3.8 Comparing the models
The authors of all six publications reviewed in this chapter express a variety of motivations to help (composing) improvisers learn new musical techniques. The effectiveness of their methods depends on the attitude of the students. Liebman expresses that an exploratory attitude in his students is crucial. He compares their artistic motivation to extend their playing beyond the limitations of functional harmony to their response to contemporary music, favoring those who prefer the dissonant sounds of the music of the twentieth century above the ordered diatonicism of earlier periods. Bergonzi’s remarks on the importance and value of the musician’s intuition allowed me to propose the concept “informed intuition” in order to express that this “precious gift” can probably never be isolated from the knowledge the students have achieved through study, experience and taste. Garzone addresses the motivational issue in plain language, saying that his method should simply enable him and his students to improvise freely. Weiskopf presents his book as a response to the actual need of his students to learn how to improvise with intervals because they hear that many modern jazz artists do so. O’Gallagher aims at those students who are motivated to learn a new way of hearing harmonic and intervallic space.
As to the applications of twelve-tone techniques, all authors in one way or another present their personal strategies to create tone rows. The term tone rows is not used in the traditional sense of a set of twelve pitches with strict serial principles, but to express that these lines are not based on diatonic or modal scales, but on successions of pitches that are ordered by intervals. Liebman, Garzone and O’Gallagher mention their relations to twelve-tone techniques explicitly, while Bergonzi and Weiskopf only implicitly refer to these techniques by taking intervallic constructions of melodic lines as their focal points. All five authors leave it to the discretion of the individual musician to make his choices from their models.
Remarkably, all authors consider their models as an addition to existing chord-scale improvisation. Liebman and O’Gallagher emphasize the importance of substantial expertise in linear improvisation before making steps into their new areas. Just as Weiskopf, they are able to precisely define the relationships between their operations and the underlying chord structures. O’Gallagher’s, Bergonzi’s and Garzone’s intervallic approaches basically intend to not imply tonal references, but Bergonzi argues and Garzone demonstrates that their systems can not be seen as totally distracted from conventional functional harmony.
O’Gallagher even emphasizes that, although his system provides his readership with the tools to hear and think in the twelve-tone system, it should not be limited exclusively to twelve-tone usages. Thus, his model is meant, in Wuorinen’s terms, to create interactions between content and order of pitches and intervals. Weiskopf assumes that learning intervallic improvisation will improve his students’ linear improvisation. Bergonzi and Garzone are more in favor of an intuitive approach. Bergonzi loosely formulates that “everyone internalizes and applies concepts in a unique way and [his] system is wide open for interpretation” (Bergonzi 2000:7). Likewise the performers applying his operations discussed in Hexatonics (2006) are expected to rely on their informed intuition in order to find their way through the wealth of possible melodic and harmonic possibilities with this actual method.
Liebman, Bergonzi, and O’Gallagher explicitly advocate didactical applications of their methods such as ear training, rhythmic development, and composition of individual exercises. Although in the context of the actual study I am mainly interested in the creative applications of these and of related approaches, I now take a moment to summarize my experiences with applying their models in my own practice as an educator.
Liebman’s treatise supported my educational practice just like it had supported my playing skills. It served as a roadmap for the journey into the more advanced improvisational practice beyond the chord-scale approach. His analysis of this developmental process, his chromatic concepts of tonal and non-tonal superimpositions and his sketch of the parallels with the development of classical music through the ages served as an illustrative theoretical background. Bergonzi’s intervallic approach appeared to work well in a small ensemble class when the students were asked to write short compositions using a collection of three intervals. All students took advantage of having this clear context as a point of departure. Because I left it open how strictly they should apply the operations with the orders and directions of their selected intervals, the results showed a large variety of compositions. The approach served particularly well to accelerate their process of getting started with composing and arranging their notes. Bergonzi’s model appeared easily accessible as a compositional device, but any spontaneous application in the improvised part caused serious problems to most of the students. Small exercises constructed with random selections helped them to develop their awareness and hearing of the interval combinations.
The introduction of O’Gallagher’s approach in my improvisation classes was met with interest, but also with suspicion. To some students the thorough and comprehensive structure of this publication caused certain pessimism, because they felt that they should master his tone rows and trichords completely before they would be able to apply them to their everyday improvisational language. On the other hand, some of them easily got used to manipulating certain trichords and started using them in little compositions. Examples from my compendium of generative patterns from the Tone Clock, discussed in subchapter 4.7, helped them to blend some of the trichord techniques with their existing improvisational languages.
Regarding Garzone’s chromatic triadic approach I can say nothing then the students in my improvisation classes had a lot of fun with it. With its simplicity it is a quick and suitable tool to make the students feel comfortable playing outside the chords. Moreover we experienced that, by repeatedly playing certain lines, tonal colors would emerge. Consequently it also served as a demonstration of Liebman’s concepts of linear tonality, tonal anchors and harmonic lyricism.
In my improvisation classes, Weiskopf’s operations combining triad pairs from underlying scales and modes appeared to be the most accessible of all models in this chapter. Bergonzi’s hexatonics served well as a next step after Weiskopf resulting in more advanced trichord combinations evoking more ambiguous tonal colors.
Thus, apart from my own practical experiences with the actual methods I have noticed how they have inspired my students to add them to their existing skills. I assume that this will apply even more so to the techniques I will be discussing in the following chapters.