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  1. #26
    Here is what I meant by some of the terms I used in the OP.

    By contemporary jazz harmony, I mean post-bop harmony. This is in contrast to the harmony of bebop, swing, great American songbook etc. tunes where the function of each chord can almost always be identified with respect to the major, minor tonality and the standard chromatic expansion devices that do not disturb the diatonic harmony, such as substitutions, modal interchange chords, secondary dominants etc.

    I understand that this is a very large and not very cohesive group of compositions. I listed non-functional as a example compositional device in this era. It's just one subcategory and perhaps not a particularly interesting one. I certainly didn't mean to equate all post-bob tunes with non-functional harmony. The chords in a modal vamp for example have clear functions not too dissimilar to the way tonal chords function in my opinion.

    Please feel free to challenge these notions if you disagree with them. It's important to clarify what we mean by these things for the sake of the discussion.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 08-23-2021 at 12:59 PM.

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  3. #27

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    [QUOTE Reg

    I guess I'm just curious as to what we mean by non-functional. The art of camouflage or just the Innocence is Bliss thing.[/QUOTE]


    For me the term NF is just over analyzed theory speak ..if any aspect of musical form-melodic/harmonic/rhythmic is part of a composition or even in an improvised setting . it HAS function..its there
    its purpose could be basic simple-a passing chord or a complex series of chromatic inversions of chords - G triad with each note of the chromatic scale in the bass

    the term re-harmonized is used when the as written chords are replaced with chords .. so the question is asked..would these replacement chords be
    considered non-functional in context of the composers intent..

    and the list of "why and how come this works" is often asked to anyone who may teach or has a curious approach to the mysteries of music

    I would ask Ted Greene about things like this..he would give several explanations and then say..Does it sound good to you?

    so while it is good to add to your knowledge base the mechanics of harmonic motion..Flat Five substitutions for example..it will NOT be able to explain
    the why or how this could be as non-functional and still "get the job done"





  4. #28

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    Thanks Reg, I agree that anything with a pitch might be intellectualized, to the point of it being construed as an abstract but harmonically functional tension. Might the more usual opposition be between the functional and the decorative/ornamental/gestural, within the harmonic movement?
    Steve Lacy called his later music 'post-free' and the repeated dissonant chord in Monk's 'Little Rootie Tootie' comes to mind, as the kind of timbral gesture that is more about presence than where it comes from or where it is headed. I can make myself hear tonic, or sub dominant or dominant in this chord (a bit like "is the a drawing of a rabbit or a duck?")
    In The Monk Fake Book, the repeated 'answer' chord is written as a fascinating cluster that might be interpreted as an extended and altered rootless Eb7 (the notes of the chord on the treble clef are Db E F G Bb Gb with the tune in Ab). Lacy played this alone as a solo piece, effectively using a complex soprano sax multi-phonic in place of the piano chord.

    Last edited by Mick Wright; 08-23-2021 at 04:22 PM.

  5. #29

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    LOL ah... love that Lacy thing. yea, the intellectualized or academic approach while not avoiding our emotional content... which might lead to what we like.

    Thanks Tal... yes I get what your looking for, the only thing... which depending on your use of Modal, which is basically expanded organization of maj/min functional harmony. So it's pretty easy to expand function with rhythmic or articulated notes or sound... etc...

    I guess the only non functional harmony is when it's by chance, at least that's where I went at a young lad in my early days as a composer... in the Cage, Reich, Penderercki and Riley tradition.

    It's difficult to hear jazz as non functional, at least personally. As I have posted for years and Christian was bringing up in one of his earlier posts...the form thing.

    Anyway as in some of the tunes I posted above... expanding Functional relationships, Like the adding of upper relative relationships... and then using modal, (which can include Blue like functional relationships and expansion of Blue notes), can expand the use of Functional Subs....

    And then the use of longer Chord Patterns... as I was saying above. The trick with using Chord Patterns... longer chord patterns... is you can pick or use any of the chords included within the Chord Pattern to expand from. Which is really just a expanded level of Camouflage... but it opens the door to many chords or Tonal Targets from which to expand Diatonic Function. It's mechanical... at first but eventually becomes hearable... which becomes repeatable and recognizable and identifiable.... as a function, through use. As one's ear expands, even common practice.

  6. #30

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    Personally, I don't like this division into functional and contemporary. A contemporary tune works because it hangs together. If it were truly random (i.e. non-functional) it would just sound stupid and unmusical.

    But these sorts of tune aren't unmusical. Take Iris or one of those types of tune, aren't they musical? Just because they don't follow the usual 'rules' doesn't make them unmusical!

    So you play what sounds good and right over the harmonies. What else?


  7. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Personally, I don't like this division into functional and contemporary. A contemporary tune works because it hangs together. If it were truly random (i.e. non-functional) it would just sound stupid and unmusical.

    But these sorts of tune aren't unmusical. Take Iris or one of those types of tune, aren't they musical? Just because they don't follow the usual 'rules' doesn't make them unmusical!

