The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization resonates supreme at the epicenter of George Russell's prodigious life work. This innovative band leader, influential composer, legendary educator and philosophically profound master of music devoted 50 years of tireless, purposeful development in forging and generously disseminating his visionary theoretical system. Maestro Russell's singular world-renowned theory reveals an objective, illuminating vista of interrelated and boundless insights into what music is telling us about its own innate nature and reciprocal architectonics.
"The Concept" establishes an open-ended, pan-stylistic foundation in which levels of tonal gravity act as prime, integral moving forces within music.
Detailed information about George Russell can be found HERE at his personal website, as well as LydianChromaticConcept.com, the authorized cyberspace home of The Concept and where his book can be ordered from Concept Publishing.
Scroll down to the very bottom of this page to read a collection of selected wisdom quotes by many Jazz master innovators who either played in Mr. Russell's ensembles, collaborated with him or studied "The Concept" with him. Their philosphical attitude, sense of aesthetics and artistic vision continue to influence musicians around the world to this day.
Andy Wasserman has been giving private lessons in the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization since 1982 when he was granted certification directly by George Russell to teach "The Concept" in it's entirety. He was an editorial assistant to Maestro Russell from 1980 until Russell's death in 2009. Information about Andy Wasserman's private teaching can be found HERE. He offers customized online private lessons to students around the world via video chat, phone and email. A website dedicated to Andy's customized internet distance learning music courses can be viewed AT THIS LINK.
Here is a letter of recommendation written by Mr. Russell about Andy Wasserman and his work with the Lydian Chromatic Concept
Wasserman first heard Russell's compositions and arrangements on the 1959 Decca Records LP "New York, N.Y." (Photo of vinyl LP label on left.) As a native New Yorker who grew up in Manhattan, Andy felt a strong connection with the message, the music, the sounds and the emotions of this brilliant work.
One of the most comprehensive and sensitive reviews ever published on George Russell's music with primary focus on the "New York, N.Y." recording is by Steven Cerra. You can read this informative, well-written article at THIS LINK to the Jazz Profiles Blog where it was posted on April 27, 2013, or the text only on this site HERE.
Andy made the decision to move to Boston in 1978 to enroll at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) with the definitive aim of apprenticing under the guidance of George Russell, a long-standing Department of Jazz Studies faculty member.
He performed an original solo piano medley arrangement of Billy Strayhorn compositions in person for Maestro Russell as his entrance audition in Boston, and was approved as a full-time student in the Jazz Composition Division due to Russell's written evaluation endorsement, which declared "applicant accepted: good sense of harmony and orchestration."
While attending NEC, Wasserman interned as a substitute instructor for Mr. Russell’s classes in the Lydian Chromatic Concept whenever the Russell's “Living Time Orchestra” was on international concert tours and carried out a variety of publishing responsibilities as an editorial assistant for the fourth and final edition of "The Concept."
He received his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Composition as a protege of Mr. Russell in 1982 along with a certification directly from George Russell to teach "The Concept" privately and in seminars. He has had the honor of assisting George and Alice Russell in preserving and propagating this exceedingly meaningful work ever since.
Andy Wasserman is one of only a handful of people selected, certified and sanctioned by George Russell to represent his work exactly as he intended it to be taught and shared. Click HERE to view a poster from a seminar Andy gave at The Jazz School (now known as The California Jazz Conservatory) in Berkeley, California.
George Russell was Andy's mentor in not only the Lydian Chromatic Concept, but also in the art and science of musical composition. Read more about that HERE.
TRIBUTE TO A VERTICAL MAN
George Russell stood tall and resolute as a vertical man, meaning he acknowledged, listened to, and gave his undivided attention to a potent transforming magnetic center within. It is this deeply meaningful internal process - his essence - which guided him each and every day. A very high level of integrity, refinement and excellence prevailed in his life. Beauty, truth and goodness took precedent above and beyond anything else.
