George Russell and the Lydian Chromatic Concept

Looking into the history of jazz movements from ragtime, to swing, to be-bop and post-pop uncovered the work of George Russell and his philosophy of music with the lydian scale. Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept simplifies improvising melodies and laid the foundation for a new sound, giving rise to the “cool jazz” epitomized in the classic Kind of Blue.

From experience in playing traditional West African Music as taught by Abou Sylla of Guinea, the Lydian scale appears almost naturally in Mande songs. And it appears Miles Davis’s wish of replacing C with F on the piano may have been done hundreds of years ago with the balafon.

In the above excerpt, Russell explains two different approaches to musical harmony and the intent to shape a new sound in jazz emphasizing more liberal approaches to music. — The Subject is Jazz, WNBC. 1958. New York, NY.

Extending Russell’s theories may lead back to the more complex tonalities found in the “blue notes” of  blues and jazz, Arab, South Asian, and African music along with many bodies of music that predate classical European traditions.

 

Wisdom from Diverse Viewpoints During the SARS-COVID-19 Pandemic

Scientists and doctors will offer essential, life-saving information during the SARS-COVID-19 pandemic. However we should remember that the medical field isn’t the only source we can turn to given our culture’s drive towards data accumulation and pursuance of technological salvation — a path that can cause us to forego wisdom in the quest for knowledge. Anthropologists, historians, social workers, economists, professors, theologians, artists, and literary experts validated by public trust will help us remember the humanity that knowledge and rationality alone can miss. Moreover, I’m confident that those with the grace to live through this emergency will find these varied viewpoints even more helpful in responding to the aftermath of grieving relatives, weakened economies, and widespread uncertainty. As an example, consider the following:
 
  • Historical study of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 has guided our current responses and provided a pretext for social distancing.
  • Novels such as Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath can help many live and cope through economic depression.
  • Many religious texts describe plagues and their aftermath and are often the best sources of wisdom to help us avoid dangerous patterns in human behavior and misguided leadership.

Questions to Ask When Presented with the Need for New Technologies

As a web developer frequently working with one the world’s favorite technologies, the internet, Neil Postman’s study of modern culture struck me as a highly relevant critique on the quiet, relentless ways in which technologies shape our lives. Here’s a slightly adapted list of Postman’s questions to ask when presented with a need to create a new technology:

  • What is the problem to which this technology is the solution?
  • Whose problem is it?
  • Which people and what institutions might be most seriously harmed by this technological solution?
  • What problems might be created because we have solved this problem?
  • What sort of people and institutions might acquire special economic and political power because of this technological change?
  • What changes in language, the generally accepted meanings of words and phrases, are being enforced by this new technology and what is gained and lost by such changes?
  • What new methods of communication may result from this technology?

For more information about these questions refer to Neil Postman’s Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology and Building a Bridge to the 18th Century.

The Sprit of Sankofa, Woodson to Berry to Ramey

The spirit of Sankofa has really embraced me lately. Is it not significant that the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), an institution founded in 1915 by prominent historian Carter G. Woodson is still active today? I’m certain it would mean a great deal for the communities who supported Woodson’s vision to know their work probably lead to the 2020 publication of a Black Woman’s History of the United States coauthored by Diana Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross.

West African Music Study and the Patience to Teach and Learn

At rehearsal with master musicians Abou Sylla, Ibrahim Aminou (talking drum), and Alseny Sylla (djembe) practicing Sörsörne for the 9th Annual Children in Nature Workshop at the George Washington Carver Museum in Austin, TX. Filmed by Deborah Peyton.

I’ve been playing and learning from Abou Sylla for over five years now and I’m always impressed with the patience taken to distill West African music for Western students. Lots of West African music is approximated in European notation as being in 6/8 which divides beats into multiples of three. On the other hand, the common 4/4  time signature that divides beats into multiples of two encompasses most mainstream American music. So due to lack of exposure to rhythmically complex music, Western ears are slower to pick up the complexities of 6/8 rhythm. I’ve had many lessons taking hours to learn a passage that would come second nature to those who grew up hearing these “polyrhythms” all their lives.

Clean Your Reeds and Mouthpiece Regularly Unless you Want to Turn Your Mouth into a Petri Dish

Remember to keep it clean, Saxy one. Soak your mouthpiece and reeds in hydrogen peroxide every now and then to get rid of excess bacteria and fungi. You don’t want those germs and mold setting up shop in your mouth and lungs causing some kind of random disease, do you? Besides, your kissing partner will enjoy not having sharing your horn germs after your blow all those solos.

How, you say? I thought you’d never ask. Simply fill a small cup with hydrogen peroxide and submerge your reed or rubber mouthpiece. Soak reeds for five to fifteen minutes and mouthpieces for around two hours. No Peroxide in the house? Thats OK because vinegar works equally well. Fair warning – the acid might give your hard rubber mouthpiece a greenish hue and your reeds a not so pleasant taste. Be sure to thoroughly rinse with water after all that soaking!

Got a metal mouthpiece? No problem! Just rinse with a little soap and warm water. Peroxide and vinegar work here too, but you might want to do a test to make sure neither chemical tarnishes your mouthpiece finish. However, if you are a fan of rusty patinas, go for it.