Hexachords

Almost every move we make as composers is controlled in some way by one seven-note collection. From the major scale we derive harmonic motion, chords, minor scales, modes, and key signatures. Most contemporary western art music is defined by how much it deviates from, or adheres to functional tonal harmony. There are, of course many other harmonic environments that can be extracted from the twelve notes of the equal tempered chromatic scale. Over the last few years I have been exploring the immense, unique, colourful and varied possibilities afforded by the use of six-note scales (a.k.a. hexachords) as a compositional resource. This has become the focus of my doctoral research.

There are fifty different hexachords – each identified by the notes and intervals contained within. Some, like the whole tone scale are familiar adjuncts to traditional harmony. Most, however, provide the opportunity to create musical environments that are quite distant and different from traditional functional harmony. In this harmonic world there are no key signatures or recognizable chords. The intervals contained within each hexachord determine the harmonic and melodic possibilities. This is a world closely related to but distinctly different from twelve-tone music – while hexachordal compositions can be very atonal, they can also be very tonal. Although hexachords have been explored extensively as a component of twelve-tone music, their use as an exclusive compositional resource in western art music is rare. Even rarer is the use of hexachords for jazz composition. Here are some examples of my work. Each piece is created with just one six-note collection.

Audio:

Happy Noir:
Where Am I?:
Outside In:
Noir Lament:
Under the Sea:
Dissonant Stroll:
Considering the Options:
Flute and Harp:
Delicate Wonder:
Rainy Night Blues:
The Sleuth:
Mushrooms In Love:
Sideways:
The Wizard's Apprentice:
Animal Being:
Shapes of the Soul:
Star Blanket Sky:
The Girl with the Trees: