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Time Remembered: INTERVALLIC ANALYSIS
There are four ways to analyze Jazz themes:
- INTERVALLICALLY -by measuring the theme note by note and naming the distance in pitch, we arrive at each interval that is formed in the unfolding of the thematic material. In so doing, it is hoped to find an underlying pattern, or specific intervals that give the theme its expressive power and uniqueness; we then look for the Directional Tones (the high and low point of each phrase). These reveal other patterns and characteristics that make up the “shape” of the theme.
- MODALLY -by re-grouping the tones of each phrase , we form a scale or scales (modes).
O. HARMONICALLY -by relating the tones to the harmony, we again look for significant melodic patterns and color.
- MOTIFICALLY -by breaking down the phrases into smaller units called motifs (melodic cells), and then the motifs to smaller units called figures (molecules).
Since this article addresses intervallic relationships, see EX. lA through lH below for the intervallic breakdown of the theme (26 measures, 8 phrases with subdivisions).
Observe that in phrase one, the theme consists of intervals of minor and major 2nds, dividing the phrase in half by a perfect 5th. A unique pattern emerges here; the first three notes-” f#,” “g,” and “e”-and the 5th, 6th and 7th notes-“d,” “c#,” and “a”-are made up of similar intervals, seconds and thirds, with the pitch “b” separating them and ending the phrase (see brackets and boxes). Another observation to make is that the phrase begins with an interval of a minor 2nd but ends with a major 2nd, a very subtle dramatic effect.
Here Bill begins with a perfect 5th and_e_[lds with a perfect 5th, creating a feeling of calm; more 2nds, 3rds and, fcfr the first time, a perfect 4th, subdividing the phrase in half.
Now for the first time we have a three-measure phrase (another four-measure phrase here would be monotonous). Perfect 5ths begin and end the phrase, with only 2nds and 3rds between. A keen observer would suggest that this phrase subdivides in 3′ s (1 + 1 + 1 ); measure 9 begins with a descending perfect 5th (“e” to “a”) and measure 11 ends with another descending perfect 5th but this time “d” to “g”!! Measure 10 is the surprise: “b” to “c” to “e,” the exact inversion of our 3-note pattern in the first phrase (“d” to “c#” to “a”).
In phrase four,-Section A comes to a half cadence on the pitch “c#,” the ninth of the B minor chord, the same chord that began the piece. We encounter a five-measure phrase, a subtle extension of the four-measure phrases one and two. Bill achieves this by tying over the “c#” for one full measure. This was a stroke of genius because a lesser talent would not have tied over the ” c#” at measure 16 and no one would have noticed the difference. If you don’t believe me, try playing the theme from measures 1-15, skip measure 16, and continue to measures 17- 26.
Now play it again adding measure 16. What do you feel? Right! The need for SP ACE; a chance to BREATHE, and measure 16 is the perfect place. We also meet for the first time at measure 15 an interval of a major 7th, a very passionate interval, full of energy and tension; therefore, the necessity to halt, stop, breathe. How? Tie over the “c#” for one full measure.
Beginning Section B, Bill composes two two-measure phrases back to back, both containing the same intervallic breakdown and both continuing the tension from phrase four by ending on a Ma7th. Here, Bill is shortening the phrase lengths by shortening theme patterns, liquidating the theme, and rightly so. This is the second half of the theme (or Section B). Notice also that the interval pattern in measure 17 rhythmically speeds up (DIMINUTION) in measure 19.
Diminution occurs again in this three-measure phrase. Measure 21 rhythmically speeds up in measure 22, last half. At measure 23, things get very calm with a minor 3rd (” f” to “d”) and a perfect 5th (“d” to “a”). Measure 23 also spells out the D minor triad; in fact, a keen observer would notice two more minor triads in this phrase: measure 21, C# minor triad and measure 22, A minor triad.
Phrase eight is full of goodies. We have another example of EXTENSION, but this time Bill gives us SPACE in the middle by sitting on the whole note ”a” in measure 25. Repeat the experiment we did at the end of Section A, and you’ll see (hear) that we don’t really miss measure 25. At measure 24, we have the intervallic inversion of measure 17. And, for the first time, in measure26wehavean example of the retrogradeinversion ofmeasure23! Phrase eight is further liquidating the theme, with the final note serving both as the leading tone of the B minor mode (spelled enharmonic ally here; the original score has a B-flat) and the perfect” turn back” effect to measure 1 on the “f#,” or to an improvisation.
Time Remembered: Bill Evans Quintet
Personnel: Zoot Sims (tenor sax), Bill Evans (piano), Jim Hall (guitar), Ron Carter (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)
- Libertango (Piano Solo) – Astor Piazzola
- Out of Africa – music by John Barry (piano solo)
- Oblivion (Astor Piazzolla) by Nadja Kossinskaja, guitar (with sheet music)
- Milonga del Angel by Astor Piazzolla (arr. piano solo)
- Oblivion (A. Piazzolla) Two pianos – pianists Argerich and Hubert
- Bill Evans, american jazz pianist and composer (1929-1980)