created parallel motion – the same voicing shifted down a Maj 3rd gives us our G7alt sound (Eb/B).
  • This resolves as expected to C- (the relative minor/Chord VI) in bar 5. The twist is, I’ve made it Harmonic Minor and put it in 2nd inversion to carry on the Aug Axis (Maj 3rds) motif in the root movement. This means that the first 6 bars sort of sounds like a long I-V-I – EbMaj7+(C Harmonic Minor) – G Altered – back to C Harmonic Minor.
  • Bars 7&8 usually feature a ii-V7 heading to the subdominant (Ab Maj) but I’ve taken out the ii-7 chord again and used a slightly less common substitution for Chord V (Eb7). It’s a slight twist on the common tri-tone substitution: we would usually expect to hear A7 in place of Eb7. Here I’ve changed the chord quality from Lydian Dominant to Lydian i.e. Maj7th.
  • The cadence to Ab (Chord IV) in bar 9 is smudged with another III/I chord. It’s still Ab Major i.e. it has resolved as expected but the sound is more ambiguous with the C/Ab slash chord. It could be Ionian Augmented again (like bar 1), or Lydian Augmented, or Lydian Augmented #9, or Harmonic Major… The melody will dictate but I’ll leave it up to the soloist to play whatever they’re hearing.
  • Bar 10 – faster harmonic rhythm here. It’s the first time we hear 1 chord per bar. This is a play on what Jerry Coker calls the ‘back door progression’ or ‘minorisation’ of Chord IV. We barely hear the establishment of Ab before its sense of ‘tonic-ness’ is weakened be making it minor. I’ve done this with our old friend, Eb/B, again. This works because it’s Ab-Maj9 in 1st inversion. It’s also really strong because it’s a parallel movement – up a Minor 3rd from C/Ab. I’ve left out the usual bVII7 (Db7) chord (the ‘back door’ bit).
  • Bars 11&12 – the original features 1 bar of Eb and a possible bar of C-7 but I’ve made use of the Eb/B or III/I theme to take us straight to C- (as discussed, it sounds like G7alt which derives from Ab Melodic Minor). I’m repeating what happens in bars 3, 4 & 5 with a variation. Instead of plain old C-7, I’ve used an idea I nicked from James Taylor. He sometimes plays bVII/I as a Minor 11 with no 3rd. Normally we hear this as Mixolydian but the context (being preceded by a V type chord) means we hear it as minor. Scott Henderson uses this idea in ‘Sub Aqua’ as well.
  • Bar 13 normally features the Secondary Dominant Function (F7#11) but I’ve made it Diminished – D/Eb. It’s actually very close to F Lydian Dominant. Only 2 ‘out’ notes: F# and Ab (which sounds bluesy anyway).
  • Bar 15 – remember last week…? Wed 29/4…

The B diminished Maj7th sounds a bit too bright for me (following F Phrygian) but it resolves nicely to C#7 because the upper-structure triad of Bb/B (VII/I – diminished major 7 slash chord) moves up chromatically to B/C# (bVII/I – sus sound).

In short, I’ll probably use the AbMaj7 to Gb/F and Bb/B to B/C# ideas in things independently.

  • I’ve recycled this idea in bar 15 because I liked it.
  • Simple parallel movement of the sus sound in bar 16.
  • Everything repeats as before until bar 27. Instead of Bb/C to suggest C-11, I’ve gone to C-9/D for variation – it suggests D Phrygian (same ‘parent’ as C Dorian).
  • Bar 28 in the original is a minor ii-V7 implying movement to G Minor (A-7b5, D7) so I’ve generalised this to B/D (D13b9 sound) – keeping the D pedal from the previous bar.
  • My first draft of this had 2 chords per bar like the original (bar 29 to end) but it spoilt the flow I’d created so I binned it and settled for a well-needed vanilla EbMaj and an E/Bb (sus13b9 sound) to take us back to the top.

 

Observations

Okay, still looks like lots of harmony but there are actually only a few components here. Further, there are at least 34 chord changes in the original (inc. repeated information) which we’ve whittled down to 20 (of which some are modal equivalents e.g. EbMaj7+ and C-Majb13) – a drastic reduction of harmonic rhythm creating a totally new beast.

 

Tues 5/5

Had sessions at Angel 10-5 then show at 7.30 so no writing done.

Wed 6 & Thurs 7/5

Wrote a tune on these changes. I was hearing it in 7. Here it is…

 

6 5 15 Melody

 

Fri 8/5

Teaching day + show.

Sat 9/5

This might sound crazy but I’ve never written a Dorian tune on the ‘So What/Impressions’ model. I think I’ve shied away from it because it seems a bit too obvious. Silly really. Anyway, thought it was about time to have a go at one…

 

9 5 15 – Impressions typ

  • I changed the harmony slightly. I made the B Section Gb Lydian instead of Eb Dorian (same ‘parent’ – Db).
  • The phrasing is unusual. I set out with the idea of turning the ‘Impressions’ phrase structure around – ‘Impressions’ starts with a 1-note phrase, then a slightly longer 4-note development, then a much longer phrase to end. I thought to reverse this and start with a long phrase and ended up playing this weird displaced thing – the kind of thing Wayne Krantz does.
  • I was bothered by the fact that it’s a similar 3-note shape to the one in my ‘Mugaritz’ tune. Fuck it.

 

Overall a fairly productive week…

It’s hard to quantify whether I got more done than last week but I was certainly more motivated and disciplined because of having all my sessions written out in the diary.

A lot of time was taken up with the admin. side of things – booking the studio, players etc… This has paid off though as I’ve got the most ridiculous band on-board to record this stuff – the incredible Neal Wilkinson, Laurence Cottle and Rob Barron. I’m so happy they’re up for it. Was terribly nervous about emailing Laurie!

 

Have a go…

at ‘de-composing’ a tune. Use the usual tools; modal interchange, modal equivalence, pedal tones, parallel movement etc. (great practise for all the stuff we’re learning about – learn by doing) but also just use you ears.

Use what you like the sound of.

Please share anything you come up with.

 

 

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