Dont' Hate Me - I Disagree With Russell's Theory

Work which evolves aspects of George Russell's theories such as Tonal Gravity.

Moderators: bobappleton, sandywilliams

Dont' Hate Me - I Disagree With Russell's Theory

Postby strachs » Fri Jul 24, 2009 1:01 pm

This is going to get me stoned but I want to express my truth about the Concept.

When it comes to the vertical purity and objective vantage point of Lydian over Major - I'm sold.
When it comes to appreciating the difference between vertical and horizontal - I'm sold.
A system to categorize and (attempt to) master "tonal orders" beyond the Lydian scale - I'm sold.
Traversing music in terms of Parent Scale and Modal Genre - I'm sold.

As a practical and useful system for relating to chords and scales in Equal Temperament, I am totally on board with the Concept and advocate it's use. I'm passionate about it in fact.

However, if I could propose a fault of the Concept (and I am), it would be it's claim to be based so purely and objectively on natural science.

The interval of a fifth, without a doubt, is the strongest interval in terms of tonal gravity. I don't at all have a problem with "tempering" the fifth a little in order to turn the spiral of fifths into a circle. It's practical. It works. It simplifies life. No problem.

What I find troubling, though, is the fact that Equal Temperament hides from us the underlying tonal relationships that exist in nature. Any musical theory that ignores this is going to sometimes run into trouble.

Equal Temperament (ET) is like working with pixelated images. You can take a digital picture, and on your monitor it looks more or less like what you saw, although less perfect. You started with the real thing, and approximated it in the quantized, pixelated, less-than-accurate environment.

If you start in the quantized, pixelated, less-than-accurate environment, however, like, with a paint program, or something, you can never create the same quality pitcure as one that originated in the real world.

ET does something similar, in that it attempts to reproduce something that exists in nature (Major triads, derived from the Overtone Series, or OS) in an environment that cannot accurately reproduce the frequency ratios of the natural prototypes for these chords.

The reasons for doing so are well-known, and ET is more or less worth it. The problem, though, is when we base a musical THEORY, not on the underlying natural phenomena itself, but on ET, as if it accurately represented nature. Equal Tempered thirds are fine for everyday use, but in nature, a major third does not equal four fifths, a minor third does not equal nine perfect fifths, and so on.

Even worse with the tritone. In nature, there is no interval that divides the octave in half. Nature's tritone does not have this as a property, just as nature's perfect fifths do not generate a circle. Those poperties are artifacts of Equal Temperament.

The reason Baroque and Classical music leans on the "dominant" chord and it's resolutions, is because the "dominant" chord (partials 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the OS) exists in nature. The horizontal force that causes it to naturally "resolve" to a triad a fifth below it, is a phenomenon that exists in nature. Vertical expression and higher-order chords came AFTER equal temperament, but our ears no doubt still relate to them based on natural laws that are being approximated in ET, not on the ET ratios themselves.

So, while it is convenient and practical to use ET, and we more or less retain those cadencing functions in it, they are not BASED on any frequency ratios found in ET. This cannot be ignored when forming a theory that strives to be pure and objective.

So, while the ladder of fifths model is practical and workable, and the Lydian scale is an objective perspecive from which to build other scales, I think it is a fundamental error to think we can "measure" a tone's (or a scale's) ingoing-ness or outgoing-ness (close or distant relatedness) using a ladder of fifths model.

The model is useful for tracking and naming the tones, scales, and chords we use in music in a unified way, but I don't think it really EXPLAINS anything. Close, distant, or otherwise.

For one thing, my ears and gut have, from the beginning, disagreed with the ordering of Lydian Augmented, Lydian Diminished, and Lydian Flat Seventh. While my ears immediately agreed with the Lydian versus Major comparison Russell uses as a basic proof, I experience no ingoing to outgoing order when progressing from one of these scales to the next. That's why I posted the "dissonance versus outgoingness" thread.

If a ladder of fifths has no way of accounting for the 8th tone in the ladder posessing the most outgoing relationship with the Lydian Tonic, it is not an objective theory that really "explains" the natural forces at work in music. Otherwise it would have addressed this feature.

So, while I value the concept as a way analyzing music, and giving me some control over my venture into and out of and between different tonal centres and tonalities, I consider it a method, rather than a theory. The theory part of it, to me, does not hold up.
Posts: 211
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 2:48 pm

Postby bobappleton » Fri Jul 24, 2009 3:12 pm

Hey Strachs,

I don't hate you. I'd just say that THE MUSIC speaks volumes more than arguments about the theory - and that's why it seems irrelevant when people do this. But as George might say "Do what feels right to you."
Posts: 309
Joined: Mon Sep 04, 2006 8:57 pm

Postby sandywilliams » Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:14 pm

I wonder if this book might wet your whistle: ... 290&sr=8-1

Do you know it?
Posts: 184
Joined: Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:17 pm

Postby bobappleton » Sun Jul 26, 2009 7:26 am


Don't feel bad about misunderstanding or disagreeing with parts of the LCC. There are (still) a lot of people out there - who have been bitterly and vocally critical of it. They seem to criss-cross each other in terms of whether they agreed with it then, disagree with it now, or agree/disagree with only certain aspects of it. When we begin to understand what George has set out here - in a 4th edition which has been in development since the early 1950's - when he lived among and played with the originators of this music (not simply those who have written about it later), we begin to appreciate the complexity of the beast that is The Concept.

