Friday, July 6, 2012

Speaking of concepts - how about The Concept?

Today I started reading a bit about "The Concept" - The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. Ironically enough it felt like the first time I picked up Race Car Vehicle Dynamics in the sense of theory overload, and gave me a bit of perspective on my day job doing vehicle dynamics work! 

For me anyway, it's one of those reads that hits you as, "I'm definitely not as sharp as I thought I was," but it definitely seems fairly brilliant and is something I'd like to learn. This all stems out of my previous post regarding modal jazz - for which The Concept is reported to form the conceptual base. In some ultimate irony it shares similar terminology to passing concepts in (American) football - which all tend to boil down to vertical, horizontal, and oblique stretched to use Norm Chan's terminology... whereas TLCCOTO uses vertical, horizontal, and supra-vertical. More on that at a later date - American football is very much a thinking man's sport at a high level.

In any event, when I was in my more serious musician days (sic) in high school, any improvisational or soloing work I did was just fumbling for sounds... stringing some notes together to make a lick and quickly pass over or audible out of anything blatantly dissonant! Since getting my engineering degree I honestly feel much more comfortable with music theory in general - to the point I'm actually interested in learning and making sense of it. Not dissimilar to practical engineering work, things in music work for a reason, and I feel that the better grounding and understanding I have there the easier it is to be creative. To me, improvisation or composing are no different than speaking a language. In high school I took the cave man approach of grunting sounds, syllables, or words to get some basic concept across. Theory gives you the syntax of how nouns and verbs come together to make a sentence, sentences to form a paragraph, and paragraphs to form a complete line of reasoning. The difference between composition and improvisation then is the difference between writing out a speech in advance, or having a few ideas in your head and being able to speak to them comfortably on the fly.

How does this relate to the day job? It gave me interesting perspective on theory versus application and what it really takes to make one relevant to the other. At work, part of my responsibility is to come up with theory which then gets handed over for use at the race track. To me it all makes perfect sense, but if you can't convey that sensibly to those who have to use it.. it's all for naught. Mostly challenging given how tight and limited timing is as far as getting everyone on the same page conceptually. When I have time to sit down and work through things I think I can convey concepts reasonably well in translatable terms. For now though I feel like I'm on the application end of modal theory with little understanding of why things work the way they do. Sure, I can dig that an Eb Lydian scale works well with a C minor 7 chord (and why the Dorian mode matches well for the given root) but it sure would be nice to grasp where that all stems from. 

It will take some further study. 

The other way this is analogous to the day job is that this is how I had to learn vehicle dynamics.  There was really no one around sufficiently experienced to teach it to me, which left self-guided learning through books and experimentation as the only option. So for those struggling with it and stuck in the same situation - I feel your struggle!

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