This is a quite common device that opens for several possibilities in shaping a vocabulary. If I extract a phrase that sounds promising, it's always a good idea to hear what it sounds like centered around the next note of the chord, and in other tonalities than the original version. Process 1 and 2 will rely on this method, but it is implicitly present in processes 3, 4, and 5 as well.

C) John Coltrane's mediants


After submitting the piece "Giant Steps" to the jazz canon in 1960, saxophonist John Coltrane moved away from fast-moving chord changes at breakneck speed, shifting his focus instead towards forms of music that employed other, more open  structures. However, the rapidly shifting tonalities remained an important ingredient in his playing. Inderberg brought to my attention that Jeff Bair (2003, pp. 47) analyzes the following phrase from the piece "Brasilia". It doesn't really contain any harmonic information when played un-accompanied:

A) Wes Montgomery's circling of triad notes


On Erroll Garner's tune "Misty" from the album "Impressions", jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery uses a vehicle that emerges on several occasions in his recorded work: Circling around the three notes of a major triad, in this case a G.

B) Lennie Tristano's polyrhythms


On his epynomous 1956 recording, jazz pianist Lennie Tristano pioneered multi-track recording. At the very beginning of "Turkish Mambo", he juxtaposes different layers of rhythm,  starting out with a group of 7:

In bar 30, a third layer is then introduced, this time a short line of four 8th notes plus an 8th-note pause, which sums up to a group of 5:

The following sound clip, corresponding to the figure above, shows how I tried to internalize this polyrhythmic puzzle: First I transcribed the original source(s), then I recorded my own performance of the material after a few days, and then I crossfaded my guitar parts into three layers of body-percussion rhythm across the panning field, which represent the three figures and the way they interact when I rehearse in my mind or out loud with mouth percussion. This is also the way Inderberg teaches pieces such as this as a tool to understand polyrhythms: Two or more participants facing each other, clapping and slapping, as they develop an inner ear for the various convergence points where the individual pulses reach the first beat of the measure again, and also trying to hear where two or three layers come full circle at the same time:



Having mapped out the three methodical choices above, it may be worth clarifying a few more things:


This exposition explores the interface between a research process and possible ways of communicating it, verging on the tutorial. The practical work processes aren't particularly difficult for a trained musician, but aim at gradually and clearly introducing a new way of doing something. As you can see, my presentation form doesn't follow the standard route of first playing music that people can listen to, then writing an essay about the music that people can read: Maybe we can "art-ify" the way we assess this kind of work? I think we should introduce the verb to play along with the verbs to read, listen and watch, so that we can engage the process in several ways, not just through text-based evaluation.


Polyrhythms are present in Norwegian folk music itself, and borrowing them from jazz history may seem unnecessary. The most sophisticated examples of polyrhythms are already an integral part of the tradition in Telemark, and their implementation in improvisation would be well worth a separate study (for a discussion of Telespringar and its intricacies, see, Kleppen {2015}). I have surrounded myself with the more accessible folk music from Trøndelag, and have chosen to stay with it for this project. Having a simpler core material to work from may contribute to making the rhythmic and melodic manipulations stand out clearly too.


Fiddle music dictates much of the performance practice in Norway, and includes double-stops, drone strings ringing alongside the melody, intricate ornamentation, and sometimes micro-tonalities. I have consciously stayed away from these traits, and aimed for a single-note, unadorned presentation form, in the belief that the most common melodic contours themselves are recognizable as markers of a regional music form. The same thinking underpinned the clarinet and cavaquinho presentations in the introduction; though military bands have interacted with fiddlers for centuries in my region (thereby creating an endemic flat-key portion of the folk music repertoire, often played on clarinet), the sound of these two instruments together is not common in Norwegian music, and may aid in my objective of dislodging the music from its predominant attachment to the fiddle.


The objective for this particular study is not to improvise over chord changes, but rather to find ways of stretching the tonal and rhythmical lines played over drones (be they played or just perceived), while staying connected to the tradition.


Traditional tunes in Norway may drift between tonalities internally. Inside a single performance, you may find major and minor 7th intervals, major and minor 3rd intervals, flatted 6ths even though you're in a major tonality, et cetera. For purposes of clarity, I have elected to stay within the two main tonalities of major and dorian, even though this creates a fictitious connection to scales as a principal entity.

The tune snippets that were given as examples of Norwegian dance rhythms in the introduction, aren't neccesarily the tunes that provide raw material for my investigation. The extracts I use appear in several tunes and can, I believe, serve as markers for regional (or national) style.


As the study progresses, I will attempt to express tonal excursions by using brackets above the music staff, and rhythmic constructions will be emphasized by brackets below the staff - see the methodical examples above.  

When the group of 7 has played out 8 times (filling out 7 bars), another pattern is introduced, this time short 8th notes divided by two 8th-note pauses, constituting a new group of 12:

However, Bair's analysis exposes possible underlying chords that are not heard. What they have in common is that they quite often have a third-based relation to each other: B7 is a major third higher than G7, and Ab is a major third higher than E. Bair builds on the observations of Demsey (1991) in his assertion that Coltrane


"...ceased to incorporate them (chord changes, author's note) into his compositions, but they remained a part of his improvisational melodic vocabulary until the very end of his life".


As my slowed-down, slightly over-explanatory recording of Bair's extract reveals, the exact relation between the solo line and the perceived chord is sometimes debatable (I think this holds true for most of the notes bracketed under the "Ab" tonality, as well as the first half of the "E" bracket), but these things are of course relative to training, culture, instrument et cetera.

The idea of creating folk-based phrases in "odd" groups like these will appear from Process 2 and onwards.

John Coltrane's substantial contribution to improvised music has been subject to much analysis, and is not the main theme of this exposition. I'll content myself with borrowing the device of playing notes from chords that are located in major or minor third intervals above or below the root note. Inderberg refers to this as "mediant relations".