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Creative improvising (aka jazz) musician Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah's website talks about him “developing the harmonic convention known as the ‘forecasting cell’” but it doesn't go into more depth about what that means. Can anyone explain the practice and theory behind this?

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  • It seems as if it's a term he coined himself. I don't see many relevant results on the web; either this one is deeply confused, or the concept in some way blends theory with technique: "He also developed a different blowing technique with this instrument. He is able to blend dissonance and consonance through this special blowing technique which he calls 'forecasting cells'". Jan 21 at 15:37
  • I believe he did coin it. His own website refers to it as a "harmonic convention" and so I assume its some way to anticipate/lead to the next chords similar to a ii V I does but in a more modern way. I'm just not sure what that actually means or how it works.
    – Rozgonyi
    Jan 21 at 16:12
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    Near the end of the linked page in the discussion of forecasting cells "the harmolodic landscape" is mentioned. Harmolodics was a musical philosophy invented and developed by Ornette Coleman; there is probably some connection here. I love Ornette, but I have never seen any text describing the specifics about what Harmolodics actually is, and I suspect that the situation is the same with forecasting cells. It would probably be best to dig into the music to see what you find; or, go straight to the source and ask them about it.
    – user39614
    Jan 21 at 16:38
  • Even the people who played with Coleman seem to have different views on what Harmolodics actually is, and when they talk about it things usually seem to go in circles, as in this interview with James Blood Ulmer. Seeing the term harmolodic come up in the description of forecasting cells makes me suspicious; the music may be fantastic, but I wouldn't get too invested in a theory that nobody will explain.
    – user39614
    Jan 21 at 17:05

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Reading the linked page I got to this line...

A Forecasting Cell is a harmonic convention that illuminates the end result of a harmonic sentence preceding its resolution. Because the end result of the harmonic sentence is already outlined, the improviser and accompanist are...

I thought it would continue with something like "free to deviate from conventions within the forecasting cell, because the following conventional resolution will restore a sense of stability maintaining the essential structure..." or something like that.

But instead it continue with language that simply put can't be understood in any objective terms.

If any musicians really talk like this among themselves, I think it must boil down to "try things you are unaccustomed to for the sake a creating something new." That surely is based on having already developed mastery of everything conventional.

Also, after listening to...

...it seems clear part of the philosophy is to say jazz is more than playing chord changes and conventional tonality. It moves the aesthetic into the avant-garde... there isn't a practice for that, no method books. It's the antithesis of practice and method.

At the very least the language is a way to assure you it's OK to abandon convention, that playing whatever you like is perfectly valid, even if it doesn't conform to convention.

Personally, I think that's all well and good, but do you hear his chops?!? There is a whole lot of practice behind that playing! There is a certain freedom you can only enjoy after developing that level of conventional skill.

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  • Heh, it's all very jazz-culture: Invent your own terms and definitions, create a very sophisticated framework around them (we're not just jamming, after all!), but ultimately the entire way of thinking is individual to you. It's ultimately a way of articulating and codifying a unique and personal musical perspective. Jan 21 at 17:43
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    The visual arts has this too, going back to Dadaism, and all the other -isms, Duchamp and those guys. I think the pitfall for the novice, is taking such statements as an invitation to not learn basic skills. Have you ever seen Picasso's academic drawings? Jan 21 at 17:50

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