Here is the video that started this blog. It is a stop-motion animation of my song Flying Dream, as it moves in harmonic space. It’s a preview of what the blog is all about. Red = bass, yellow = melody, and orange = the harmonies.
Be Love is the second full song video I did. While Flying Dream is all over the lattice, Be Love occupies a small space, moving left and right between Major and Mixolydian modes.
I’m posting these again so they will be close to the top of the front page. Anjalisa Aitken and The Harmony People have come into my life, and I’m shifting my focus from study and writing to performing and creativity.
I think I’ve pretty well said what I have to say about the lattice for now. The videos are explained, and I’ve brought you pretty much up to speed with my lattice explorations so far. I’ll still be learning, and I’ll keep you posted, but I’m content with this particular yearlong blurt. Time to get out there and put all this cool stuff to use!
There is plenty to find here. A random approach might work best — find a recent article that catches your eye, click links to go deeper, and use the back button to get back up the chain. I’m especially fond of the posts in the Septimal Harmony category.
Enjoy, I’ll be back. Contact with fellow lattice-heads is welcome.
PS I have other presences on the Web. Here are some links:
I often have the pleasure of singing at one of Steve Key’s Songwriters At Play showcases. These are held several times a week in San Luis Obispo area. There’s a lot of talent in the county, and Steve books many good traveling acts. These tend to be excellent shows.
Brian Jeffrey is one of those local talents. Last month Steve had a showcase at Shell Cafe in Pismo Beach, Brian was the featured act and I played four songs. I didn’t know it but Brian videoed one of my songs, and he just put it up on YouTube. I like it a lot!
Real Girl has several examples. The clearest is a guitar lick in the chorus:
That 7b5 is tasty over the bVI chord. For an instant, it makes a “barbershop seventh,” the 7th harmonic of the root.
Here is a vocal example from the same song:
The melody visits the blue tritone on the way up, and again on the way down. I especially like it on the word “like,” the blues flavor of the septimal note comes through loud and clear without it being strictly blues at all. For me, this fusion of septimal notes to the European collection is the great contribution American music has made to the world. I wrote an early article on this, with some examples, here.
These bits of melody that visit the 7b5 are very similar to the ones that incorporate the 7b3. The septimal flatted third is the melody note of major blues tonality. It functions as the seventh harmonic of the IV chord, just as the 7b5 is the 7th harmonic of the bVI chord. Here’s an example from Flying Dream:
Hear the similarity? Try going back and forth between this video and the guitar lick in the first video.
One of the beauties of the lattice is that the patterns repeat everywhere. If you move a pattern to a different part of the lattice, the new notes will have the same relationship to each other, but the musical context will change and it will convey a different feeling. This is a splendid compositional tool, and helps me greatly in understanding harmony.
My new song video, Real Girl, contains many examples of consonance and dissonance, tension and resolution. In my last post, I extracted a phrase from the song and slowed it way down to illustrate how the bass and melody dance, creating and resolving tension in several different ways. Here is the last half of that analysis.
When we last left our heroes, they were on the 4 and b6, quite consonant relative to each other, but still unresolved because the ear remembers where the tonic is. Here is that clip:
Now the melody moves back to the 7. This interval, against the 4, is the dreaded tritone, the devil’s interval, and it’s dissonant indeed.
Then the bass moves up to the 1, lessening the dissonance, and the melody soon joins it, and all is consonant.
But there is still a sense of incompleteness, even though both the bass and melody are smack on the tonic, the most consonant interval of all. What’s up?
The answer is that the ear remembers that the root is still the 4, and we aren’t quite home yet. Getting there requires a cadence, or final resolution. Notice that in this next clip the bass note never moves, but the harmonies and the melody signal that the root has now moved to the 1 and we are home. The bass note has magically changed character.
This melodic passage occurs many times in the song, and it contains a rather dizzying series of tensions and resolutions. My friend Jody Mulgrew, who has an exquisite sense of pitch, experienced actual nausea the first time he heard the song. He told me, “I was wondering how to tell my friend Gary that I didn’t like his new song. Then, before the chorus, it started to sweeten up, and when the song was over I immediately hit the ‘replay’ button. I realized it was just tension and resolution.”
I think my friend was experiencing what I call tonal vertigo. His comment spurred some of my thinking on the nature of harmony, how it may be a byproduct of our orientation software. The “100 girlfriends” section is a roller coaster ride in the tonal gravity field. Here it is in its original form:
Now to slow it way down and take it apart.
The first dissonant melody move is to the 7. The interval is a major seventh, down a half step in pitch, and the harmonic distance is great enough (3×5=15) that the note is quite dissonant. But the bass, alternating between 1 and 5 as so many bass lines do, quickly moves to resolve the dissonance.
Note that there is still an unresolved, unfinished feeling. Even though everything you can hear is beautifully consonant, the ear still remembers that the real root of the chord is the 1. This memory is crucial to tonal music.
The next move creates a different kind of dissonance. This is the tension of reverse polarity.
First the melody moves to the 1. This note is right next to that 5 in the bass, and beautifully harmonious. But there is tension, because it’s a reciprocal note. The way to get from a 5 to a 1 is to divide by 3 — it’s one move to the left on the lattice.
And, in two moves, the melody has covered a lot of harmonic territory, all in the reciprocal, Southwest direction. No wonder Jody felt nausea! It’s an E-ticket ride.
Once again, the bass moves to save the day. The chord changes too — that 4 in the bass is the new root. The melody note magically becomes a minor third, not fully consonant, not fully resolved, but a lot better.
In the next post, the famous tritone! Then full resolution.