    So you play what sounds good and right over the harmonies. What else?
    You’re taking “non-functional” in a judgemental way, when it really just means that the tune doesn’t use traditional, classical defined functions (V7 - I, etc). Of course there are other “functions” at work, so the result makes sense musically.

  8. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmajor9
    You’re taking “non-functional” in a judgemental way, when it really just means that the tune doesn’t use traditional, classical defined functions (V7 - I, etc). Of course there are other “functions” at work, so the result makes sense musically.
    Functional harmony is, as you've said, the traditionally organised ways of presenting music, whereas contemporary harmony goes beyond or outside that. I wouldn't say acknowledging that is judgemental, it's factually so. But, also as you say, it doesn't mean that kind of music is completely functionless; it has its own order, its own raison d'etre. I'm not sure we're saying anything different really.

  9. #33
    Regarding functional vs non-functional.

    For example, when a dominant chord is called functioning it means it's resolving to its one chord. Non-functioning dominant chord means it's not part of a cadence, it could be a modal moment in the tune or something else. It's serving a compositional purpose outside of the traditional role it's assigned in diatonic harmony.

    Music terms often aren't very precise. We are relying on the existing, widely used meanings of the terms.

  10. #34

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    Ok...like I said earlier... if we agree with def. of some basic musical terms, we can maybe get into some examples of Non-functional examples.

    I don't think we need to go back to common practice usage of Functional dominant tonic harmony.

    Just opening the modal door... the modern modal door, where tension release, the departure and arrival thing is organized around the characteristic note of any mode being the control factor of defining cadence, we have a simple example of non-functional Harmony.

    Back in the 70's, I composed this jazz tune... I wanted to use Modal concepts and Lydian scale note patterns. I came up with using all Maj9 chords, the root for all chords were constructed using Cmaj. and the melody used notes from Dmaj. What happened is all the chords became Lydian Maj9 chords, except chord on "B". That became Ionian.

    /Dma9...Ema9 / Fma9...Ema9 / Dma9...Cma9 / Bma9.../
    /Cma9............/ Dma9............/ Ema9............./............/ etc... went on within a expanded Form.

    I guess my point is I was just expanding Modern Functional harmony with use of random non-musical guidelines from which to compose a tune...

    Just with the use of Modal harmony... you can compose music with that sense of departure and arrival... basic characteristics of Functional Harmony.... and with use of Form... and expanded Chord Patterns or Blocks of chords, like Shorter tunes... create what would be characterized as Non-Functional music. So the modern version of Functional Harmony has expanded to include different guidelines for creating harmonic movement with Musical organization.

    The problem with trying to use traditional maj/min functional harmony terms with jazz composition is the traditional guidelines tend to label many of jazz harmony guidelines for harmonic movement as... embellishments.

  11. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Reg
    Back in the 70's, I composed this jazz tune... I wanted to use Modal concepts and Lydian scale note patterns. I came up with using all Maj9 chords, the root for all chords were constructed using Cmaj. and the melody used notes from Dmaj. What happened is all the chords became Lydian Maj9 chords, except chord on "B". That became Ionian.

    /Dma9...Ema9 / Fma9...Ema9 / Dma9...Cma9 / Bma9.../
    /Cma9............/ Dma9............/ Ema9............./............/ etc... went on within a expanded Form.

    I guess my point is I was just expanding Modern Functional harmony with use of random non-musical guidelines from which to compose a tune...
    I can think of two alternative ways to understand why a composition like the one you outlined works (I don't know which one is the right way to look at it):

    1- As long as there is a strong logic and structure in a composition that listeners can grab on to, a story can be told regardless of how unorthodox harmonic choices are.

    Here in your composition, parallel chords with exact voicings move in small intervals to harmonize a (possibly) strong diatonic melody (in Dmaj), many melody notes are acting as the #4 interval (based on your description), roots come from C maj. All these allow listener to not perceive the music as random.

    2- Functional diatonic harmony underlies the harmony of the tune. The melody is strong enough to carry the harmony. Listener then hears each chord as a close relative of a chord that has a traditional diatonic function. So the chords are substitutions that have common tones with more conventional choices. They provide a sketch of the diatonic harmony implied by the melody by partially realizing it (and partially coloring it) .

    Maybe I'm going too analytical here, any thoughts?
    Last edited by Tal_175; 08-25-2021 at 09:00 PM.

  12. #36

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    This subject is fascinating to me. I absolutely prefer just the standard tonal style of golden age jazz with expansion.
    For example, Monk expands a lot on the harmony, but he was a traditional and tonal player for the most part.

    I don't even know how to go about understanding modern jazz harmony. All I see are a bunch of unrelated chords on the lead sheet and have absolutely no clue how they went about composing it lol.

    I don't like many mod jazz harmony tunes, but my favorite one would be Dolphin Dance. Weird harmony and a pretty good melody and everything sounds cohesive but it still has that vague mod feeling about it as well.

    Imo jazz died when they tried to adapt completely to the mod style and abandoned the traditional style. Imo the traditional style is what jazz is. Melody that closely follows the chord changes in a rhythmic fashion. No other genre does that where you get a sum greater than its parts - rhythmic, harmonicly fluid melody.

  13. #37

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    LOL personally there is no... "too analytical". If everyone understood music mechanics etc... and put in the time of getting basic skills.... like any other trade or skill. Conversations about music wouldn't become so personal and the dialects could actually be about the music.

    Anyway, Tal... that's the point.... there are many possible approaches to understand and perform my old tune. And that's how I approach most Jazz performances...The more one understand how Function can work.... the more options one has of performing tunes.

    I'm a simple player, I have chops and all the BS... but I play simple. I want to entertain the listeners... or at least have fun with the performers.

    Ex... on the beginning of those changes... Dma9 ....Ema9 / Fma9... I might pull from basic diatonic subs. The B-11 dorian subs for the Dmaj9... C#-11 for Emaj9 and then use the related II V for the Fma9... the D-7 G7

    /Dma9...Ema9 / Fma9...Ema9 ... / Dma9...Cma9 / Bma9...../ original would become...

    /B-11.......C#-9/ D-9 G13 ..C#-9 / Dmaj9... A-11 / Bma7 B69 B13sus F#-7./ what I might hear when I solo...

    What I tend to label as camouflage subs... licks. All very tonal and functional personally. If I sneak in some Blue note feel... it becomes very tangible... you can feel it. LOL.

    I tend to use Sub dominant function as target tonic expansion.... Which is almost traditional, just not so vanilla etc...

    Clint... if you could sit in on some of my gigs... I guarantee you would feel many uses of ....my what you consider no- functional harmony as very tonal... simple. Maybe not vanilla, but very feelable, swinging, in the pocket etc...It just takes performance skills to use modern harmony and achieve your...

    "Melody that closely follows the chord changes in a rhythmic fashion. No other genre does that where you get a sum greater than its parts - rhythmic, harmonically fluid melody. "

  14. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clint 55
    Imo the traditional style is what jazz is.
    Oh, I can't agree with that at all. It's an evolving art form. Otherwise you're saying only Rembrandt is art and Picasso et al aren't. It's just not true.

  15. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clint 55
    This subject is fascinating to me.

    I don't like many mod jazz harmony tunes, but my favorite one would be Dolphin Dance. Weird harmony and a pretty good melody and everything sounds cohesive but it still has that vague mod feeling about it as well.
    .
    As usual I struggle to understand discussions of theory, even though I read Nettles and Graf and thought I understood it.

    I thought Dolphin Dance might be a good tune to try to understand, so I googled it and found this:

    http://fromthewoodshed.com/2010/12/2...dolphin-dance/

    I can't tell if this is a good analysis or not. It feels like the author just read the leadsheet and described each melodic phrase and chord in words.

    I like the tune. Having heard and played it for years, it no longer sounds outside. I think most would agree that it's a well written tune.

    Functional? Non-functional? Unclassifiable? Unworthy-of-trying-to-classify? I have no idea.

    I can't analyze it, except in my own idiosyncratic way.

    Original RB chart.

    First two bars are basically Eb to Db. Thnk "Tequila".

    Next three bars. Beginning of "There Will Never Be Another You".

    Cm /Ab7 is more or less the same thing as /Cm7/ Am7 D7. That's thinking of Ab7 and D7 as tritone subs for each other. But, the D in the melody against Ab7 makes me hear whole tone scale for improv.

    Next 4 bars sound ascending to me. I hear Bb7sus instead of Fm7. So I focus on having my lines sound ascending.

    The Cm7 Cm7/Bb sound descending landing on Am7 to D7 (almost Ab7) and thence to G. Same idea for improv, but now moving down.

    The G pedal feels like it's underneath a moving voice, B C C# C. My improv focuses on chord tones with that moving voice in mind. The chords are G triad, F triad, G triad F triad, more or less.

    The next 4 bars feel similar because the moving voice has the same shape, but the pedal changes under the Em7-A7. Note that the pedal went from G to F.

    Next line starts with Eb7 (bass note down yet another whole step). Followed (sounds good but I can't explain why) by a 2 5 3 6 #4 nat7

    and then the strange voicing which is probably very wrong in the RB chart.

    Enough for now. Probably too much.

  16. #40

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    Reg, I know mod players and tunes swing but I was just saying I think the essence of it is more from the old style.

    ragman, I don't think new stuff isn't jazz, I just think the old style is still the main definition of it and mod is a tangent. I agree that jazz evolves but I don't think it's legitimate to discard the old style as antiquated. (Not saying anyone said that.) I do think some mod stuff isn't jazz but that's a different topic. Like a modal jam with a funk beat. Come on, just call it what it is, funk. To me jazz is the harmonically fluid, tune related melody that you don't see in any other style.