Frequently Asked Questions
about George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Lydian Chromatic Concept. This page can be read either as one continuous article from beginning to end, or you can click on a specific question and link to its answer. The answers given here are designed to demystify some of the common misconceptions about the Concept while supplying information as briefly as possible. It must be understood that the answers here are short and to the point. Much more detailed and comprehensive answers to all these questions and the issues they raise are only made available in the book itself, properly presenting the knowledge within the context of each chapter and lesson.

Additional questions will be added to this page from time to time, so please feel free to pose a question about the Concept in the Forum (if you’ve already purchased a copy of the book) or by sending an email to lydconcept@aol.com.


  1. What is the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization?
  2. What is the aim of the Lydian Chromatic Concept?
  3. What is the primary difference between the Lydian Chromatic Concept and all other theories of music?
  4. What is Tonal Gravity?
  5. Why is the Lydian Scale of paramount importance in this Concept?
  6. What is the fundamental difference between the Lydian and Major Scale?
  7. What is a Lydian Chromatic Scale?
  8. Are there any historical and acoustical foundations underlying the Concept?
  9. Who can most benefit by studying the Lydian Chromatic Concept?
10. Does a student of the Concept have to abandon their already existing knowledge of
     Western music theory?

11. Is the current revised edition dramatically different from the previous editions?
12. What are the extra-musical considerations of the Lydian Chromatic Concept?
13. Are there any connections drawn in The Concept between music and psychology?
14. Has the Lydian Chromatic Concept been taught at any established educational institutions?


1. What is the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization?
The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization is a theory of music and the life work of George Russell. It has existed in a state of continual evolution since the early 1950s. The most recently released Fourth Edition (2001) is entitled “Volume One: The Art and Science of Tonal Gravity.” This new publication presents the work in a highly comprehensive and organized manner, totally surpassing any previous editions. Most people familiar with this body of knowledge refer to it simply as “The Concept.”

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2. What is the aim of the Lydian Chromatic Concept?
The principal aim of The Concept is to grasp the behavior of all musical activity (i.e. – melody, harmony, rhythm and form) from the most objective viewpoint possible. It seeks to document observations within music’s “genetic code” by charting the framework of laws that act as guidelines for composition, improvisation and analysis. Its purpose is to provide a road map of the musical universe that tells you where all the roads are, but does not tell you which roads to take.

3. What is the primary difference between the Lydian Chromatic Concept and all other theories of music?
Unlike any other theory of music, Mr. Russell’s Concept establishes gravity as the driving force in music. By seeking what music ITSELF is telling us about its own elemental structure, The Concept supplies the necessary means to conceive that a gravitation field of tones exists as a self-organized order of unity. The Concept does not disprove the discoveries and contributions of other musical theories, but rather explains where their truths rest in the context of tonal gravity.

4. What is Tonal Gravity?
Tonal gravity is the heart of the Lydian Chromatic Concept. Simply put, the basic building block of tonal gravity is the interval of the perfect fifth. Every tone within Western music’s equal tempered tuning relates to every other tone by either being close to - or distant from - the center of gravity, which is the tonic (or “DO”) of the Lydian Scale. There are 3 states of tonal gravity: Vertical, Horizontal, and Supra-Vertical.

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5. Why is the Lydian Scale of paramount importance in this Concept?
The Lydian Scale was not chosen as the primary scale for this system of music theory because it sounds nice or has some subjective or historical significance. Since the interval of a fifth is the building block of tonal gravity, a seven-tone scale created by successive fifths establishes the most vertically unified harmonic order whereby the gravity falls down each fifth back to the singular Lydian tonic. When seven ascending consecutive fifths (i.e. – C, G, D, A, E, B, F#) are arranged within one single octave, the result is the Lydian Scale.

6. What is the fundamental difference between the Lydian and Major Scale?
As described in the answer to the previous question, the Lydian Scale has one single tonic, otherwise known as the “DO” of the scale. The Major Scale is known as a diatonic (meaning: two tonic) scale. Therefore, the essential difference between these two scales is that the Lydian (a single tonic scale) is in a state of unity with itself, and the Major Scale, with its two tonics, is in a state of resolving.

7. What is a Lydian Chromatic Scale?
The Lydian Chromatic Scale is the most complete expression of the total self-organized tonal gravity field with which all tones relate on the basis of their close to distant magnetism to a Lydian tonic.

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8. Are there any historical and acoustical foundations underlying the Concept?
The recently published edition of the Concept goes into great depth and discussion concerning the historical and acoustical foundations underlying the Concept. These ideas are critical to understanding the significance of this theory, and are too involved and elaborate to post on this website. It should be noted that the current book presents these specific subjects far more extensively than in previous editions.

