Thanks for the comments about slash chords and multiple procedures. There were some great observations made that have given me cause to reconsider so much. To be sure, my last entry was tainted with a new-found disdain for anything Georgian, so I made a few statements I probably wouldn’t have if I had written it a day earlier or later. Time is context, I guess.
Of course, slash chords are not superior to chords with long extensions and it always comes down to a matter of context whether or not they should be employed. But I do agree wholeheartedly that they’re easier to read when their lower half is placed directly under their upper half instead of being written left-to-right (i.e., A7/F–the way most music notation programs seem to print them). And I don’t really think that an A-minor triad with a major seventh is necessarily better expressed as an E-augmented triad over an A root; but, when I see the former, I’m drawn into a mental context (that I usually associate this chord with) where the major seventh is resolving upward or downward. When the latter is presented, though, little of that context enters into the equation and the chord’s function becomes more chromatic and open ended—inclusive of diatonic harmony, yet indicative of bi- and a-tonality. The truth be told, though, it always comes down to whatever the sound of music is at the moment. If I read “E+/A” and the music being played sounds like Jobim, I’ll probably play from an A-minor-major-seventh “head-space.”
What I’m struggling with now is the idea that “improvisation boils to … the simultaneous multiple processes going on [when] two or more people … make music that isn’t written down or memorized.” It was suggested, rightly, that this definition ignores solo improvisations, like Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert. While I’m not a big fan of the album (but I am a fan of Jarrett), it is a recording of a piece that is either totally, largely, or somewhat improvised. So I am … busted. My only explanation is that I don’t perform many solo improvisations. I’ve played a few, but always felt inadequate to the task. I usually find myself composing something in my head to refer back to, not really improvising in a pure sense. But that doesn’t mean others don’t do so—and do so quite well and effectively. It also doesn’t mean that multiple processes aren’t available to the solo improviser, especially keyboardists and percussionists. I still think it’s just more rewarding to play music with other people, though.
I mentioned before that I’ve been taking a class in the history of big bands. It’s not an arranging course, but rather an overview of the development of big band arranging styles and their relation to socio-economic contexts in the 20th Century. Last week, we looked at the connection between the development of the big band and the political left (represented by the Communist Party in the 1930s) vis-à-vis a certain John Hammond. This week we’re looking at territory bands and their relation to media of the day (radio and periodicals). I imagine that will bring us to stock arrangements, or what my dad (who played trumpet in territory bands) called “breakdowns”—charts that can be played by ensembles of differing sizes and instrumentation while retaining all the pertinent musical information of the full score. I haven’t run across any slash chords yet, though. A lot of triads with added sixth-chord symbols, though. It strikes me funny to read “| Dmin7 / F6 / |”, when they have the same notes. To be continued …