Actual Bodily Harm

White, Meredith [Composer] (2016) Actual Bodily Harm. (Jazz trio). Musical score. (Unpublished)


Among the many musical influences that inform my compositional style, the most significant is contemporary jazz, alongside a generous serving of harmonic and textural classical music influences. The resulting music aims to fuse together the sophisticated rhythmic elements of jazz, with its emphasis on syncopation and groove, with tonal harmonies that avoid the traditional circle of fifths in favour of a more linear approach. This approach to harmony aims to balance Western classical harmony with extended seventh chords, derived from jazz and blues. The composition has been conceived and scored as piano pieces, which are then expanded in rehearsal for performance by my jazz trio. The starting point for this funky piece was the aim to make more use of the electric bass as a melodic instrument, doubled by the left hand of the piano. The active opening bass ‘melody’ is then accompanied in its second statement by a simpler melody in the piano’s right hand. The funk groove is articulated in the highly syncopated character of these two blues-influenced lines, whose rhythmic character is expanded and supported by the drums. The juxtaposition of complexity and simplicity, so often part of the essence of jazz, is also reflected in the changes of metre in the main theme: a bar each of 3/8, 4/4 and 5/4. A feature of the first announcement of the theme is the development of the opening 3/8 bar in each subsequent phrase, to 6/8 and then 9/8. One of the challenges of the composition process was consideration of how far to develop this extension, as well as whether or not to further develop the idea in the final rendition of the head. After the initial presentation of the main thematic material, a more harmonically static section appears, and this is later opened up for the drum solo. Piano and bass solos, which precede the drum solo, are in 4/4 and make use of all of the harmonic material of the head. The piece favours rhythm and groove over melody, rather like Crocodile Perambulator Disco, composed eighteen months earlier. As with many recent compositions, the metric structure came first, followed by rhythmic material, with melodic detail fleshed out as the performance deadline approached. The title nods in the direction of Herbie Hancock’s 1974 funk classic, Actual Proof .

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