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date: 14 May 2021

Harmolodic theory [harmolodics]locked

  • Barry Kernfeld



A theory evolved by Ornette Coleman in the late 1970s relating to his improvisations with the electric band Prime Time. The nature and application in Coleman's music of harmolodic improvisation are unclear but, insofar as Coleman's explanation can be understood, it apparently involves the simultaneous sounding, in different tonalities and at different pitches (determined by, for example, a notional change of clef) but in otherwise unchanged form, of a single melodic or thematic line; the procedure produces a type of simple heterophony. (A table of typical pitch relationships between the lines that result is given in Loupias, 1981.) More generally the harmolodic theory espouses principles already well established in free jazz, namely equality among instruments (rather than the traditional separation between soloist and accompaniment) in harmonically free collective improvisation. According to Ronald Shannon Jackson, a member of Prime Time, the term derives from a conflation of the words “harmony,” “movement,” and “melody”; Jackson has also stated that, in his opinion, the term has no precise musical meaning (see Giddins, ...

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