Volume 8, January 2017
Revolution in Action: A Motivic Analysis of "Ghosts: First Variation" As Performed by Gary Peacock

by Robert Sabin, Ph.D.

6. Interactions and Overlap

The multidimensionality and non-hierarchical quality of Peacock's motivic characteristics are demonstrated by an overlapping use of tempo, melodic, and harmonic elements. The e1-e3 motives are marked by the use of overlapping pentatonic scale fragments, albeit presented with wide, disjunct intervallic movement that obscures a more obvious melodic pentatonic identity. These include a G minor pentatonic without the D (e1), E minor pentatonic (e2) with a chromatic passing tone (ch), and an A minor pentatonic minus an E (e3). These scales are used across phrases, adding an additional layer of motivic interaction, but now based on fleeting tonalities that are not in alignment with the onset and offset of phrases or tempo. While the perceptual weight of these tonalities is often consumed by the impact of the rhythm, tempo, and intervallic variations employed (not to mention the perceptual interference of Ayler's often purely timbral improvisation) they point to an important expression of polyrhythm and inherent layers of complexity within the piece.

These relationships are demonstrated in Figure 11, where motives (a-f) cut across phrases in a variety of ways. The use of melodic motives carries across the notated tempo-based phrasing (e1, e2, f3), or segments a line into two separate melodic gestures within the single phrase (e3, d3). While tempo remains a primary determiner of perceived phrases (confirmable by the separation through rests) melodic motives can carry across tempo and rest-defining boundaries.A complex network of relations now appears across phrases when each of the aforementioned tempo and melodic gestural characteristics are combined. Motives such as a1 and a2 combine with motives d1 and d2, while other motives (such as e1 and e2 that contain similar intervallic content) utilize separate tempos (b1, c1). A single tempo (a3) could contain more than one distinct melodic motive (e3, d3), while some tempo motives (c3) may reappear with more varying melodic material (d4) than previous versions (e2, f2).

Figure 11

Figure 11. Combined melodic and tempo motives, 0:55-1:18