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In George Russell's The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, he introduces the notion of "horizontal scales":

They are horizontal because they include the fourth degree in their structure (B♭ in the F Lydian Chromatic Scale). (p. 17)

This is in contrast to vertical scales, which include the Lydian B♮.

But my question is how he derives the four horizontal scales, which are:

  1. F major: F G A B♭ C D E
  2. F major flat seventh: F G A B♭ C D E♭
  3. F major augmented fifth: F G A B♭ C♮ C♯ D E
  4. F Lydian flat seventh: F (G) A♭ A♮ B♭ B♮ C D E♭ (E)

As far as I can tell, there is no explanation for how these scales are formed, which seems really odd for someone basing his entire theory on the acoustical properties of the harmonic series.

How are these scales formed? Frankly, it almost seems as if (especially in the final scale) he just threw some darts at a board until he decided he was done creating his scale.

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  • I’m glad you’re asking because I’ve also had questions about that book. I wonder if there’s at least some amount of learning to improvise by ear over common jazz chord progressions is part of where the scales are from, at least from the authors perspective. Aug 12 at 16:16
  • Without being familiar with this concept as a whole the best I can figure is horizontal scales contain a P4 instead of a #4. As for that final scale, i saw a source that calls it the “African American Blues Scale”. It’s not as random as it appears, it is basically what is commonly referred to as the blues scale, a minor pentatonic with a #4/b5 chromatic passing tone with a major pentatonic scale superimposed over it. Without knowing this was in his book I have always felt like this actually is the complete blues scale because it contains the elements of both major and minor tonalities. Aug 12 at 17:11
  • …although the E natural is not included in my description it allows double chromatic approaches to the tonic amd is also the leading tone. BTW, why are there parentheses on the G and E? Aug 12 at 17:14
  • @JohnBelzaguy He also calls this the "African-American Blues Scale," but I don't believe he explains the parentheses. But even though this scale has a name, my question is ultimately: why this scale? Why not any other scales that have that perfect fourth scale degree?
    – Richard
    Aug 12 at 17:24
  • Actually I saw that name in an online “Cliff Note” explanation of his concept. I haven’t read the book although I probably unknowingly apply some of its concepts to my playing from other things I’ve learned. This is the article I read: thejazzpianosite.com/jazz-piano-lessons/modern-jazz-theory/… There is no explanation on how he arrived at these scales, only that there is a hierarchy for using them from consonance to dissonance over a given chord. Aug 12 at 18:46

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