An influential and authentically innovative figure in the evolution of modern Jazz, George Russell (June 23, 1923 – July 27, 2009) was one of its greatest composers, and its most important theorist. His The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, first published in 1953, is credited as a great pathbreaker into modal music, as pioneered by Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Most of Jazz music’s most important developments since the 1950s — from modal improvisation to electronics, African polyrhythms to free form, atonality to jazz rock — were taken to another level by Russell’s pioneering work. Russell's Living Time Orchestra has performed throughout the world, including the Barbican Centre and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Festival d’Automne and Cîté de la Musique in Paris, and Tokyo Music Joy. His career as a leader includes more than 30 recordings, working with such musicians as Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Jan Garbarek.
Among Russell's awards are the following:
- the MacArthur Fellowship "Genius" Grant
- the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) American Jazz Master Award
- two Guggenheim Fellowships in Music Composition
- six NEA grants
- three Grammy nominations
- the American Music Award
- the British Jazz Award
- the Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend Award
- the Swedish Jazz Federation Lifetime Achievement Award
- election to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music
The New England Conservatory of Music bestowed an honorary Doctor of Music degree on George Russell in 2005 after Russell retired from the faculty, having taught 30 years in the Jazz Department. Learn more about Maestro Russell's work at New England Conservatory HERE.
Russell's music compostion commissions include the British Council, Swedish Broadcasting, the Glasgow International Festival, the Barbican Centre, and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts.
He taught throughout the world, and was a guest conductor for Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, German, and Italian radio. Russell has been the subject of documentaries by National Public Radio (NPR), NHK Japan, Swedish Broadcasting, and the BBC.
"George Russell: The Story of an American Composer" by Duncan Heining is the definitive authorized biography written about his life and music, published in December, 2009 by Scarecrow Press as part of their African American Cultural Theory and Heritage Series. The book was awarded Winner/Finalist for the 2010 ARSC Award for Excellence: Best Historical Research in Recorded Jazz category.
You can find out more about this book AT THIS LINK. Additionally, an in-depth article published in 2011 by The Jazz Review discussing the expanse of George Russell's life and music, which includes an interview with Andy Wasserman, is posted HERE.
The Music Division of The Library of Congress commissioned an essay for inclusion in the program notes honoring George Russell at his May, 1999 Living Time Orchestra concert in the Library’s historic Coolidge Auditorium in Washington DC. CLICK THIS LINK TO READ THE ESSAY IN PDF FORMAT.
The Art and Science of Tonal Gravity
George Russell's LYDIAN CHROMATIC CONCEPT OF TONAL ORGANIZATION - The Art and Science of Tonal Gravity is one of the most important music theories of all time.
1. What is the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization? The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization is a theory of music and the life work of George Russell. It has existed in a state of continual evolution since the early 1950s. The most recently released Fourth Edition (2001) is entitled “Volume One: The Art and Science of Tonal Gravity.” This new publication presents the work in a highly comprehensive and organized manner, totally surpassing any previous editions. Most people familiar with this body of knowledge refer to it simply as “The Concept.”
2. What is the aim of the Lydian Chromatic Concept? The principal aim of The Concept is to grasp the behavior of all musical activity (i.e. – melody, harmony, rhythm and form) from the most objective viewpoint possible. It seeks to document observations within music’s “genetic code” by charting the framework of laws that act as guidelines for composition, improvisation and analysis. Its purpose is to provide a road map of the musical universe that tells you where all the roads are, but does not tell you which roads to take.
3. What is the primary difference between the Lydian Chromatic Concept and all other theories of music? Unlike any other theory of music, Mr. Russell’s Concept establishes gravity as the driving force in music. By seeking what music ITSELF is telling us about its own elemental structure, The Concept supplies the necessary means to conceive that a gravitation field of tones exists as a self-organized order of unity. The Concept does not disprove the discoveries and contributions of other musical theories, but rather explains where their truths rest in the context of tonal gravity.
4. What is Tonal Gravity? Tonal gravity is the heart of the Lydian Chromatic Concept. Simply put, the basic building block of tonal gravity is the interval of the perfect fifth. Every tone within Western music’s equal tempered tuning relates to every other tone by either being close to - or distant from - the center of gravity, which is the tonic (or “DO”) of the Lydian Scale. There are 3 states of tonal gravity: Vertical, Horizontal, and Supra-Vertical.