9. Who can most benefit by studying the Lydian Chromatic Concept?
One of the beauties of The Concept is that it is designed for musicians and non-musicians alike. Its contribution is relevant in all stylistic genres of music and from all time periods. It even extends beyond Western music to some ancient forms of non-Western music. Most students of The Concept tend to be composers, improvisers, and people interested in the analysis of already existing musical compositions. Many people outside of music are drawn to The Concept due to its objective view of tonal gravity. George Russell’s indelible mark as a jazz innovator, composer and band leader (along with his work as a theoretician) has established a platform worldwide for this work that is intrinsically tied to the development of jazz dating back to the early 1950s.

10. Does a student of the Concept have to abandon their already existing knowledge of Western music theory?
Students of this work are able to adapt their own musical perspectives to the ideas presented by the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. For example, analysis of compositions by J.S. Bach and Maurice Ravel are included in the current volume to reinforce the all-inclusive nature of tonal gravity.

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11. Is the current revised edition dramatically different from the previous editions?
Yes. Generally speaking, the previous editions of the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (dating back to 1953) were focused more on the “how-to” aspect of improvising. The more robust, comprehensive and detailed current volume adds never before published depth and dimension through exhaustive examples of analysis, scales, background information and test examples for the student. Volume Two, the completion of the entire work, is currently in development.

12. What are the extra-musical considerations of the Lydian Chromatic Concept?
George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization stretches far beyond the usual parameters of music theory, having deep roots linked to the science of acoustics, physics, world culture and political history. Its framework is applicable in almost any stylistic genre of music – both Western and non-Western – encompassing the European classical tradition as solidly as the lineage of jazz innovators. On the esoteric side, the “Concept” makes connections with psychological disciplines and spiritual pathways, nurturing a balance between both the internal and external extra-musical elements critical to any artistic process.

13. Are there any connections drawn in The Concept between music and psychology?
No art form or theory is complete without some basis in psychology and spirituality. Artists most often describe the process of creativity in transparent and intangible terms. Most - if not all - music theoretical systems have chosen to ignore the inclusion of this key internal element. While Mr. Russell’s system encourages each student of the “Concept” to explore their own ideas and paths, it freely discusses many potent ideas underlying some specific psychological perspectives and ancient wisdom traditions and the relationships between one’s ‘essence’ and ‘personality’. Ancient psychological systems made analogies between the evolution of a person’s mind and being and metaphorical terms such as scale, harmony, vertical and horizontal.

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14. Has the Lydian Chromatic Concept been taught at any established educational institutions?
Mr. Russell played a key role in the famous Lenox School of Jazz, and went on to teach The Concept at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston for over 30 years. He has given seminars in this work around the world and has personally guided countless private students. The Lydian Concept is being taught by accredited teachers at the Universities of Massachusetts and Indiana, the Longy School of Music, and the Josef Hauer Konservatoriums in Austria. The previously released versions of the book have been used to teach the LCCOTO at colleges and universities around the world over the last 40 years.There are currently a small number of instructors in the United States, Europe and Japan who are formally certified by George Russell to teach the Concept. To find out more about George Russell, click on this link to www.georgerussell.com.

 

"I started studying the Lydian Chromatic Concept in May, 2002 with Andy Wasserman using the recently released revised edition. These past 6 months have been both enlightening and enriching. As a full time professional musician and music educator,there were deep things in music that I had grasped aurally but could not explain. These things are now crystal clear. Through the Concept the law of gravity is apparent. I was pulled towards the Concept, and through patience and research ended up discovering Andy. I would like to thank Maestro Russell, whose genius and perseverance created this tonal wonderland. The Concept is heard in music all around us. The information in the latest edition is truly priceless!"
Frank Slattery

"In the future, when I'm unfrozen, it won't matter to me if Ted Williams will be around to coach my batting practice. I want to come back because everywhere you'll want to be, George Russell's music will be heard. The minimalist apparitions of the "New Age" will be curiosities of the past, understood as the unfortunate byproducts of primitive prescription drugs that dumbed and numbed a good part of the population. (The other music will be explained as the unfortunate byproducts of primitive non-prescription drugs that dumbed and numbed everyone else.) The hallmarks of the Russell era--or the Lydian Age, as it will no doubt be known--will be a return to musical depth and breadth, when contrapuntal thinking, lyrical adventurousness, rhythmic brilliance, and emotional richness will be part of our daily soundscape. It'll be great. Be there!
Scott-Martin Kosofsky