Layered analytical graphs: analysing and composing using the harmonic techniques of Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea

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Hadlow, Samuel
Jazz composition; harmonic techniques; Wayne Shorter; Chick Corea; Music
thesis / dissertation description
The music of Wayne Shorter is renowned for its harmonic complexity, mainly due to Shorter’s application of “conventional jazz compositional ideas… in unconventional ways” (Ritchie, 2008, p. 15). While Shorter’s melodies are often based on a pentatonic scale and relatively simple and lyrical such as in “Deluge” from the album Juju (Shorter, 1964a) and “Oriental Folk Song” from Night Dreamer (Shorter, 1964b), the accompanying harmony he writes is often complex and unusual. The harmonic progressions Shorter uses in his works often include unusual techniques such as the use of non-functional neighbour chords, minor dominant chords, stepwise bass movement and chord movement in thirds. This dissertation outlines a way of identifying the harmonic devices being used in a Shorter composition, and applying them in writing new works. The layered analytical graphing analysis technique of Patricia Julien was used to analyse Shorter’s harmonic choices in two of his compositions recorded in 1964: “Speak No Evil” and “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” from the album Speak No Evil (Shorter, 1964c). This selection exemplifies his compositional style in this period.Two works by Chick Corea, a contemporary of Shorter who uses some of the same compositional techniques, were also analysed through the same process. These works are “Tones for Joan’s Bones” from his album Tones for Joan’s Bones (Corea, 1966) and “Captain Marvel” which he recorded on Light as a Feather (Corea, 1973).The layered analytical graph method of analysis involves reducing the harmonic progression of a composition down to its basic key centres, thus revealing the relative importance of each chord in the progression and providing insight into how the harmonic choices made by the composer interrelate. This dissertation demonstrates the use of this approach in reverse as a compositional tool, to assist in applying the harmonic techniques learned from these compositions to a new one that is harmonised in the style of the analysed works. By also investigating music by Corea, the versatility of this method as an analytical tool and compositional process is demonstrated, as well as the potential for its use in further research in composition beyond the scope of this paper.