Bill Evans Harmony

The Harmony of Bill Evans (2b)

The Harmony of Bill Evans (2b) PERI’S SCOPETHEMATIC ANALYSIS

In this article, I will analyze the thematic material of Bill’s tune, “Peri’s Scope.” My purpose will be to gain insight into the principles of good melody writing and, in Bill’s case, to get inside the creative mind of a genius as that mind organized, developed and evolved his compositions by following the dictates of what Schoenberg calls the “BASIC SHAPE,” the seed thought, the germ or idea that generates the entire piece. Because I use in these articles a specific vocabulary when I discuss Bill’s thematic material, I think it best to define these terms before I begin the analysis.
MOTIF-an interval, harmony, and/or rhythm combining to produce memorable shapes or patterns; a motif appears continually throughout a piece; it is repeated. Repetition alone often gives rise to monotony, and monotony can only be overcome by variation.

VARIATION-a change in some of the less important features of the motif and the preserva­tions of some of the more important ones.
FIGURE-a smaller rhythmic and/ or melodic feature of the motif that is repeated throughout the piece. A dotted quarter followed by an eighth note is a rhythmic figure Bill uses continually in “Peri’s Scope.”
DIRECTIONAL TONES-the range and contour (high and low points) of the theme; the main pitches that outline the theme.
INVERSION-an ascending pattern that later descends, and vice versa.
AUGMENTATION-an increased time value according to a ratio (three eighth notes become triplets, etc.).

DIMINUTION-a decreased time value according to a ratio (eighth notes become sixteenth notes).
RETROGRADE-the theme or motif played, or repeated backwards.
BASIC SHAPE-usually the first idea which generates the whole piece.
PHRASE-a complete musical thought, like a sentence in English (in this piece, 8 meaSures).

Let’s look at EX. lA to lC (measures 1-2). This is the BASIC SHAPE. The melodic figures are one lonely eighth note, a “g” on the first beat, rhythmic space or silence for one and one-half beats, a descending four note scale pattern, 11 g” to II d,” and an ascending interval leap of a perfect fourth, 11 d” to II g.” The DIRECTIONAL TONES and range are easy to calculate, 11 g” down to “d,” back up to “g.” The range is a perfect fourth. These are the memorable melodic features of Motif 1. But it’s the rhythmic, syncopated figures (EX. lE) which give Motif 1 its uniqueness and announce that “Peri’s Scope” is a jazz composition! I have found six different ways to break down Motif 1 into FIGURES. Can you find more?


Motif 2 is a development and repetition of the melodic and rhythmic figures of Motif 1. Compare EX. 2A with my analysis in EX. 2C. Bill’s V ARIA TI ON of the four note scale pattern results in a broken scale pattern in thirds. The interval leap of a perfect fourth he expands to a perfect fifth; that is, he leaped from “d” to “a.” The syncopation he shifts to the “and-of” 4, measure 3, and again on the” and-of” 3, measure 4. This last syncopated note of motif 2 is” g,” the same pitch that begins “Peri’s Scope”! And it’s also an eighth note! The rhythmic silence or space in measure 4 lasts for two beats, the same amount of rhythmic space that separates Motif 1 from Motif 2. Are these relationships accidental? I don’t think so. There is an inner “logician” at work here, the mind of the composer. Oh, yes, the range of Motif 2 is one octave.

Then in measure 5, Bill offers another VARIATION in the rhythmic pattern of measure three by introducing sixteenth notes and·a quarter-note triplet for the first time (EX. 3A). His ear immediately picks up on the sixteenth notes, so we get more of them in the very next measure! (EX. 3B).

With all of this incredible melodic and rhythmic far (measures 1-6), the DIREC­TIONAL TONES hint at monotony. Why? They all hover around the pitcli “g”! What does Mr. Evans do? He lets the” composer” step in, and in measure 7 he writes not one, but two” g­sharps,” the first chromatic note of the piece (EX. 4). How does he rhythmically treat these “g-sharps”? By holding the first one for one and one-half beats and syncopating the second one. This is breathtaking. It is in this measure that Bill reveals to us that he is inwardly singing. How does he reveal this? By following the” g#s” with six beats of rhythmic space: silence! Now he is able to make a new breath. And that is precisely how we can identify the end of one phrase and the beginning of another. Measures 1-8 comprise phrase one; measures 9-16, phrase two; measures 17-24, phrase three.

The syncopated FIGURE in measure 7 is not unique. It reappears in measures 13-16, the second part of phrase two, where Bill the composer fully exploit it (EX. SA), as the climax or high point of “Peri’s Scope.” It is the dotted quarter note, however, that is secretly exploited by alternate syncopation, i.e. every other quarter note is placed on the” and” of the beat. To make this clear in my analysis, I have rewritten these FIGURES in 6 / 8 meter (EX. SB). Because of this rhythmic complexity, the inner “logician” tells Bill to narrow the range. Now he has the opportunity to create melodic FIGURES on the intei:vals of a Major 2nd, minor 2nd, minor 3rd, and Major 3rd (EX. SC).

See Ex. 6 and 7 for further analyses of Motifs 1 and 2.

bill evans jazz sheet music
Get Bill Evans’ transcriptions from our Library