Earlier this year I posted about how writing wasn’t going so great… well, more like awful actually – at least that’s how it felt a the time. Today I got back into writing again. Even better, I finished something. So how did that happen?
As it turns out I’d already finished something, I just didn’t know it at the time. I’d started with the chord shown below which combines three triads a semitone apart Gb on G on Ab. I liked the crunch this chord has and I could score in such a way as to provide plenty of clarity for players and instrument sections.
I then took some elements from the chord and created some melodic lines like these:
Somewhere in this process I wrote this little waltz theme:
This is when the problems began. I was stuck trying to find a way to meld these ideas together. I really liked the ideas by themselves, but I couldn’t find a way to get convincing from the waltz theme into the compound chord.
My working title was It Cometh… and in order to try and get a handle on the form of the piece and to provide a sense of structure to my writing, I wrote a story line for the piece. People and dancing and a monster slowly approaches. Obviously then the waltz theme is the people dancing, the compound chord would be the final “scream” when the monster arrives. I even wrote a waltz for the monster to dance to (in a vague reference to this classic movie scene). The story was nice, but I still couldn’t get to the final chord ina convincing way. After leaving it for 6 months, today I found the solution. I simply abandoned the chord and the material designed to transition from the waltz theme into the chord. What I was left with was a nice little waltz in rondo form. Happy Days!
The takeaway – sometimes you have to abandon ideas no matter how much you like them because they just don’t fit.
This is one of my favourite chords:
Personally, I think about it as an Ab(add2)/C rather than the Cm7(b6), but whatever floats your boat. The important thing is what it sounds like.
I love the mix of warmth (generated by the 6th between the lower voices and the 10th between the outer voices), bite (generated by the 2nd between the inner voices and the 7th between alto and bass) and ambiguity/openness (generated by the 4th between the upper voices and the 5th between the soprano and tenor).
A closely related chord that is also a favourite is this one:
I hear this as a minor chord with the added b6, rather than as a major 7 chord. This is similar to the previous chord, but the semitone on the inside rather than a tone gives is a little more bite. It’s interesting that the same 3 notes (C, Ab, Eb) can be heard in 2 different ways depending on the added tone (Bb or G).
Why do you care what my favourite chord is? Well you don’t, except that they might become yours. More importantly for me though is that this is another interesting place to start writing from. The question of “how can I write “X” for young bands and get away with it” has been a fruitful one for me in the past. Here’s hoping that one of these chords will do the same job in the future.
Now it’s time to listen to Appalacian Spring by Aaron Copland. I love what Copland does with major chords!