Technical Notes on "Elliptical Blue"

single art for "Elliptical Blue"

I wrote the six bar sequence of "Elliptical Blue" toward the end of the drafting process for From All This Stillness in late May 2020. Referencing again the 9 pitch sequence that formed the basis of the material for the suite, I composed "Elliptical Blue" originally as the coda, as a kind of gradual fade-out circling on an almost resolution from F# to G (the last and first pitches of the sequence below):

I added some additional voices above the bass, suggesting a movement from D7/F# to G major (with an unresolved 9th, and occasionally an interloping G# in the bass instead of G, changing the quality of the chord into diminished and unresolved):

I noticed that I also sketched out the basic rhythm, with the second chord anticipating the downbeat of the next bar in a large "3" (or smaller 9/8). Looking at the original manuscript, I wrote it out more or less how we finally played it.

Three 2-bar phrases, starting with F# diminished to G# diminished:

Then Gmaj7 (replacing the third with the fourth) to F# augmented:

Then finally Ab dominant (the classic tritone substitution) to Gmaj7 (with the 7 moving down to the 6 and creating a more ambiguous sound that could be heard as an E minor triad):

I also wanted the sense of the piece coming slowly to an end despite repeating endlessly, so the first two times we play the phrase is in a quicker swinging 3/4 with an emphasis on the triplet subdivision (hence the accents on the third and second triplets at various times). The second two times, we play the phrase in a slower 9/8, maintaining the same metronomic pulse but essentially expanding the previous phrase by a 1.5 length. 

On the record, we play the entire form above twice: once as written, then I improvise a solo at the top for 3 out of the 4 repeats, and then I play the top voice as an outro melody the very last repeat in the slower tempo. After recording everything, I ultimately decided not to use it as the coda, but instead as the midpoint of the suite, and I think it works nicely as a swinging, cyclical interlude that represents a transitional moment, the apex of the piece's arc after which we descend toward its terminus.

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"Elliptical Blue," the third and final single for From All This Stillness, is streaming everywhere starting Friday, May 26, 2023. Technical notes from the previous singles: "Ghosts of Repetition" and "Frozen in Profile."