I came up with this pattern while messing around with different ways to split up a perfect fourths. Just casually exploring. The main cell of this pattern is a perfect 4th, split into a minor 2nd and a major 3rd (see the two spaces in between the first three notes). On the way up, the pattern is reversed with a major 3rd followed by a minor 2nd. The cells can be arranged in any amount and order of ascending and descending, but I chose to do make some nice long lines covering the range of the horn, made up of six cells. I liked the idea of one scale-type figure that wasn’t obviously changing keys but would nevertheless put me in a very different key at the bottom from where I started at the top. This has been part of a larger exploration of synthetic scales that take longer than one octave to repeat, which has crept into my improvising and composing, as well.

Another important aspect of this pattern is its harmonic implications. There are two points in a major scale that contain the combination of a minor 2nd and major 3rd. Descending, this group of intervals strongly suggest scale degrees 4, 3, and 1, creating some kind of melodic cadence in a major key. On the way up, a major 3rd followed by a minor 2nd absolutely screams scale degrees 5, 7, and 1, a melodic cadence from the other direction. Play the pattern slowly, maybe in quarter notes around 80 b.p.m. The harmonic implication is much clearer now. You can even pause on the note that sounds like they’re scale degree 1, to really feel that resolution to the tonic. Or try accenting every other note, starting on the first note of the half step interval on the way down and up (if you’re using the above notation, that would be on Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, etc.). Now we are accenting scale degree 4 on the way down and 7 on the way up, and really hearing their resolution up or down a half step. Now if you play it as fast as you can (but still even and connected!), it sounds essentially atonal, because our ears cannot separate it into smaller cells, and combines larger chunks into our overall impression. Grouping six of these cells means 11 out of the 12 pitches from the chromatic scale are sounded, so there is no pitch center and only a vaguer sense of coherence through repeating intervals. So if we vary the speed, alter the rhythmic values of the notes, or even add a simple accent, a pattern can have a stronger or weaker harmonic pull! This pattern is much more than a simple vehicle to smoothly get me from one key at the top of the horn to another at the bottom. Its shape shifts when we alter certain parameters. Different aspects of its make-up, like its scalar shape, tonal implications on the micro level, or atonal implications on the macro-level, are brought to the foreground when we alter speed, rhythm or accent. Harmony is so much more than static tones stacked on top of one another.