5. Why is the Lydian Scale of paramount importance in this Concept? The Lydian Scale was not chosen as the primary scale for this system of music theory because it sounds nice or has some subjective or historical significance. Since the interval of a fifth is the building block of tonal gravity, a seven-tone scale created by successive fifths establishes the most vertically unified harmonic order whereby the gravity falls down each fifth back to the singular Lydian tonic. When seven ascending consecutive fifths (i.e. – C, G, D, A, E, B, F#) are arranged within one single octave, the result is the Lydian Scale.
6. What is the fundamental difference between the Lydian and Major Scale? As described in the answer to the previous question, the Lydian Scale has one single tonic, otherwise known as the “DO” of the scale. The Major Scale is known as a diatonic (meaning: two tonic) scale. Therefore, the essential difference between these two scales is that the Lydian (a single tonic scale) is in a state of unity with itself, and the Major Scale, with its two tonics, is in a state of resolving.
7. What is a Lydian Chromatic Scale? The Lydian Chromatic Scale is the most complete expression of the total self-organized tonal gravity field with which all tones relate on the basis of their close to distant magnetism to a Lydian tonic.
8. Are there any historical and acoustical foundations underlying the Concept? The recently published edition of the Concept goes into great depth and discussion concerning the historical and acoustical foundations underlying the Concept. These ideas are critical to understanding the significance of this theory, and are too involved and elaborate to post on this website. It should be noted that the current book presents these specific subjects far more extensively than in previous editions.
9. Who can most benefit by studying the Lydian Chromatic Concept? One of the beauties of The Concept is that it is designed for musicians and non-musicians alike. Its contribution is relevant in all stylistic genres of music and from all time periods. It even extends beyond Western music to some ancient forms of non-Western music. Most students of The Concept tend to be composers, improvisers, and people interested in the analysis of already existing musical compositions. Many people outside of music are drawn to The Concept due to its objective view of tonal gravity. George Russell’s indelible mark as a jazz innovator, composer and band leader (along with his work as a theoretician) has established a platform worldwide for this work that is intrinsically tied to the development of jazz dating back to the early 1950s.
10. Does a student of the Concept have to abandon their already existing knowledge of Western music theory? Students of this work are able to adapt their own musical perspectives to the ideas presented by the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. For example, analysis of compositions by J.S. Bach and Maurice Ravel are included in the current volume to reinforce the all-inclusive nature of tonal gravity.
11. Is the current revised edition dramatically different from the previous editions? Yes. Generally speaking, the previous editions of the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization (dating back to 1953) were focused more on the “how-to” aspect of improvising. The more robust, comprehensive and detailed current volume adds never before published depth and dimension through exhaustive examples of analysis, scales, background information and test examples for the student. Volume Two, the completion of the entire work, is currently in development.
12. What are the extra-musical considerations of the Lydian Chromatic Concept? George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization stretches far beyond the usual parameters of music theory, having deep roots linked to the science of acoustics, physics, world culture and political history. Its framework is applicable in almost any stylistic genre of music – both Western and non-Western – encompassing the European classical tradition as solidly as the lineage of jazz innovators. On the esoteric side, the “Concept” makes connections with psychological disciplines and spiritual pathways, nurturing a balance between both the internal and external extra-musical elements critical to any artistic process.
13. Are there any connections drawn in The Concept between music and psychology? No art form or theory is complete without some basis in psychology and spirituality. Artists most often describe the process of creativity in transparent and intangible terms. Most - if not all - music theoretical systems have chosen to ignore the inclusion of this key internal element. While Mr. Russell’s system encourages each student of the “Concept” to explore their own ideas and paths, it freely discusses many potent ideas underlying some specific psychological perspectives and ancient wisdom traditions and the relationships between one’s ‘essence’ and ‘personality’. Ancient psychological systems made analogies between the evolution of a person’s mind and being and metaphorical terms such as scale, harmony, vertical and horizontal.
14. Has the Lydian Chromatic Concept been taught at any established educational institutions? Mr. Russell played a key role in the famous Lenox School of Jazz, and went on to teach The Concept at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston for over 30 years. He has given seminars in this work around the world and has personally guided countless private students. The Lydian Concept is being taught by accredited teachers at the Universities of Massachusetts and Indiana, the Longy School of Music, and the Josef Hauer Konservatoriums in Austria. The previously released versions of the book have been used to teach the LCCOTO at colleges and universities around the world over the last 40 years.There are currently a small number of instructors in the United States, Europe and Japan who are formally certified by George Russell to teach the Concept.
