Thursday, October 11, 2018

All of the Possibilities Sixteen

These are my notes and ideas from the introduction for:

Opening Reception for Vernon Pratt—All the Possibilities of Sixteen. Scott Laird, music director at NC School of Science and Math, introduces.
October 11 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm Free


 Trinity Pratt Findlay and John Pratt
Meth through Mother: Debbie Pratt
Thank Roger Manley and Zoe Starling
Acknowledge William Dodge - recently introduced me as “One of the two biggest Vernon Pratt Artwork Geeks in the world.”  (He is the other)

 My notes from this evening and some musical samples are posted on my blog, Thoughts of A String Educator.  I would encourage you to check it out when you get home tonight for a more in-depth understanding of the ideas presented here.

My History with Pratt family and Vernon Pratts artwork:

I am Fine Arts Coordinator and Music Instructor at NCSSM


  • John Morrison
  • Introduced me to Debbie
  • Trip to warehouse

2014 exhibit - Geometric

2015 Exhibit - Coltrane -fall curriculum

2016 - Gregg exhibit and my lecture on his work and my perception of its relationship to music

As part of the research for this lecture, I spoke with a number of friends and colleagues of Vernon.

Thrilled when Roger invited me to make some remarks tonight on my perception of All of the Possibilities of Filling in 16ths to Music

This work immediately reminded me of:

  • Steven Malinowski - Inventor Musician and Software engineer.  
  • Music Animation machine - - which produces animated graphical musical scores. That permit the listener to visualize music using a system of colored shapes, taking information from a MIDI file.
  • This is all over Youtube and I encourage you to look for it as a way to further understand music and form of music composition.
  • The Fugue
  • A Motive and Finding “All of the possibilities of counterpoint on that Motive”
  • a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (a musical theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and which recurs frequently in the course of the composition. A fugue usually has three main sections: an exposition, a development and a final entry that contains the return of the subject in the fugue's tonic key. 
  • Bach's Little Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578

2. Minimalism 

Defined: it is marked by a non-narrative, non-teleological, and non-representational conception of a work in progress, Prominent features of the technique include consonant harmony, steady pulse (if not immobile drones), stasis or gradual transformation, and often reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units such as figures, motifs, and cells. It may include features such as additive process and phase shifting which leads to what has been termed phase music. Minimal compositions that rely heavily on process techniques that follow strict rules are usually described using the term process music.

I was reminded of John Adams : rather than set up small engines of motivic materials and let them run free in a kind of random play of counterpoint, he used the fabric of continually repeating cells to forge large architectonic shapes, creating a web of activity that, even within the course of a single movement, was more detailed, more varied, and knew both light and dark, serenity and turbulence

John Adams Piano Concerto, Century Rolls

Slonimsky's Earbox, John Adams

Lollapaalooza, John Adams

No remarks about the relationship of Vernon Pratt’s Artwork to music would be complete without some reference to John Coltrane.  

I am by no means a John Coltrane Scholar.

So, I googled “Johns Coltrane” and “All of the Possibilities"

3. John Coltrane

 Sheets of Sound Technique: The term ‘Sheets of Sound‘ was coined by music critic Ira Gitler in the liner notes of the Coltrane album Soultrane (1958). He used it to describe the Coltrane’s improvisational style at the time.

the Sheets of Sound technique is a vertical improvisation technique; that is, it uses arpeggios, patterns, licks and scales that trace out each chord in a progression.

So let’s say one is playing a song, and we have the chord G7 for a full bar. Now, let’s just list a few scales and arpeggios that you could plausibly use to improvise over this chord:

  • G7 arpeggio
  • G13♭9 arpeggio (extension)
  • D♭7 arpeggio (tritone substitution)
  • D♭13♭9 arpeggio (tritone substitution with extension)
  • Am7 | D7 (II-V)
  • G Mixolydian (C Major)
  • G Wholetone
  • G H/W Diminished Scale
  • G Lydian Dominant (D melodic minor)
  • G Altered Scale (A♭ melodic minor)
  • G Blues Scale
  • G Major Pentatonic
  • We could keep going, but let’s stop there…

If you play all of these scales/arpeggios in their entirety over those 4 beats of G7, you are playing Sheets of Sound. Now, obviously, this is impossible so you just try squeeze in as much as you can.

It is, in fact, all of the vertical possibilities over G7

Blue Trane


What matters here, in my opinion, is the large impression. The Big Picture. Taking it all in. 

And that is the case the three musical forms that I referenced, the overall impression is what matters. 

With all these musical forms as with this piece, there is  microscopic precision and they are numerically complex. We can certainly marvel at the microscopic.  

But to truly appreciate it, we must really step back and drink in the big picture while appreciating the complexity of thought that went into the minutia.

Thank you so much and enjoy All of the Possibilities of Filling in 16!

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