Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-06-17 - 2:40 p.m.

How right Ricardo is about Insensatez. I was first taught this song off Sloane St in my teens which as R implies is very much the right ambience. How on earth does Jobim pull this one off to deliver everything that R describes? I might add it’s a great tune to improvise on – a cousin is Chega de Saudade which has a major and minor section which I learned some decades later – and which has a similar long distance harmonic narrative.

I think part of the trick is in the use of harmonies which are nearly normal. For example the second chord is 5 notes . Lets say its in D minor and so the second chord is a diminished seventh chord – three intervals of a minor third on C# plus the melody A on top. There’s a grit in this. The third chord steps the bass down to a C but the remaining notes are Eb G and A – what you might call a C minor 6. But its rather doing the work of a D7 and you wonder whether the G is going to fall a half step – which of course it doesn’t and it doesn’t resolve to a G chord exactly – rather a rootless G9 or B half dimished seventh. So in the first four bar sequence you have a minor progression which might make you think of the equivalent section of Fruit Tree – except the harmonic language is slightly displaced.

In terms of the same song – its worth pointing out that the B section of Fruit Tree uses a related kind of harmony especially the falling minor 6th or half diminished chords substituting for more conventional harmonic narrative. In this part of the song a substitute tonic ninth moves to a subdominant minor sixth and then a flat mediant ninth sidesteps into a dominant seventh suspended and resolved – with a minimum of finger movement. Equally artful.

The harmonic tale of Insensatez unfolds without repetition although you might think at a glance this is not the case. The opening four bars are harsh. The advent of the major sevenths in the second four bars change the mood and the step up in the bass into the minor mode II chord is especially poignant. There is a full close at the point where most songs resort to an open dominant to keep the tension up. The third phrase opens with a glorious six note chord based on Cminor with a Bb major triad floating on top which moves another diminished seventh on the B. This big chord suggests that possibly the story will resolve positively. Although it is the second C minor chord in the tune it sounds like a complete breath of fresh air.

The chord following the 6 note Cm7 alters just slightly when it is repeated in the last four bars – just edging slightly towards resolution dulling the optimism. When you add to all this the rhythmic subtlety of the bossa you have pure magic.

Poor Boy has a similar grand harmonic narrative within a samba framework plus a sprinkling of lovely 5 or 6 note chords and quirky inversions.

Meanwhile, my remaining appointment next week has been pulled, the client likes the paper so much he wants various extras and my mouth and throat still hurts.

I looked up my funny old Yamaha – it’s a PSR 6 and I see that its few fans on the net like it for the same reason as I – its cheap, its light, its rectangular and you feel free to do anything with it. Also it comes alive when you add an FX box and get it away from its inbuilt speaker and amp and its true retro timbre comes through. One reviewer I read put an octaver into its circuitry – if only I knew how.

Pandora is promiscuously coupling with all my sources and this morning she was it with the Crafter – the gutstring electroacoustic. This has a four band graphic equaliser and a volume control in the side which means you can easily adjust the guitar output to exploit different features of each of the Pandora presets. I ended up putting quite a full jazzy sounding guitar track onto the box music which I might keep. Because it was quite early I recorded this onto Nomad and monitored off the headphone socket which introduced just a hint of latency – enough to be stimulating rather than disconcerting.

Paul mailed about Gerald Heard, Larry Ayres about Tow the Line and Cathy Bell about Ms Panufnik.

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