Microscopic photograph of a single snowflake
One reflective illustration of how the self-organized unity of tonal gravity within the twelve-tone Lydian Chromatic Scale resonates in nature.
The following text, written by Andy Wasserman, is the foreword to the current, in print publication of George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization - Volume One, The Art and Science of Tonal Gravity (Fourth Edition, 2001, Concept Publishing Company)
As you will soon discover for yourself, the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization requires us to think in a new way. While it is inevitable that you will bring what you know to the Concept, you will soon realize the dramatic difference of this musical landscape where tones, scales, chords, and modes resonate within the Principle of Tonal Gravity. In order for this to begin to work within you and within your music, it is strongly suggested that you give these ideas your complete openness and attention, and, even for brief moments, let go of your preconceptions of the theoretical foundations of Western music. The knowledge that appears in the two volumes of the Lydian Chromatic Concept bas been distilled very carefully to allow students of the Concept to adapt their own musical perspectives to this one.
The unified core of ideas at the root of the Concept has the potential to transport music into a realm of deeper meaning. Opening up to those possibilities requires patience, concentrated thought, and dedicated study. Therefore it is important to realize that you cannot assimilate these ideas from too narrow a basis, either intellectually or emotionally. By making the effort to absorb the terminology and structure presented here, your musical foundation can be made stronger and the connections between you and your music more intelligent. Once the unity of the Concept begins to penetrate your practical understanding, everything in it becomes useful. It is then that its message challenges you to inquire musically and psychologically into the things you think and feel. For this reason, it is crucial to embrace the Concept from an emotionally receptive position of seeking something genuine for yourself in a world where most music is far removed from innovation and excellence. To do this requires a willingness to learn that emanates from self-motivation. The Concept has a unique way of interpreting and translating the things of great value that music can tell us--something about the meaning of organization and gravity. Its purpose is to generate new pathways toward greater freedom in exercising aesthetic judgment and discernment that invoke a more objective fulfillment of musical statement. The focus, attention, and consciousness you put into the study of the Concept will uncover greater meaning and an expansion of your musical understanding, regardless of the stylistic genre of music to which you apply it.
Throughout this course of study you will notice that terms like vertical, horizontal, and the relationship to states of tonal gravity signal an eloquent departure from the major-minor consonant-dissonant system that is commonly taught to students. This specific language, when integrated into your thinking, can bring about personal advancement that will convey insight and innovation to your craft. The ideas are interrelated for a unity like that of a mandala, rather than the compartmentalized, noncontiguous elements that form commonly accepted notions of musical behavior. By its very nature, the Lydian Chromatic Concept will give you a fresh outlook that can aid in bringing life to your musical understanding. This requires you to master a sense of independence and self-awareness. Try to "visualize" the relationships presented in this book by "hearing" its knowledge with an inner ear that is capable of formulating your own singular musical ideas through the experience of an internal focus. This focal point can help you decipher between the superficial, mechanical associations you may be accustomed to making in your compositions or improvisations and the quality of consciousness that allows many levels of subtlety to come into play. Simply to imitate what others have played and composed is not enough.
It may be beneficial for you to consider adopting a reciprocal attitude to digesting the Concept whereby the energy you give while implementing its ideas will fuel your passage through unexpected doors of discovery. Having a specific aim while working with the Concept can he helpful. Whether you are a composer, instrumentalist, improviser, educator, arranger, or theoretician, and even if you come to this book from outside the profession of music, finding an aim as you work will allow you to put this knowledge into action and have it work for you. Use this book as a map to help you aim for that which extends beyond your customary approach. This will require you to examine some basic questions about the meaning behind an organization of musical tones and why you play or write music. As you absorb this knowledge and become more intimate with its fundamental principles, such as the actuality of a passive "do" which yields to everything in scale that is higher that itself (Chapter II), you can begin to unearth a vision of your innate "response-abilities" within your musical discipline. At its essence, The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization creates a self-organized and infinite range of possibilities for us to master.
Used by Permission: Concept Publishing ©2002 All Rights Reserved
TONAL GRAVITY: It isn't just a good idea--it's the law!