The Harmonic Progression is IV, vii, iii, vi, ii, V, I. In the key of C, this is: Fmaj7, Bm7(b5), Em7, Am7, Dm7, G7, Cmaj7. I thought I would apply this ordering to the Modal Mirror, as shown on the napkin below:
The Modal Mirror (a discovery of mine) is fully described in my book “Chaos In Boxes: twisted adventures in music theory” – if you haven’t already read it, you can read this preview .pdf to learn about the Modal Mirror. In yesterday’s brand-new experiment, modes above the mirror line are kept diatonic to C, while their under-the-surface counterparts keep the same root and result in Key Signatures other than C (e.g. B Lydian’s root is determined from B Locrian). So, this thought experiment produces the “modal progression” of B Lydian, B Locrian, C Phrygian, A Aeolian, D Dorian, A Mixolydian, C Ionian. Since four out of seven of these tonalities are all in the same Key Signature, I felt that this was not experimental enough. It seemed to me somehow that 4736251 and Modal Mirror are apples and oranges, not destined for extended or meaningful interaction. However, usefulness could still be rendered if I decide to turn this into an actual piece of music someday.
The process was inspiring, but the results were not. It’s a good thing that I can view process as a result, so I don’t feel like it was a waste of time.
Fast-forward another day, and a casual trip to the post office provided an amazing surprise: Produce Press, the micropublisher who helped bring “Chaos In Boxes” into the world, sent me the last few remaining copies of Handmade Limited Edition copies in the snailmail! I can think of a couple of people who are looking forward to getting their hands on one of these.
With the previous day’s aforementioned 4736251 experiment still lingering in my mind, I brainfarted a new concoction and decided to borrow a pen from the lovely young lady at the coffee shop and write it out, using the unopened box as my blank slate.
This new composition experiment uses 4736251 as a starting point, and then applying the following procedure:
- Write the name of each Mode under each chord in the progression, creating a modal expression of the harmonic progression in the same vein as yesterday’s experiment. This preliminary step was never expected to bear fruit, but it must be my lucky day: the Modes, when arranged according to 4736251, are in the order of brightness with the conspicuous exception of Lydian who, although being the brightest Mode, sits at the darkest end of the list. This early upshot can be stated thusly: “Lydian’s so bright, it’s gotta wear shades.” This reversal reminded me of a cartoon I saw recently which showed a young boy telling an old man, “I didn’t believe in reincarnation either, when I was your age.” Lydian got reincarnated? Maybe this is the real Q.E.D. of my weekend.
- Change the underlying nature of the progression from “relative” to “parallel” by making all Root notes the same (i.e. the reliable cliché starting with F Lydian, followed by B Locrian, E Phrygian, A Aeolian, D Dorian, G Mixolydian, and ending with C Ionian, becomes transformed into C Lydian, C Locrian, C Phrygian, C Aeolian, C Dorian, C Mixolydian, C Ionian). This modal Progression is the intended fruit of today’s thought experiment, but… why stop there?
- Re-induce some “relative” thinking by writing the “parent major” keys under each Mode in the new progression. The following the series of Key Signatures is yielded: G, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F, C. Unsurprisingly, this series is comprised mostly of Perfect Fifths.
- (Not shown on scribbles…) Repeat step 1, maintaining the classic order of Modes. Resulting new progression is G Lydian, Db Locrian, Ab Phrygian, Eb Aeolian, Bb Dorian, F Mixolydian, C Ionian.
- Repeat step 3. Resulting progression of Key Signatures, enharmonically re-spelled for easy reading, is: D, D, E, Gb, Ab, Bb, C. Observe, consecutive displacements are mostly whole-tones. Surprised, but not.
- Repeat step 1, assigning Modes to each Root in the new series: D Lydian, D Locrian, E Phrygian, Gb Aeolian, Ab Dorian, Bb Mixolydian, C Ionian.
- Repeat step 3, giving this order of Key Signatures: A, Eb, C, A, Gb, Eb, C. This spells a diminished 7th chord, a.k.a. the Diamond shape on the Circle of Fifths! Miracles never cease. I can’t tell if I’m elated or bored AF.
- Seriously, all this symmetry is too much. I quit.
- No. I’m back. The show must go on. What treasures lay at the bottom of this ocean? Next iteration generates A Lydian, Eb Locrian, C Phrygian, A Aeolian, Gb Dorian, Eb Mixolydian, C Ionian. Parent key series is E, E, Ab, C, E, Ab, C. This spells a frigging Augmented Chord, a.k.a. the Triangle shape on the Circle of Fifths. This is getting ridiculous.
- Next iteration: E Lydian, E Locrian, Ab Phrygian, C Aeolian, E Dorian, Ab Mixolydian, C Ionian. Parent key series is B, F, E, Eb, D, Db, C. This is basically a series of descending Semitones! This reiterative procedure is turning out to be waaaaay more fruitful than I’d hoped. But, every once in awhile, this sort of thing happens. Sometimes it’s worth it.
- Next iteration: B Lydian, F Locrian, E Phrygian, Eb Aeolian, D Dorian, Db Mixolydian, C Ionian. Key series: Gb, Gb, C, Gb, C, Gb, C. A polar collection of Tritones. Booyah!
- Next iteration: Gb Lydian, Gb Locrian, C Phrygian, Gb Aeolian, C Dorian, Gb Mixolydian, C Ionian. Key series: Db, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C. This is basically a series of ascending Semitones. This is suddenly getting a little more predictable. The tritone series described in step 11 is the centre-line, the mirror-line of the entire system. Step 13 will probably generate a Key series conforming to an Augmented chord, just like step 9 but reversed. Step 14 will probably resemble step 7, but reversed somehow.
Etcetera. Anyway, this also inspired me to create some MIDI racks in Ableton dedicated to selecting Modes (as well as assembling scales from Interval selections), which should make it easier to assemble something audible from all this theorizing.
End of report.