Seven bands you don’t need to see

In his Opticks (1704) Isaac Newton wrote up the experiments in which he proved that white light can be split into colours. A century later (1820) John Keats complained that by "unweaving" the rainbow, Newton had destroyed its poetry: "Do not all charms fly, at the touch of cold philosophy?" It was a popular view among… Continue reading Seven bands you don’t need to see

Circle of fifths part 3: tunings and temperaments

Last time we covered some of the better-known uses of the circle of fifths. Our subject this time is one that you may not have met, unless you are an early music enthusiast or a member of that endangered profession, a keyboard tuner. This illustration comes from the website of Carey Beebe Harpsichords of Sydney,… Continue reading Circle of fifths part 3: tunings and temperaments

Circle of fifths, part 2: Origins and uses

Last time we surveyed the rich culture that surrounds music's circle of fifths: the posters, gadgets, apps, clocks and t-shirts, and the almost endless variants of the iconic diagram. But apart from the human fondness for zodiacs, mandalas and other circular things, what are the secrets of its success? This time I'll be looking at… Continue reading Circle of fifths, part 2: Origins and uses

Will it go round in circles?

People love circles, especially 12-sector circles. So although the significance of music's circle of fifths can take a while to appreciate, the diagram itself seems disarmingly familiar. With a bit of imagination it can become a clock face, a zodiac, a colour wheel or a calendar of months. Whoa, are all those things really connected?… Continue reading Will it go round in circles?

Negative harmony part 3: the Levy legacy

In part 2 of this series we used chromatic circle diagrams to show how chords and scales are affected by chromatic inversion - the basic operation of negative or mirror harmony. We noted that there are twelve available reflection points or 'axes'. Jacob Collier popularised the use of one specific axis, located 3½ semitones above… Continue reading Negative harmony part 3: the Levy legacy

Teacher don’t teach me no nonsense

Jazz education is a fraught subject. If you think people get passionate about styles of music, wait until you encounter the emotions that surround different ways of teaching and learning jazz. The role of jazz theory is particularly controversial. I thought the discussions at a local jazz education conference, held in Brighton earlier this year,… Continue reading Teacher don’t teach me no nonsense