Technical Notes on "Ghosts of Repetition"

single art for "Ghosts of Repetition"

As I mentioned in the initial post on the start of From All This Stillness, a sequence of 9 pitches loosely suggesting a subdominant to tonic motion (the defining blues harmonic motion) forms one half of the backbone (or double helix, if you will) of the entire suite—the other half being the tonally ambiguous motif of an ascending spiral of stacked thirds in various sequences of major and minor thirds. 

I alluded to some convoluted technical process to generate harmonic material from this line (basically taking groups of 3 sequential notes as triads, then harmonizing them):

It's a bit too convoluted (and probably unhelpful) to fully explain here, but the triads are re-voiced from a harmonization of triads that are themselves generated different sequential three note groupings of the bass line (e.g. G-F-D, F-D-Ab, D-Ab-B, etc.) and the bass line's pitch inversion starting on C (subdominant) instead of G. 

That process specifically also was the basis for the harmonic material in "Ghosts of Repetition," which was actually composed a bit earlier than the material heard in "Frozen in Profile" (I started sketching in April 2020, and the "Ghosts of Repetition" section was sketched out in mid-May 2020).

Below, I've included the sketch of the initial harmonization (i.e. selection of bass notes) of the aforementioned triads:

The emergent bass line from this process became its own melody, which is played by the saxophone in the second half of "Ghosts of Repetition":

Since this moment was happening relatively deep (more than halfway) into the process of composition, I noted at the time that I wanted it to be relatively expansive and a momentary episode of rest rather than of rising tension: 

Transcription of my scribblings:

  • "still rhythmically textured, but slower rate of change "
  • "more sustain --> repeated chords"
  • "break from rapid fire triads, ease into it"

I've mostly explained the second part of "Ghosts of Repetition" at this point, and to return to what happens at the beginning: a series of syncopated, "rapid fire triads," using the initial harmonization from above as well as a second harmonization of some additional triads from the triad-generating process (only the first six chords boxed below):

The process of coming up with the syncopated rhythms of the chords shall remain a mystery for now, but rest assured that it followed some sort of convoluted process (that is, it wasn't totally random in the sense of me using an AI or a random number generated, but it was still pretty random and improvised according to some arcane system of my own devising). 

One more note on sequencing: in earlier iterations of From All This Stillness, the section now known as "Ghosts of Repetition" actually started the entire suite. The intent was to introduce some of the densest harmonic and rhythmic material first, before clarifying things with the slower section and then later revealing the foundational motifs (9-note bass sequence and arpeggio motifs) in the section called "Interior Choruses." The final sequence puts "Ghosts of Repetition" much later (movement 5 of 7) as a kind of late-suite elaboration of the musical ideas expressed in the earlier movements, most notably as a kind of mirror to the events of "Interior Choruses" (to be heard in July). 

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"Ghosts of Repetition," the second single from From All This Stillnessis streaming everywhere starting Friday, April 14, 2023. Technical notes from the previous single, "Frozen in Profile," can be found here.