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harmolodic music

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by chrismmc, Oct 24, 2004.

  1. Can anyopne explain Ornette Coleman's Harmolodoc theory to me?... in a way a rational musican can understand?
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You talk to Cherry, Dewey, and Charlie about "what harmolodics is" and you get three different answers.

    It "seems" to be (from trying to amalgamate everybody's take on it) that Ornette's conception of "melodic" theory is that harmony and rhythm are subservient to melody and harmolodics says that each element can function as the "lead" voice. My favorite story is from when Jimmy Garrison was playing with the group and he was really trying to get his head around what Ornette was doing conceptually and really struggling. So he goes to Ornette and says "Man I'm just not sure what you want to hear from me, what you want me to do." And Ornette stands there, minute stretching into minute. And he finally says "Well James, I want you to listen............and play, of course."

    Do you want to expand on your remarks "...a rational musician..."?
  4. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
  5. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    I was participating in an online discussion about this. One of the posters, an educator Paul Rinzler called harmolodics the "holy grail" of jazz. I think that's pretty accurate. Pat Metheny made similar comments at his site--view with suspician unless from the mouths of Don Cherry or Charlie Haden. I don't think there's any theory at all. Only a general philosophy that could be interpreted by others how they see fit. I think that doesn't speak well of the guy who invented it honestly. I like most people pictured in my mind--a scale and then perhaps some other scale superimpositions over it with time signature modulations, etc. who knows. Something that gave me something to interpret that approach to music. It's reasonable--if Elliot Carter can make a score of his incredibly dense music then so could Ornette. How bout this:

    A-7 Dseven :hyper: All little children up to heaven. or...G7 :ninja:

    I don't mind it being more of an instinctual affair. But the flashdemo (posted earlier) seems to be bear out this blurry philosophy that seems to seek to transmit meaning through words and images-as if to keep them static would somehow render less meaning. Also the homogeneity of the whole thing and how colors and sound and art and everything will be coming together (lawd, lawd, it's coming..)I think people are still frustrating themselves to find a retort to Stravinsky's famous devil's advocate remark "music means itself"
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    What? Your honor, I'm just a caveman.

    In other words, I just play the bass.

    I realize that I should have a better understanding of this whole "harmolodic" concept, but the truth is, it reminds me of something Sam related in an earlier thread about George Russell's "Lydian Chromatic Concept". A Sam tells it, he was attending a class or workshop led by Russell, and remembers that, "His signature line was, 'If ya wanna play mah music, y'got ta have the CON-cept'."

    Which, in a way, turns me off big-time. What was Branford's famous quip about Cecil Taylor? I don't recall exactly, but at any rate, it was something which could not be printed here on TB. The point is, the music should not need the help of any concept to speak and stand on its own two feet. In my case with Ornette, some of it does, and some of it doesn't, and that's all I need.

    It seems like there might be the beginnings of a whole "inside-outside" discussion here. Do you get "outside" by abandoning everything that is "inside" in favor of something that is not, or do you get "outside" by pushing the envelope until you get through the paper? And does the little light really go out when you close the refrigerator door?
  7. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    I am often as influenced as much about what people say about music as what they play, especially when the music is "difficult" to digest. The latter case is particularly telling about Cecil Taylor. I recall Matthew Shipp's recount of when he told Cecil his favorite versions of Sweet & Lovely were his and Bill Evans'. Which resulted in Taylor saying.."Bill Evans is an ordinary piano player! ordinary! Shipp countered "what are you talking about. he's a genius!" "Ordinary!" hurls back Cecil.

    Well after hearing these CT comments--and some other interviews with him describing his music, I have decided for myself that he is full of it ..And also meanspirited--which is exactly the vibe that bothered me instinctually in the first place. Apart from the fact that I thought he was really not a good composer. Just now, I was seeing it reinforced by the personality component--the queen bee mentality. So now I heard his music in that light--mean-spirited jazz hissy fits. :spit: :bawl:
  8. I mispoke when I used the term "rational musician"...What I meat was sombody coming from a more "traditional" concept of harmony and melody.

    I agree with much of what has been said...I know it really does'nt matter-it is beautiful music regardless...but I read some things by Ornette that seemed like he had a textbook like definition of what he is doing...
  9. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Yeah, I'm not real hip on needing to understand a philosophy to play the music of a certain composer. I've played with cats like that and was never sure if I was doing well or not. Lotsa free jazz guys won't give you a straight answer about your playing either. I like Zappa's approach, he'd write with certain players in mind, then hire them. I do a fair amount of writing (some of it pretty far out) and try to use Zappa's model.
  10. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I find it almost impossible to evaluate free-jazz playing at the time it's happening. Either the hookup's there or it's not, and it's about ears more than chops anyway. If it's there, the comment is, "Wow, that was tight" or "Mahn, you've got monstrous ears." If it wasn't there, it's obviously my fault in part -- it's not like, "I was hooking up with you and you were not hooking up with me."
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think this is an "alien" concept to me!! ;)

    So - I go to see a lot of UK/European Jazz and talk to the musicians at gigs and at workshops/classes. So on this "scene" - nearly all the contemporary players will include some elements of Free playing in their repertoire, sets and compositions.

    So - they will have sections of their set, where there are no preconceived ideas about harmony/melody or maybe they will have tunes which are very "loose" - as in just starting with a bass ostinato and then go wherever they will, etc etc.

