Dream Chords

LMY—In the Pre-Tortoise Dream Music, the scale was the C, G, Bb, C', but it also had a 63 and a 31 in it, and a 21, and we would modulate into the key of 7 so that you have the chord 63:56:42 [(9:8:6) x 7]. And this is one of my "Dream Chords." I don't know if you know about my "Dream Chords?"

DD—I've read about them a little. These are the chords that are 6:8:9 with some additional tone dividing the 9/8?

LMY—Right. And so, for years and years I've been fascinated by how to divide the 9/8 interval, its just such an intriguing question. And particularly, which was of dividing it so it would sound good if you have that 9:8:6 sounding, or its inversion 12:9:8. I've used various divisors at different times, but at that time I was interested in modulating to the key of 7 and setting up the triad 63:56:42. And dividing the 63:56 with 62, which is 31. So I had my Dream Chord off in that area, and then we'd modulate back to the original 7:6:4 area of the tonic, which was basically growing out of that blues chord that I had originally been playing. So this G Dorian was the saxophone key, it was Bb Dorian concert. So out of that grew The Well-Tuned Piano and The Well-Tuned Piano ... see, that C chord is an Eb concert, and The Well-Tuned Piano is in Eb. So The Well-Tuned Piano came out of my saxophone playing on that C7 chord. [Laughs]

DD—I've heard that you sometimes divided the 9/8 [in the Dream Chord] with a 17 or a 35?

LMY—That's right, I did. I was quite intrigued with 35 for quite some time, and then I later decided, well, I really wasn't thrilled that it was a multiple of five. When I began having access to sine waves that I could very quickly tune to exact intervals with the Rayna synthesizer, I began to listen to various combinations of 9:8:6 with different divisors, and also doing the forms of the "Dream Chord" where you have the divisor up an octave so it's a major seventh, or down an octave so it's a major seventh below. There are basically four "Dream Chords" in close position: G, C', C#', D'; C, C#, D', G'; G, C', D', C#"; C#, G, C' D'. Those are the four Dream Chords in close position, and those made The Four Dreams of China, and out of those grew The Subsequent Dreams of China, which are pairings of some of these chords, and later The Orchestral Dreams in which I stack some of these Dream Chords up over a larger range of the orchestra. I was working with this and I did the situation where you have G, C', D', C#", going up. So, in other words, you have 6:8:9:17. Well, I tried some other intervals up there, and I found that the only thing that didn't make beats was 17. And this made me very interested in 17, because it turns out that when you have the C and D sounding together, that's 9:8, and 9 + 8 = 17. There's a very strong sum tone up there. I mean, I love beats, but I was looking for a very consonant sound. And the only thing that really sounded wonderful in that particular voicing was 6:8:9:17. It just sounded really great. Then I started thinking about, for the case where I was doing The Subsequent Dreams in pairings, and later, for The Orchestral Dreams, where I was going to stack a bunch of them up, that maybe 17 was the ideal divisor for that particular situation. So in most of the scores now that are around of The Second Dream of the High Tension Line Step-Down Transformer, for instance, it specifies 17. However, in actual practice ... You know, I have some wonderful trumpet players which have been working with me on The Second Dream of the High Tension Line Step-Down Transformer, some of them have played the piece, counting rehearsals, 25 or 30 times. In practice, in performing this piece and rehearsing it, I've let the trumpet players look for a divisor of the 9/8 interval that really sounds good and we found out it wasn't 17. [Laughs] And in fact, we have, now to sit down with the synthesizer and find out what it is. We don't know what it is, I'm not worried about what it is, because it sounds good. That's all I care about. We came upon the interval empirically, through practice.

I'm really interested in the idea that one does not let theory tie one down into a preconceived notion. In other words, nobody loves to theorize more than me. I'm wild about theory, I love to analyze, I love to think about what I might be doing. But it's very important that one let inspiration and intuition and real practice be the guide. It's not to say that one can't have pure theoretical ideas. One can and one should—it's fantastic. But it's very important to let music practice follow intuition and inspiration in such a way that it can even be totally unaware of theoretic concerns in order that totally new and un-preconceived ideas and processes can evolve.

DD—I think you have to let the two things, the theory and the practice, illuminate one another. You can't let either one bind you entirely. Theory can show you something that's over here, adjacent to your practice, that you would never quite fall onto otherwise.

LMY—That's right. Uh huh.