Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-09-24 - 6:33 a.m.


Vita and Mrs C went yesterday to see recent Hockney paintings of Yorkshire and so I spent the time thinking about harmony in an empty house – a chord which starts with a simple quartal triad – say (from the bottom) f# b e. To get to what I call a Hancock thirteenth you put a ‘c’ next to the b which is a tritone to the f# root and makes the whole thing a D13 chord. However you can use that chord as a root chord – say as a F# half diminished resolving into a dominant 7th on B .

The thing that made me think yesterday was the addition of a ninth – a g# - a note which actually make a major triad within the chord – in this case one on E. In fact it’s a major triad in the So What chord – which is where the f# takes it. But the SW chord is a 4 tone chord and this has 5, the 5th note being a C. Another way of thinking of this chord is as a rootless Scriabin chord .

Anyway all of this led me to George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic concept – a book published in 1953 which is said to have influenced Kind of Blue – and has been revised this century. The lowest price copy I can find is at Charlie Alexander’s Jazzwise – and that’s 100 quid. There is a website and imagine my surprise when on the website I found a quote from the Tombeau de Couperin – there is a very Lydian theme in the Forlane.

Then I discovered that the widow of the Beethoven SQ commentator has given the first performance of the TdeC. I dug out a CD of early Debussy piano – and a biography/commentary and listened to the Arabesques and the Ballade – and tried to get to grips with the idea of the beginning and the end of musical impressionism – separated by 30 years. In fact I also listened to the flute trio sonata which is also nearly at the end and read some of Linda Nochlin on realism and impressionism.

I have been practising Giant Steps on the piano – in particular a trope whereby you take a major seventh chord, take a half step up and then drop the fifth to a Lydian fourth. This is a way of taking II-V-I in a cycle of major thirds. I can do that in the left and take a right hand line through.

In the evening went to see Bill Bruford’s Earthworks play locally – I knew nothing about them except that BB had played in Yes and KC. They have an extraordinary young acoustic piano player with them. He likes to reach in the piano with his left while he is doing a line with his right and damp the sound down – also sometimes plucking the strings. I like that kind of piano extension a lot. The band was very adept technically – but that’s not the only reason I d recommend hearing them if you get the chance.

Vita went and picked up James from the airport while we were at the concert.

Nochlin sees impressionism as being on the path from realism to abstraction – one of the other vectors to abstraction comes from the decorative arts and in particular the English theorising which followed the foundation of the design schools. When we were in Budapest we went to see Lechner’s museum of decorative arts. The Hungarians in their nationalistic phase saw themselves as applied rather than fine artists.

Lechner went to England and as a result he used Indian motifs for the interior – he liked the colonial influence on English applied arts. The Hungarians went round the world buying leading edge applied arts to stick in the new Lechner museum – and they are nicely laid out there still. They were also drawn to musical impressionism.

When I was in the Lechner museum I couldnt help thinking of being in Brussels about a year ago - when I got a chance to meet up with Gilbert Isbin. I spent part of the time in the Brussels museum of applied arts and i began to see how the belgian emerging national identity hooked onto Art Nouveau - the Hungarians went down the same path. Robin showed me the same idea embodied in a house in Pasadena.

Did I mention Mrs C has got hold of some photos of the Gfd house taken just after its completion in 1913?

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