"I've Got The Runs"
Track 3 from "Solitarily Speaking Of Theoretical Confinement"
Transcriptions in .pdf format
View and print from Adobe Acrobat Reader

One of my favorite writing tools is 12 tone. Why do I use this often when writing? Simply because there is no tonal center. Notes and chords sound as if they're coming out of nowhere, but somehow fall into place. You can create any combination of notes, and come up with all sorts of wild chords, scales, patterns, etc...

So what is a 12 tone? Well, my version differs from the "official" retrograde, inversion, and retrograde inversion where once you hit a note, it can't be played again until the other 11 notes have been played. What I do is simply use all of the 12 tones evenly. I do come up with a "row" of 12 tones, but rather than play the notes consecutively, I group them in sets and create chords, or clusters.

On "I've Got The Runs" I wanted to come up with a 12 tone "progression" with 4 chords, 3 notes per chord (or cluster), and get the 4 basic triad sounds - major, minor, diminished and augmented/whole tone. Then I wanted to modulate this progression up/down several times thus creating a cycle.

Here's the chords/clusters that I came up with:

Bb C D (Major 3rd interval from Bb to D)
E F# G (minor 3rd interval from E to G)
A C# D# (taken from F whole tone scale - F G A B C# D#)
F G# B - (diminished triad)

To create the "cycle", I moved the whole progression up a whole step:
F# G# A
B D# F
G Bb Db

Then another whole step:
D E F#
G# A# B
C# F G
A C D#

I did this 6 times until it came around to the original chords/clusters.

Then I wrote a rhythmic melody for the progression, using only the notes in the 12 tone patterns. Each cluster/chord is played over one measure. Simple enough? Well, the measures alternate between 5/4 and 4/4, and the chords actually come in on the "and" or the upbeat of the previous measure. If the measure is 5/4, the next chord comes in on 5 "and". If the measure is 4/4, the next chord comes in on 4 "and". Got it?? Cool... So here's "I've Got The Runs" with the basic rhythmic tracks, no solo/melody.

And here's "I've Got The Runs" with a keyboard holding out the chords.

For the solo/melody over the top, I played a few different scales. Over the first clusters, I usually play a major scale, but sometimes a whole tone scale. Over the 2nd clusters is usually a minor scale, but sometimes a diminished. Over the 3rd clusters is usually a lydian scale (mode), but sometimes whole tone. And for the 4th chords, a diminished scale and diminished 7 arpeggios worked best. Also, the entire progression is played twice (the repeat is at :42), so the whole series of major, minor, whole tone and diminished clusters/chords happens 12 times. Here's the final result...

See you next month...


Return to title page