GW5 rawks Maryland Institute College of Art with Andy Bianco (gtr), Campbell Charshee (pno), Marty Kenney (bs), and Chris Benham (drm)
with Nathan Peck & the Funky Electrical Unit
“. . . hypnotic melody lines in the hands of this supremely capable artisan.”
“It’s kind of perfect.” -Anthony Dean-Harris, NextBop
The psychological effect that polytonality can have on the listener is often governed by the relationship between the keys that are presented. Vincent Persichetti elaborates:
“The fundamental quality of polytonal texture is determined by the key relationship set up by the tonics. In major-key combinations, a polytonal order of tension from consonant to dissonant is secured by combining two keys that lie a perfect fifth, major ninth, major sixth, major third, major seventh apart – and so on up the cycle of fifths . . . Those keys that are not closely related according to the circle of fifths will more easily set apart the tonal key spheres.” 1
The following is an elaboration of Persichetti’s visual representation of his theory with regard to the consonance or dissonance of key combinations:
Although the case can be made that this is a subjective classification system, and although Persichetti does not provide a definition of or reasoning with regard to how he defines resonance within the confines of polytonality, the examples provided in the chapter of his book display a thorough understanding of his experience with polytonality. If I can offer a criticism, it is that I feel as if Persichetti could have provided a much more in depth analysis of why certain key relationships are more consonant, dissonant, or resonant than others, rather than mere stating that this is so.
1 Persichetti, Vincent, “Polytonality.” Twentieth-Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice. New York: Norton, 1961, p. 255-261.
In the following examples, repeated melodic fragments (motives) factor importantly in how new keys are introduced into an established tonal environment. Further, one of the tonal environments (either the established or the newly introduced) can be purposefully ambiguous, suggesting perhaps two or more tonal possibilities.
In what is one of Lennie Tristano’s most widely acclaimed improvised melodies, the chord progression to All of Me is visited with a torrent of running eight-note lines at a fast-paced tempo. By the beginning of the third chorus, the listener has had ample opportunity to have become acclimated to the chordal framework of the composition, complete with solo material that has been largely diatonic to the key of B-flat major. It is at this moment, however, that Tristano chooses to briefly introduce a repeating motive, beginning in the key of B major and again in the parent key of the composition.
While the tempo and usage of continuous eighth notes (common throughout the entire solo) provides the melody with a definite sense of momentum, it is the repetition of a six-beat motive, once in the foreign key and again in the original key that provides the listener with a fragment to identify with. Additionally, the fact that this motive crosses the bar line adds to the sense of momentum.
Leading up to the excerpt above from Kneebody’s Clime Pt. 2, the melody establishes itself as being firmly within an E minor or G mixolydian tonality. This is reinforced by the eight-measure ostinato in the bass, repeated throughout the five-minute composition. Once established, however, the melody briefly visits the keys of C major, A-flat lydian, and D-flat major, using the repeated ascending scale, descending arpeggio motive throughout. Once these new keys are introduced, the door is opened for additional tonal environments to be brought in. And while the E and F-sharp major melodic segments do not follow a specific motive, they do maintain the eighth-note triplet momentum of the previous melodies.