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Slonimsky: Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns

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Is there anybody here who has any experience with this?

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Not I. Why do you ask?

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Just curious to see if anyone got anywhere with it. Part of it's legendary status is how folks barely got into it. :ph34r:

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I picked up the Gridmore book once, shuddered, and put it back down. ^_^

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It's been years since I looked at a copy. Seems to me it was written with composers in mind, as something to generate ideas. The fact that a lot (all?) of the patterns were written out covering a large range, from below the bass cleff to above the treble clef, meant that instruments other than piano would have to edit the patterns to fit.

I recall also that there were very little descriptions or labels for the patterns. The copy in the college library had been gone through by other jazz players, and many of the patterns had chord symbols penciled in, suggesting some possible applications.

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Never seen this...but roughly on topic - I have the Yusef Lateef book, and think it's absolutely great. And I'm DEEPLY sceptical of this type of book!

Edited by Red

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I like it because it's very neutral

(very unlike Slonimsky himself: read his Musical Invective)!

It's good as a reference for trying out new ideas -

using scales and chords that may have not occurred to you to use.

I think what's frustrating for many users is

that it's not descriptive - it's not meant to be a how-to,

but rather a type of reference book of possibilities.

For my interests, this book and the Masaya Yamaguchi one

often fulfill a need.

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I recall also that there were very little descriptions or labels for the patterns. The copy in the college library had been gone through by other jazz players, and many of the patterns had chord symbols penciled in, suggesting some possible applications.

Yeah...mysterious terms, no relating all those patterns to harmony.

Maybe I'll try to get into it again this year, my reading is better these days.

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I like it because it's very neutral

(very unlike Slonimsky himself: read his Musical Invective)!

I'm sure Slonimsky was as opinionated as anyone. But isn't the Lexicon of Musical Invective just a colletion of other people bitching about music, and merely collected and edited by Slonimsky?

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I like it because it's very neutral

(very unlike Slonimsky himself: read his Musical Invective)!

It's good as a reference for trying out new ideas -

using scales and chords that may have not occurred to you to use.

I think what's frustrating for many users is

that it's not descriptive - it's not meant to be a how-to,

but rather a type of reference book of possibilities.

For my interests, this book and the Masaya Yamaguchi one

often fulfill a need.

This also describes the voice-leading books put out by Mick Goodrick. I have worked quite a bit with those, and in fact spent a couple of hours with one page this morning, then assigned it to one of my students. The material there is interesting in that it can be explored both melodically and harmonically.

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I always had fun trying to play through some of the patterns in Slonimsky's "Thesaures" but also found it baffling since, as has been mentioned here, it's a descriptive rather than prescriptive book, and you have to have a lot of harmony already under your belt to truly assimilate the information in a meaningful way. The book does have a short intro meant to suggest how the materials can be applied to tonal harmony, but, again, it's not for beginners and the terminology can be dense, especially if your prior references are all jazz-education based.

The book, of course, has a storied place in jazz lore. It was an important reference for Trane, who practiced out of it. McCoy too, and then Herbie studied it too, 'cause he heard that McCoy and Trane used it. I asked Herbie about the book once and he mentioned one specific place you can hear its influence is during the piano solo on "Driftin" from "Takin' Off." It's the lick in bar 6 of his second A section. He plays a rapidly ascending figure that in this bluesy hard-bop context sounds like it comes from outerspace. (Herbie didn't identify which pattern from the Thesaures this actually is, so if anybody can find it, you get a gold star.)

In Lewis Porter's Trane's bio he notes that David Dempsy has tied the second eight bars of "Giant Steps" to one of Slonimsky's "ditone" progressions (dividing the octave into three parts by major thirds). A pattern on the top of page 40 is Trane's melody for the second half of the tune transposed to a starting note of C. Porter also points out that on page vi of the intro you can find essentially the same melody underpinned with chords similar to what Coltrane uses. (Porter's discussion of all this is on pages 149-150). Surely, other patterns and intervals in the Thesaures made their way into Trane's playing, and Slonimsky's ideas would seem to merge logically with his sheets-of-sound aesthetic and the later modal playing.

For what it's worth, anyone looking for a practical book that to help expand your harmonic vocabularly of scales and arpeggios should take a look at Walt Weiskopf's "Around the Horn." Lots of information very thoughtfully organized.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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"Nikoli Slonimsky: Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns"

I studied it a little when I was 17 (1965). Slonimsky started as a mathematician.

The patterns are mathematical. They divide a range (say an octave) into equal parts,

and embellish using symmetry. It was not meant for diatonic harmony.

"But isn't the Lexicon of Musical Invective just a colletion of other people

bitching about music, and merely collected and edited by Slonimsky?"

Exactly. One critic wrote that Brahms could not write a melody.

All his books are worth reading. He really was special.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Slonimsky

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