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

by Robert Sabin, Ph.D.

7. Climax

The peak of the tenor solo occurs between 2:15 and 2:40, an excerpt that sees further extensive use of motives in Peacock's playing. Figure 12 demonstrates Peacock's melodic and rhythmic motives, beginning with a rapid (♩≈ 180) triplet-based descending melody interspersed with sixteenth notes (g1). A similar line will occur at 2:33 (g2) and also with a similar tempo (♩≈ 188).

At 2:23 Peacock begins a series of rhythmically accented intervals (h1, h2) characterized by a syncopated second-triplet onset. This motive returns at 2:36 (h3) before evolving into motives i1-i6, a "Morse code" type rhythm that emphasizes the high Bb-Eb perfect fourth pitch interval.  The prolonged sequence showcases an extended use of the upper register of the bass, with the Eb in particular being one the highest pitches executed by Peacock thus far in the performance.

Figure 12

Figure 12. Rhythmic and melodic motives, 2:15-2:40

Peacock's phrases also feature variations on a syncopated triplet figure based upon a second triplet onset.  Melodies at 2:28 demonstrate triple groupings but initiated on the second 8th note triplet.  Phrases i3 and i5 both incorporate this identical syncopated rhythm. The gestures are punctuated by an aggressive fortissimo open D string at 2:35 (j1), articulated with a right hand slap technique. This phrase breaks up the triplet activity with a new and unrelated ♩≈ 165 tempo as well as strong sixteenth note accents. Motive g3 returns to the triplet swing rhythms that began the excerpt, but have been transformed through acceleration in tempo. This transformation continues in motive g4, increasing the tempo further to a rapid ♩≈ 291.

Peacock's motives between 2:15 and 2:40 are clearly influenced by Ayler's dynamics and use of register (Figure 13). As Ayler reaches the register peak of his solo (2:26) Peacock answers with his own use of the upper register, the i1-i5 motives outlined above. In addition to the rhythmic content of these motives, Peacock matches Ayler's extended high register glissando through the active re-articulation of the Bb-Eb dyad. Through this re-articulation (a necessary counter to the quick decay natural to the instrument's higher register), Peacock matches Ayler's gesture through both the extended use of the thumb position and the sustaining of accentuation of pitches.

Figure 13

Figure 13. Climax interaction

The interaction continues with the j1 motive at 2:35. As Ayler suddenly drops from his highest to lowest registers at 2:32 and begins his crescendo through the ff at 2:34, Peacock responds with his own low register fortissimo achieved through the percussive striking of the instrument and a violent snapping of the string against the fingerboard. Ayler's solo fades as Peacock resets the dynamic for the beginning of his improvisation.