For this week’s composition, Ice-Berg, I thought the clarinet would be a good choice. Luckily, John can play pretty much all of the instruments in the woodwind family. That is versatility for you.
A lot of the written music you see as a jazz musician is in the form of a lead sheet. A lead sheet usually contains the melody and a set of chord changes. The chord changes are also usually used for improvising as well as accompanying the melody. Chord changes could be thought of as musical shorthand, they give you a harmonic roadmap, but don’t necessarily spell out all the details. Sometimes it is difficult to really describe a chord voicing that I want, it is just easier to write out the notes. So if you take a look at the PDF for Ice-Berg you will see the chords written musically as well as the chord symbols. The second dilemma was that chords were pretty difficult to improvise over. Pretty chromatic. In this case I decided to play shapes over the harmony instead of worrying that every note fit every chord. Is there really such a thing as a wrong note? As long the note that follows makes sense to the previous one, does it matter? Music is not static like a painting. In taking that approach I also wanted the melody to always be played in order to provide some continuity. Basically to keep it from being too atonal sounding. The classic recording of Nefertiti by the Miles quintet of 1960’s basically play the melody chorus after chorus. The effect is a more subtle change than drastic.
What is interesting is what causes one to hear a sound as dissonant? In western music we have 12 individual notes, that are divided into octaves and repeated. Combinations of two notes form intervals, with three notes a triad and so on. Generally speaking the interval of a 5th is considered consonant while a minor 2nd dissonant. My harmonic approach is this tune was use dissonant and consonant intervals side by side. The music of twentieth-century composer Alban Berg made use of dissonance as well as the serial composition, the use of 12 tone rows. The line between harmony and atonality begins to disappear, or melt like an Ice-Berg. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.