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Thread: George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept

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    Default George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept

    Would anyone like to discuss this? This is George Russell's approach to music theory, specially for jazz players. George Russell was a pianist, composer, band leader & educator, and put out several super-excellent jazz albums in the late 1950's, 1960's, and on up.

    I have had his book, an early ring-bound "workbook" version of it, with numerous graphs and scale charts. It was sold to me by a disgruntled jazz piano player.

    After years of trying to decipher the true meaning & purpose of the Lydian Chromatic Concept, I finally gained some insights (from You Tube videos, no less) and I think I have a basic grasp on the purpose of it, although by no means do I have a complete working knowledge of it. In fact, Russell himself was working on refining the Concept right up to the last days of his life.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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    http://www.jeff-brent.com/Lessons/LC...repancies.html

    It was probably useful system for some jazz musicians back in the day (liberating the minds of the players out of the cliche chord progressions and licks), but it is basically renaming some popular pitch collection (while missing many important scales) without bringing anything new to the table. The Lydian premise and vague tonal gravity theories are nonsense.

    It is interesting that so many "jazz" books (I remember the Schillinger (teacher of Gershwin) book, Levine book, many jazz arranging books that I've seen over the years) are somewhat unsophisticated and packed with errors.
    Last edited by BabyGiraffe; May-19-2018 at 10:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    It was probably useful system for some jazz musicians back in the day (liberating the minds of the players out of the cliche chord progressions and licks), but it is basically renaming some popular pitch collection (while missing many important scales) without bringing anything new to the table.
    This reply demonstrates that this "expert" has completely missed the point, and that also shows no respect for established masters and their knowledge. There is info all over the internet about this, and there are plenty of 'believers' who took the time to understand Russell's concept.

    Quote Originally Posted by BabyGiraffe View Post
    The Lydian premise and vague tonal gravity theories are nonsense.
    Ironically, it is this very idea of tonal gravity that is the key to understanding the concept. Beyond understanding, there is a way to understand 'by ear' what the Concept means. This is the true harmonic truth of the Theory. Don't worry with 'understanding nonsense' and know with your ear. It's all based on sound, not ideas or theories.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-25-2018 at 22:32.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post

    After years of trying to decipher the true meaning & purpose of the Lydian Chromatic Concept, I finally gained some insights (from You Tube videos, no less) and I think I have a basic grasp on the purpose of it, although by no means do I have a complete working knowledge of it. In fact, Russell himself was working on refining the Concept right up to the last days of his life.
    If anyone wants to talk about it, I'm interested. I never obtained a copy of it, but I remember no less a master than James Moody saying, "This will be my workshop for years to come." I figured if he couldn't get it, I was in no position to.

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    I'm all for discussion, but wholesale rejection of the Concept, as Baby Giraffe has done, I'm not interested in debating; and it's not what this thread is supposed to be about.

    I think the first objective to understanding the validity of Russell's ideas involves knowledge of scales and how they are derived, and general knowledge of intervals and their degree of dissonance.

    Also, one has to understand the Western major scale, why it is used in Western tonal music, what its particular qualities are, a knowledge of its interval content, and what reinforces tonality.

    The LYDIAN scale was not chosen arbitrarily. The way it is derived, by cycling fifths, and its particular "leading tone" characteristics, and how this or any scale relates to the tonality created by it, must be understood as "givens." I'm not going to debate what should be taken as basic facts.

    The life of this thread will now depend on the responses.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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    There are way-way better modern resources on the psychological or psychoacoustic/mathematical side of the music than this book... There are also way better catalogues and scale classification books and articles. I suggest subscribing to any good local university library with access to JSTOR/Springer etc and using the search bar. For historical information on scale construction (especially ancient Greek genera), maybe this will be interesting to someone:

    http://eamusic.dartmouth.edu/~larry/...ord/index.html

    Still, if I was after some real jazz theory, I would be researching African music and how it mutated in Americas...

    For the practical musician that doesn't care too much about tuning, scale theory and similar, there are plenty of textbooks on 19-20th century Western music that cover anything that can be heard in modern jazz.

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    This thread is intended to discuss George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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    I am officially removing myself from this thread, due to the responses received.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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    Russell's book was written with jazz musicians in mind and stands on its own. It was written as central to jazz improvisation and not that "There are way-way better modern resources on the psychological or psychoacoustic/ mathematical side of the music than this book." His method was not about the "psychological" side of music but about liberating one's ability to spontaneously improvise using the Lydian chromatic scale. It's a study of tonality and what he calls an understanding of "horizontal and verticle gravity" that was inspired by the approach to improvisation by Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. It's jazz-based and has its own integrity. There are a number of online resources related to Russell's work that one can seek out. Miles Davis was influenced by Russell's theories and compositions during the 1950s. Bill Evans also was influenced by Russell and both giants recorded some of Russell's compositions. Russell taught that a G major scale over a C chord was a better fit than a C scale over a C chord. A G scale is the Lydian scale in C because it has the F sharp instead of the F natural. So his theory presents different scale and harmonic possibilities and choice of notes.





    One of Russell's well-known jazz compositions: Ezz-thetic:



    Miles Davis performing Russell's Ezz-thetic with Lee Konitz, who takes a fantastic solo. Swings like crazy.



    Bill Evans playing Ezz-thetic:

    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jun-09-2018 at 11:57.
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    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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    I read a short dialogue between Toru Takemitsu and George Russell (1988). Takemitsu regarded the Lydian Chromatic Concept one of the most important music theory books written in the 20th century, comparable to Messiaen's Technique De Mon Langage Musical. He said his compositional method (pan-tonal/modal) was deeply influenced by the Lydian Chromatic Concept. I do not have ability to hear the relationship between their musics, and I was a bit surprised to read it. He sympathized with the philosophical aspect of the Russell's theory about tonal gravity/totality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tortkis View Post
    I read a short dialogue between Toru Takemitsu and George Russell (1988). Takemitsu regarded the Lydian Chromatic Concept one of the most important music theory books written in the 20th century, comparable to Messiaen's Technique De Mon Langage Musical. He said his compositional method (pan-tonal/modal) was deeply influenced by the Lydian Chromatic Concept. I do not have ability to hear the relationship between their musics, and I was a bit surprised to read it. He sympathized with the philosophical aspect of the Russell's theory about tonal gravity/totality.
    Well, it's all by ear. The ear is what determines how tonal or away from center the music is.

    Also, there are some built-in idiosyncrasies about the Western major-minor system which make it a less-than-perfect system when it comes to reinforcing a tonal center; our Western system is designed for tension, and for "playing" with the tonality. It's meant for traversing keys, and exploring other areas, but not for staying in one key area and reinforcing that tonality. It wants to wander off.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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