|All Blues, a Chromatic Analysis. Gouache on 30" round birch panel. 2022
Fragmentary Blue, an exhibition containing works by 17 artists, opens at the Hotchkiss School's Tremaine Gallery in western Connecticut on May 15, 2022.
My offering, a chromatic analysis of the iconic Miles Davis tune "All Blues," is an extension of the ongoing Tonal Relativity project.
Works in the Tonal Relativity series relate a musical scale based on twelve equally-spaced tones to a color spectrum consisting of twelve equally-spaced hues.
While I have been using this concept to explore intervallic relationships as part of my music practice for some time, the use of this concept to analyze tunes has been a more recent development.
Miles Davis' All Blues — like many classic blues tunes — consists of a repeated 12-bar progression of tonal relationships.
In my circular visualization, the form begins at the 12 o'clock position with a mode (set of tones) relative to G (in this case, represented by the blue-green shape at the center) for four bars. It shifts to C (red) for two bars, then back to G for two. D (orange) for one bar is followed by Eb (yellow-orange) for half a measure, then back to D for half a measure, then back to G for two measures.
Taking in the visual while listening is highly recommended!
The sea, the sky, the you and I
The sea, the sky, for you and I
I'll know we're all blues
All Shades, all hues, all blues
Some blues are sad
But some are glad,
Dark-sad or bright-glad
They're all blues
All shades, all hues, all blues
The color of colors
The blues are more than a color
They're a moan of pain
A Taste of strife
And a sad refrain
A game which life is playin'
Blues can be the livin' dues
We're all a-payin'
Yeah, Oh Lord
In a rainbow
A summer day that's fair
A prayer is prayed
A lament that's made
Some shade of blues is there;
Blue heaven's hue,
They're all blues!
Talkin' 'bout the sea and the sky
And I'm talkin' 'bout you and I
The sea, the sky
For you and I
And I know we're all blues
Sea, sky, you and I
See the sky, you and I
God has brought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create – and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.
Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.
Modern Jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.
It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of “racial identity” as a problem for a multi-racial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.
Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down. And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping-stone towards all of these.