Analysis: 20/40 Hindsight

The second edition of this explanation of my compositions from the album PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD is the second track, “20-40 Hindsight”.  The title of this song is a play on the saying “hindsight is 20-20.”  Like almost every song on this record, I wrote this while I was living in New York City.  I realized that as I dwell on negative experiences, the catalyst for each episode was obfuscated.

A Section:

The Harmonic basis for the entire tune is the “nonatonic,” (9 note) scale.  Like the Augmented scale, it is symmetrical and repeats in major 3rds.  This particular ‘mode’ of the nontatonic scale can be constructed by playing two half steps and a whole step ascending 3 times.  Some people know these symmetrical scales from Olivier Messiaen or the book “The Harmonic Experience.”  I was first introduced to these ideas through studying with Gary Thomas.  The opening piano figure is a four note structure taken from within this scale and then moved up and down in major thirds to create a sense of harmonic movement.  Similar to the way I composed “You Probably Thought This Would Be Fun,” I sang the melody to myself before entering it into the program logic.

B Section:

Harmonically, the B section is still based on the E half-half-whole nonatonic scale.  Now the piano is playing the three diminished triads that fit into the 9 note scale (also separated by major thirds).  These diminished triads are inverted for good voice leading.  Meanwhile, the bass and drums have a new rhythm.  One of my goals with this composition was to fit “modern jazz” rhythms into the aesthetics of “straight ahead” jazz.  I use those terms for the sake of communication, but don’t put too much value on those labels.  The song is still in 3/4 time, but there is an ostinato played by the bass and bass drum comprised of groupings of two and three triplets (2-3-3-2-2).  From beginning to end, that takes up four beats.  Three times through that four beat pattern is the same as four bars of 3/4 (the length of the B section).

C Section:

Finally, after sitting on one chord in the A and B sections, there is some harmonic movement.  The chords move up in minor thirds while the piano (playing the same four note cell from the A section) moves down in half steps.  The nature of these scales dividing the octave into three equal parts allows this.  The melody here was composed slightly more methodically than the “hear it and write it” method I’ve described thus far.  After reading some essays about Krzysztof Penderecki, I learned that he would sometimes compose melodies entirely of one or two intervals (the example I read about had half steps and tritones).  Here I used almost exclusively half steps and sixths.

Alternate Versions:

Unlike most of the other tunes on this record, I've played this tune with several other musicians and bands.  In addition to the below video, you can find a recording of me performing this with Billy Test, Yoshi Waki, and Ralph Peterson under the music tab of my site.