Theory & Analysis
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  Like It Is ~ Sound & Score

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Like It Is ~ Sound & Scoresubmitted:
2007/04/25 03:02:29
2008/11/12 09:11:16

Excerpted from Speaking of Jazz: Essays and Attitudes:

One of my main focuses in recent months has been to try to play pantonally by transposing Major and Minor triads over ostinatos and pedal points in particular. I favor those two forms of triad since they have the most sonority. Since most of my compositional activity is aimed at producing platforms for my own improvisational performance, I wanted to write a vehicle for this kind of playing. Like it Is resulted from that effort.

I first created an eighth-note rhythm for the A section, in which I knew I would later fill in the triads, with the intention that it would be a drum solo with a pitch line. I decided to limit myself here to only major triads, since it felt right to create a very bright constant structure here. I thought of a rhythmic ostinato pedal point upon which to place the line, and then a yang response in the piano section to the yin of the bass ostinato. After I had that, I created different, yet related rhythmic ostinatos to extend, contrast and develop the first. The second ended up being a blues-like ostinato. After returning to the A section line, the second ending moves to a third ostinato, based on a sort of tritone relationship to the first B, resulting in a compositional form of ABAC (or B prime).

Melodically, after creating the A section’s melodic rhythm and the overall form with its built-in balance between tension and release, I turned my attention to the actual line itself. After repeatedly hearing in my head the composition in this state of development, I began to sing the actual horn line. Then I started playing it on the trombone until I had what I needed, which entailed fairly distant transpositions of the Major triads: +4, MA3, +4, ˝ step, m3, MA3, +4; MA3, m3, m3, m3, MA2, MA3, m3, MA3, many of which create tension against the strong Bb tonic ostinato. It then seemed to need contrast and a release of tension (and a needed rest for the trombone), so I have the horn lay out on the B and C sections.

In terms of improvisation, I like how the form and its contrasting ostinatos set me up, both in suggested moods and in terms of pitch materials. The A section, of course, invites you to continue the process of pantonal improvisation of various Major triad transpositions, along with its melodic rhythms. B implies a blues orientation, while C could be either—or something else. In practice, I find that I can mix these approaches during a lengthy improvisation without regard to slavishly changing my lines directly in tandem with the formal movement. It’s fun to play.

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