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Lydian chromatic concept

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Adrian Cho, Nov 9, 2003.

  1. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I played in George Russell's big band from 1979-1981 at NEC and took the Lydian Chromatic Concept class from George at NEC in 1980-81. Here are some probably-not-too-helpful observations:

    a) George's sense of humor is droll, and in a droll fashion, he has more tolerance for fools than many people. This character trait probably derives from his steadfast certainty in the validity and importance of his own ideas (later confirmed by the MacArthur award committee). His signature line was, "If ya wanna play mah music, y'got ta have the CON-cept."

    b) The LCTC class was a writing lab, not a lecture. George is a writer, not a player per se.

    c) The LCTC seemed, at the time, like a useful tool for a neophyte composer to access or generate chords and chordal relationships which would not have otherwise been apparent.

    d) As a PLAYING tool, LCTC never clicked for me.

    Hope this helps.
  3. Samuel,

    I am only periferally(?) familiar with this concept. Could you describe it in a nutshell? Does it replace the Ionian mode with Lydian as the "home base" from which everything else is derived?
  4. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    The details of the notion didn't stick with me. It does begin with the notion that the Lydian, or #11, major scale is home-base in jazz writing and playing. Where it went from there was in one ear and out the other -- I looked at those links Adrian set up and said, "Yeah, that's kinda familiar."

    Sorry! College is wasted on the young. At least, I was wasted. I mean . . . oh you know . . . [Shuffles paper; blushes; tries to look adult and important.]
  5. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    As far as I can understand it, the simplest statement is that all jazz harmony can be derived from Russel's Lydian chord, which is a series of 6 stacked 5ths. Now if you proceed by 5ths, you're going to cover all 12 tones (actually, if you proceed by any number that doesn't evenly divide the octave you'll step through all 12 tones). So my initial feeling is that there's nothing really magical about the system as it applies to jazz... but that's just a gut feeling.
  6. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada

    That's very interesting to hear of your first-hand experience with George. I have to say that in some ways I do feel it is a forced theory when they try to apply it to all kinds of music. He gives examples of Bach and other composers and tries to show how the concept fits into that music. And although everyone that seems associated with the concept keeps saying that it is not a particular sound or style of music but just a concept, there's no doubt in my mind that people have a certain sound when they apply the principles to their playing. The fact that it draws attention to modal playing does that and that can also be a good thing for those that have approached improvisation (and composition) in a more traditional manner. And the approach to harmony and discordance through the tonal orders is an interesting one.

    I think more than anything, it's an interesting read and has some good ways to approach the creation of music but I don't believe it's the grand unifying theoreum that it is sometimes made out to be. I guess it can be but then again with a stretch it's easy to make some theories apply to various cases.

    I read a copy of the original paper a long time ago and decided to order a copy of the latest edition when I read that it was a lot more in-depth.

  7. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Yes there's certainly nothing magical about the system. It's just a way to think about music rather than in the traditional Western harmony way most of us do.

  8. scott reed

    scott reed Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2002
    Sam and Adrian, I just discovered this post and
    I thought I'd add my two cents. I had George
    Russell in residence during the time I taught
    at the U. of South Florida (1981 if my past life
    recall is correct). The most useful concept of
    "The Concept" was interpreting chord/scale
    relationships using the Lydian mode as the parent
    scale instead of relating the mode to the chord
    root (eg. Dm7 - F lydian instead of D dorian).
    IMHO a lot of Jamey Aebersold's work is based
    on taking the scales mentioned by Russell (like
    lydian augmented) and spelling them fron the root
    of the chord. This might have made things more
    accessible to educators but I think it hinders
    bass improvisation. As accompanists, we are
    usually expected to play the root on the first
    beat of a change - in fact, we spend a lot of
    time in improv classes doing this for others
    which I think is a disservice to bassists in
    an improv class (I mean we're supposed to be
    learning how to improvise solos, right?). But when
    functioning as a soloist the root could be the
    most inappropriate place to start a melodic
    idea; ie. the listener could perceive it as a continuation of the bass line we'd been playing
    rather than a new solo idea.
    Any method that gets you away from starting and
    tonicizing solos with the root of the chords in
    question has been beneficial to my meager efforts
    at soloing. The LCC was posssibly the first and
    best attempt to superimpose scales/modes over
    chords since the blues scale.
  9. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    I think you meant to hit the new reply button, not new thread ;)
  10. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Maybe so, but that doesn't mean I do it.
  11. scott reed

    scott reed Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2002
    Don, I'm with you - especially when I can get away
    with it!
  12. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Scott, I never got a notification of your reply to this thread - because apparently you didn't actually reply <G>. I only just discovered it today. Anyway, I agree with what you say. I think it's very hard for bassists to get out of being so tonic bound when soloing. The LCC is not easy to understand but there are a lot of good concepts that are just different ways to look at things and I think that alone is a good thing.
  13. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Off the topic: I'm generally not "thinking" when I'm soloing -- heck, people around here will tell you that I'm generally not thinking when I'm talking! -- but from time to time I will "try" to solo without playing any tonics. It's a pretty simple rut-buster.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I read Russell's book back at Berklee in '84, and like Sam, I've forgotten most of the particulars. What lingers is the notion that it seemed like a concept for "head music", and for some, that may be useful. However, I'm not too thrilled with the line, "If ya wanna play mah music, y'got ta have the CON-cept."

    The only other "concept theories" that come to mind are Schoenberg's and Hindimith's...And I can count the number of times I come home at the end of the day and say, "Gee, you know, I'm really in the mood for some Schoenberg or Hindemith right now" on zero fingers.

    On the other hand Schoenberg's non "systematic" atonal music is often quite good, as was what I've heard of his tonal music. I may be being narrow minded here, but this tells me something about "systematic" music theories.

    My latest "theory of music" goes like this: If it sounds good, play it. If it doesn't, don't and just leave space until something good-sounding occurs to you. Listen to other players to discover new stuff that sounds good, and when you find something, grab it and make it your own. Keep doing this until you quit breathing.

    It's too short to be a book, but I'll take it anyway.
  15. scott reed

    scott reed Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2002

    Chris, I think theorists create the concepts to analyze
    musical style and pedagogues create concepts to explain a
    process. Heck, chord/scale relationship is a "systematic"
    music theory. Your latest theory reminds me of Parker's
    learn your horn, learn the music and then forget all that
    bleep and just play. I recall Aebersold saying all the answers
    are on the recordings. I agree but I think you have to
    provide the questions. If a concept helps, great. If not,
    we go elsewhere.
    Sam, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, I can't think and play at
    the same time either. All I can do is prepare to act and
    assess the damage during the post-mortem.
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