    Anyway - my point is - I don't know of any "Free Jazz Guys" - as in people who play nothing but Free - but virtually every Jazz pro I see, incorporates some of this in their playing.
  12. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Here's an interview of DBist Alan Silva which I find very à propos with respect to free improv and it's historical context. Just make sure you don't loose your Simandl in the transition... ;)
  13. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    I think its missing the point to attack Ornette for not having a simple to understand philosophy, or to attack people with philosophy's for forcing them on people before they can understand the music.
    Ornette Coleman hasn't forced his philosophy on people, hes lived it and used it to make great music and influence other great musicians (Cherry, Haden, Blackwell, Higgins, etc). the fact that none of us is that clear what it is, but that everyone who has plauyed with him has been hugely influenced by his philosphy, shows that its not being forced on listeners but is influencing his music. From reading and speaking to people who have lived with and played with ornette, every one seems to speak very highly of him as a very "deep" person. Its too easy to ridicule something just because you don't understand it.
  14. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    This is just crap now. Cecil Taylor not a good composer... who are you to make that judgment on one of the greatest ever jazz musicians?
    Why do so many great musicians (Eric Dolphy, William Parker, John Coltrane, Jimmy Lyons, Sunny Murray I could go on and on) talk about him as one of the greatest ever composers, and of playing with him as one of the highest peaks of being a musician?
    Sorry if I'm coming across as overly precious or serious, but this thread seems to be full of people leaping to ridicule some truly great musicians, for very spurious reasons.
  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    The only reason I have ever listened to Cecil was because of his heavy credentials. I absolutely do NOT get any of his music after the mid 60s.

    He's not the only one, Anthony Braxton is another guy...I've heard him play staright (with Dave Brubeck of all people!) and some of his stuff with Circle, etc. but of the half dozen or so releases under his own name I have picked up, I still can't get my head around it. Ditto with Albert Ayler.

    It's not that I don't like free playing or atonal noise, I listen to plenty of that but sometimes it gets to the point where I can't find anything to hang my ear on :meh:

    I might not go so far as nypiano but if I can't even hear what's the composition vs. the improv how can I call Cecil a great composer? :bag:
  16. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Here in Chicago there are guys that play nothing but free.

    I like listening to these acts, I just find it very hard to play. I'm working on improving my ears.
  17. Chris - what can I say - you, a big fan of Rufus Reid's teaching griping about concept (something Rufus certainly used to insist on) and then going on to explain several concepts of playing. If you haven't got a concept of what you're going to play you waffle nonsense and no, that nonsense is not free jazz. Freedom is freedom of expression - have you got anything to express? Freedom soon sorts out those who have something to say and those who have not and whether they have the means to do it, without necesarily using standard musical devices as the means to do so.

    But harmolodic mysticism is where you came in, not the later free jazz wrangle in this thread. Can you have a band giving equal weight to consitutent parts - what happens when you do, can all the musicians present cope with that - big question - need darn good musicians all hooked up together to even think of doing it - just think, if a harmony part or rhythm part isn't subservient it had better 'say something' as Ed grinds on about. In which case you will have a 3D soudscape you can move around, from one bit to the next and find something new everytime. Anyone fancy the challenge to pull this off? (Some wag could argue that Ellington's best scores did this - I wouldn't disagree but Ornette's bands, as I understand it, rely on direct individual contribution/improvisation above the score.)

    As for whether free jazz engages I find myself in the reverse of Sam's situation, in the hands of good players it engages at the time but I'm not in a rush to play the cd - in fact, live it can be totally gripping. It is not an easy listen but there's nothing wrong with that.

    As for fingers 'is this free playing any good?' question, its a personal expression and whilst it is hard to impossible to say whether or not it is what is in you soul, it may engage some people or not. I'm affraid you have to be internally referrenced about this - are you being true to yourself - we won't know.

    This discussion seems to me to be degenerating into people slagging off abstract art becuase they can't see the pictures in it. More Jackson Pollock than Georgia O'Keefe here to name two in MOMA.

    Look at it this way (just to wind everyone up before I go for a paper) Ornette (and the free movement) are talking about artistic concepts whereas TB generally discusses techniques. Indeed, some threads seem to imply that standard technique is an end through which artistry will spontaneously appear because you have the technique - **** to that - you wouldn't start a TB thread just because you'd got an English degree, you'd start it becuase you'd got something to say (and if you had an English degree you might well appreciate both Henry James and James Joyce say).
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I suppose in Chicago, you have more of a history and heritage for this, but I can't imagine there would be any audience for this in the UK - as Brian said, I think audiences need something to hang their ear on - no matter how minimal that might be...?
  19. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    uh.. (sound of jaw dropping)...
    England has had some of the richest history of free improv of anywhere, in fact a good argument could be made for England as the birthplace of free improv that wasn't jazz.
    Never heard of Derek Bailey? John Stevens? Evan Parker? John Edwards? Paul Dunamll? Keith Tippett? Tony Oxley? Alan Wilkinson? Trevor Watts? Paul Rutherford? etcetcetcetc?
  20. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    I think theres a big difference between saying "I don't get someone's music and so am not in a position to call him a great composer" and to state that he isn't, as nypiano does. Fine, you don't like/understand Cecil's playing. I think he's wonderful, but we're allowed to disagree. But you, as you say, aren't in a position to judge him.
    Much, much more of his music is written than might be assumed from listening, he is a unique and special composer, and theres a lot of greats who'd agree with me.