"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."
February 6, 2014 | Best of JM: Complexity leads to simplicity
Enjoy the popular archive material below. From May 24, 2012 | Complexity leads to simplicity
How do we make music simpler?
The interesting video we've embedded discusses a new path to embracing complexity. The counter-intuitive goal is to achieve simplicity. Speaker Eric Berlow shows how diagrams can map ecological, biological, and social problems visually in science. The irony is through colors, shapes, and graphs, we can make a complex set of elements much easier to understand by eliminating components, and not adding them.
Music can be approached similarly with our own mental "spaghetti" diagrams. We embrace theoretical elements that seem complex on their own, chord extensions, modes and boutique scales, sophisticated chord progressions and tonality shifts, but ultimately, the goal is to make music simpler. We learn modes to be able to internalize inherent harmonic (vertical/chord) structure to reproduce and communicate it melodically. We analyze chord patterns to reduce it to variations of tonic, dominant, and dominant preparation (simply, "ii V7 I"). We spot consistencies in form (verse, chorus, bridge) so we can wail away without having to think or organize in form.
Music theory should always be about making the music simpler, not more complex.