2. The First Time in a Long Time



A track by track blog on the music from “Days of Sun and Days of Rain” – a consideration of the music and some reflections along the way

In contrast to the last piece, this one is all about flow. Another collaboration with Dave Scarth who provides an agile and sinewy bass line for this Miles Davis inspired piece. It was Dave who introduced me to Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way many years ago. This album, along with other recordings made around this time by Miles Davis and his contemporaries, continues to be a great source of musical inspiration and pleasure. This groove piece is based on the use of modes over a static harmony. The scale I use is interesting. I first came across it in a book by William Russo, who may well have been the originator. He refers to it as the ‘Lixian’ Scale, possibly because it can be seen as a hybrid of a Lydian and Mixolydian scale? Anyway, the notes are

C               D               E                F#             G               A               Bb            C


These are the notes I use, but in my piece I make the D the root note. This gives me a major sounding lower tetrachord and a minor sounding upper one. The melodies just flow freely using this very natural sounding if somewhat ambiguous scale. Russo has hit on something interesting. Many hybrid scales are often of limited use unless you are working in an avant garde context. Not this one.

It’s a scale which also gives a very useable collection of derived chords. I’ll let you work them out… You can hear some of these chords in the electric piano part [actually played on a guitar synthesiser] This, coupled with the mallet parts and other percussion give a nice fidgety bedrock foundation over which the guitar and bass lines can meander freely.

The mallet parts are probably Steve Reich inspired, since I don’t listen to much music for these instruments outside of the Reich oeuvre. In fact, if you project the musical influences backward and forwards you can see some strong connections between the worlds of classical, jazz and avant rock music. Miles Davis and his contemporaries were intrigued by the music coming to the USA from Europe via émigrés such as Bartok and Stravinsky and the earlier work of Debussy and Ravel. Going forwards young ‘classical’ composers such as Reich and Adams will freely admit that they spent more time in their student years listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane than the set works of Boulez, Berio or Schoenberg. Step forward a generation to the ‘post rock’ musicians from Brian Eno to Jonny Greenwood and you can see how they drew on all these strands. These may be challenging times for musicians, but musically it’s really interesting!

Finally a word about the guitar sound. The first sections are just clean electric guitar, but it does go dirty later on. This is achieved by cranking up a chorus pedal. I’ve never been able to get on with the ubiquitous dreamy sound that is the default setting for this effect. Andy Summers got in there first with his recordings with Police and basically said all there was to say with this pleasant, if now somewhat dated sound. But used aggressively it can sound quite punchy. At the very end of the piece, I couldn’t resist just a little bit of backwards guitar. It’s a sound I have to discipline myself into using sparingly, so great is the temptation…

You can listen to this piece on Youtube:


Posted in Days of Sun

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