I'm a true believer in diversity. And I wish for the sake of those who need to disagree with it that there was a Forum called "NOT the LCC", where they could share their objections guiltlessly. All About Jazz has provided a kind of home for these "lostboys". And as we all know you can find plenty of (dis)agreement with any musical concept there.

Under these circumstances alone I think we owe George and Alice a huge debt in paying for THIS forum - a place where understanding, versus misunderstanding, can be fostered in an intelligent and open environment.

You've made some interesting contributions here. Why don't you stick around for what's to come. It will be spectacular. And always surprising.

Posts: 309
Joined: Mon Sep 04, 2006 8:57 pm

Postby strachs » Mon Jul 27, 2009 7:08 am

bobappleton wrote:

I'd just say that THE MUSIC speaks volumes more than arguments about the theory - and that's why it seems irrelevant when people do this.

I agree that music should be the final arbiter. I must emphasize that it was, after all, the SOUND of these scales that caused me to give closer examination to the in-to-out order in the first place. Russell's 'measure-by-fifths' argument certainly gives rise to a method that is more powerful and unified than anything I've seen anywhere else. As I mentioned, I love the Parent Scale/ Modal Genre approach, and am hyped about it. It would certainly be easier for me to just accept the in-to-out order as well, given the time I've spent learning the Concept (which most are unwilling to spend). But if my ears disagree, I have to at least try to find out why.

bobappleton also wrote:

There are (still) a lot of people out there - who have been bitterly and vocally critical of it.

All About Jazz has provided a kind of home for these "lostboys".

I certainly would not compare myself to those you describe above (The Ed Byrne's and Jeff Brent's of the world). Disagreeing with a theory does not make me bitter, any more than agreeing with it would make me sweet. I have read through the posts over at AAJ about the concept, and did not find a single person who voiced an informed, thought-out, bitterness-free disagreement with the Concept. Whether or not I'm actually lost, I would stand a much better chance of being found "in here" than among those folks, so I am definitely going to "stick around", thanks.

sandywilliams wrote:

I wonder if this book might wet your whistle:

Sounds like it would, thanks.

motherlode wrote:

Thus it appears to me that you will almost certainly have to become a writer.

I appreciate your faith in me. I have, in fact, written some bits of music in the past, and I intensely desire to do so again. I'm at a point in my life (with young children and other time-consuming responsibilities) that does not allow me the luxury of time with my instrument(s). My employment circumstances, however, do allow me opportunity to read and theorize and post with you bunch, so for now, that's how I fulfill my musical desires (besides teaching the odd student).


I find it weird that I'm the only one who hears a different order when sitting down at a piano and playing chords of the LA, LD, and Lb7 scales. It has been noted by others in this forum that Lb7 posesses a strong tonical quality. Even Russell points out the fourth octave of the OS as auxilliary evidence that this scale is based on nature. It seems heavily biased toward it's tonic. So does LD. The flattened degree in these scales, to my ears, seems to weight them more heavily toward their tonic, like walking with gravity boots on. On the other hand, the LA scale (and anything augmented) has always struck my ears as so unnatural, so unbound by gravity, that it seems to reach outward, away from the tonic. Maybe because the fifth that actually binds it to it's tonic is the one that is missing/altered/stretched. (You could even compare LA to a soap bubble stuck to the wall, anchored to something, and AA as that same soap bubble when it breaks free and just floats in the air).

In any case, I'm sure that some of you picture me as a propeller-head with a scientific calculator and pocket-protector, who has never stepped within 10 yards of an actual instrument. That's perhaps my fault. I have not submitted many musical examples for my ideas. I assure you, however, that my disagreements with Russell's theoretical foundations stem from experience with actual music, and a passion for it. I, like Russell, don't consider the theoretical end of things to be a boring necessary evil. I am equally passionate about it as I am about living music and expressing thought and emotion through sound. That's exactly why I probe and question and contend about these things.

The Concept is the single most important discovery I have encountered in my quest to understand the workings of music. At the same time I don't feel compelled agree with every aspect of it just to show my appreciation for the parts I do consider universal and unassailable. The concept itself is both sound and incredible; it is some aspects of the THEORY I have trouble with.

In spreading the word about the Concept, each of us hopes that people will consider it with an open mind in order to discover the treasures we have come to appreciate and enjoy. Let's be careful that we reciprocate that open-mindedness toward those who sincerely and earnestly examine that which we propose to them. I am not surprised to find such terms as "irrelevant" "bitterly" "lostboys" and "demons" in the immediate replies to my post. The emotional response to a criticism of something we love is understandable. I hope, though, that some deeper thought might eventually elicit a reasoned defense of the ladder-of-fifths theory. I assure you I will be open-minded and -hearted to such a defense. If my above disagreement is wrong, I may even come to see it that way. Or we may agree to disagree. Either way, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Posts: 211
Joined: Tue Mar 04, 2008 2:48 pm

Return to Lydiotics (New Developments in the LCC)

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest