Hitching a ride on the Cultural Revolution


In 1970, I moved to San Francisco, after living in the Philippines for a year. It was quite different. Discrimination seemed to be absent. Black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight…everyone worked with everyone. During this time it was still safe to hitch-hike and I took advantage of the opportunity. I was first hitching rides around the city, and into Marin County. Then a friend and I decided to hitch to Chicago. I had no idea what to expect. I’d never attempted anything on that scale before. With hardly a dime in my pocket, and a sandwich to eat, we stuck out our thumbs and headed east. We would part in Chicago and I would continue on to the east coast. My parents had returned to the states from the Philippines,  and I thought I’d make it there for their anniversary. It took a week, but I made it to Falls Church VA in time much to their surprise. Of course along the way I had a gun pointed at me in Nevada and was told to get a haircut. After a short visit I took a Grayhound back to San Francisco. I now felt I was experienced enough to try it again when the opportunity presented itself which it did about 3 months later. This time, I left San Jose and headed north through the Redwood Forest, to Portland, then Seattle and then up to Canada. Once there I got a great ride from a man who stopped and got me breakfast. We then proceeded to Revelstoke BC. I thanked him for the ride and headed to the youth hostel in town.  There were many young travelers and they told me it was rough getting a ride from there. Some people had been there for a week.

But…there was another way. A freight train came right through town a block from the Hostel and it headed east. I could always hop the freight if I wanted to leave. Sure enough, within about an hour I heard the train coming into town. I grabbed my things and headed to the tracks where the train would roll through. It was moving too fast, but it was very long and began to slow down enough for me to run along-side it. It slowed even more and I could almost walk at the same speed. I found an open car and climbed aboard, and hid up in the front of the car. The train slowed to a stop and I could hear some men walking up the track. They never checked the car and I was safe and ready for the next leg of this strange adventure. 

After what seemed like about a half-hour, I could hear the sound of the cars being yanked in succession and the sound was getting closer. Finally the car I was in jerked into motion and we were moving.  As the train built its speed I ventured toward the back of the car and peered out to see what I could see. As I looked out I was astonished to see myself in the midst of the Canadian Rockies. The train was off the beaten path of highways and I could see waterfalls coming right out of a mountain. I couldn’t see either the front or the back of the train. It was very long. I watched the stars and the moon and the incredible mountains that only the engineers would see.  It was a magic carpet ride for sure.

It was getting colder and I retreated back into the car to keep warm and fell asleep. I woke up when I sensed the train was slowing down and it felt much colder and this was in the late summer. I went to the back of the car and peered out again, and I thought I was in the Alps. Huge snow- capped mountains everywhere and the train was slowing down. I was in Banff National Park and about to enter the small town of Banff. The train slowed enough as it entered the town, and I hopped off. I would continue on from here via my thumb.  I cleaned up at a public restroom and went into a café for something to eat.

There I met three girls headed to St Paul. They offered me a ride and I was on my way to the states. From St. Paul I found a ride to Chicago where I had relatives. I spent the day with them and had a great steak dinner. Strip steaks that my uncle Barbequed. One of the best meals I can remember eating.  My cousin gave me a ride into Indiana and we spotted a driver with Pennsylvania plates and asked him for a ride to PA. I switched cars and headed to Pennsylvania. I got off in Somerset and from there another ride to Washington DC.  Again, the trip took a week and I look back on it as one of the great adventures of my life. I was 22 years old. I don't think I'd try something like if I were 22 today. Times have really changed.




Driving from New York into Pennsylvania on Interstate 90 we stopped at the first rest-stop  to stretch our legs, get a snack, and let the dog, Dipstick,  do his thing.  The plaza was well lit and quite modern.  In fact the entire plaza was bathed in light, front and back. The back stretched out a good 50 yards to a fence.  Beyond the fence was acres of hedge-rows, that could have been corn rows, but it was much too dark to tell for certain.  Nevertheless, thinking that it would be best to take Dippy for his stroll in the back of the plaza, he and I headed for the back and could clearly look into the rest stop itself which was a wall of glass window running the full length of the plaza. Inside I saw a little old man waving wildly at me, and pounding on the glass.  He was obviously trying to get my attention. Dippy and I looked at him, and then looked at each other and began to head back the way we had come and the man was following us inside to the door. As we came to the end of the building, he emerged from the building wildly gesturing to us completely out of breath saying, “don’t go out there”. I asked him “what’s the problem”?

And still out of breath he looked at me and said, “It’s dangerous back there…bad things happen”. I looked out at the area which was completely lit up and said, “What kind of things?” He looked at me like I was crazy, and said,” Arabs!!”.  At this point, I wish I’d had a picture of my face as I was trying to absorb what he was saying.   My mind is racing as I’m trying to process what I heard. “Arabs???”  I said.

Arabs!!”  He then said, “It’s dark out there”.  I looked at him, and then, at the dog who was looking at me as if he was nuts, and I said, “Well, which is it, Arabs or the darkness?”  He then threw his hands up in the air with complete exasperation as if I was the crazy one here and said, “it’s dangerous back there. 

I stood there in total amazement at what this guy was all worked up over.  I looked out beyond the fence at the hedge-rows which stretched out for acres into the darkness and thought, “this guy has visions of terrorists running through his head”, and they’re all gathering in a cornfield in Pennsylvania…and he thinks I’m going to take my dog out beyond the fence and into the hedge-rows in total darkness where I’ll disappear forever or get captured …by Arabs no less.  I had no idea that Arabs had a predisposition to hanging out in dark hedge-rows off the interstate in Pennsylvania just waiting for unsuspecting tourists who are walking a dog and decide to climb over a fence...with the dog, and then wander through acres of darkness.  I mean…is that something that’s part of Arab culture? Do they just sit there and wait, as if anybody is going to actually say to themselves…I think I’ll climb over a fence with my dog and simply take a stroll into acres of dark hedge-rows.  Maybe I’ll meet some Arabs. I mean, it’s midnight and I’m just making a pit stop here, but on second thought, maybe I’ll just jump a fence and explore acres of dark fields in Bumfuck, Pennsylvania. I’m trying to put together in my head why Al Qaeda, who I have to assume this guy is referring to (aren’t all Arabs members of Al Qaeda?), would have any interest in launching a terrorist attack from some cornfield in Pennsylvania off the interstate.  I finally said, “What the f**k are you talking about man? Why would I even consider taking my dog out beyond the fence that I have to climb over at midnight into some dark hedge-rows or cornfield or whatever it is? Does that sound sensible to you? Is that something that you would do? “Hey honey, go wait in the car. Me and the dog are going to wander through some cornfield for a while. If we don’t come back it’s because the Arabs got us”. My dog needs to take a crap and we’re walking right outside this window and you’re freaking out about Arabs or the dark, or maybe both.”  Finally a woman co-worker told the guy, “let him go and walk his dog”. “Go ahead sir.” “Never mind.”  

 ARAB’s???;  In a cornfield in Pennsylvania?  I wonder who he’s voting for?


The Harmonized Major Scale: What is Diatonic Harmony?

The Harmonized Major Scale What is Diatonic Harmony? © Larry Allen Brown Oct 2, 2008

Where do chords come from in music and how are they constructed? It all begins with the major scale.

The importance of knowing and understanding the harmonized major scale is vital to any musicians ability to communicate something melodic when soloing over a chord progression or in composing music that makes sense.

What is the Harmonized Scale?

Most people who had some kind of basic music in grade school are familiar with the sound of the do, re, me, fa, sol, la, ti, do construction of the major scale. Those individual notes are built on a series of whole steps and half steps. If a person were looking at a piano keyboard and located the note C, he would notice that it was a white key. The very next key would be a black key a half step away, followed by another white key then another black key. Each step from one key to the next is called a half step. To go from one C note to the next C note would require 12 steps known as the Chromatic Scale. There are two places where a white key is followed by another white key. The notes E to F, and the notes B to C. If a person wanted to play a C major scale, he could play all the white keys starting on C, and the construction would be; whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. That would be 7 notes ( no black keys ) with the 8th note being the starting point of C once again and bringing the player to the next octave.

A person could take every other note and play them together and arrive at the chords that would be diatonic to the family of whatever key he was playing in. For example, in the key of C, one could play the C, E, and G, and he would have a root position C major triad. Following that same formula, he could then play every other note starting on the 2nd note, D, and play D, F, and A which would give him a D minor triad. Applying this same formula with each successive note will present the scale in harmony.

Breaking this down it would look like this:

Major triad - C E G minor triad - D F A minor triad - E G B Major triad - F A C Major triad - G B D minor triad - A C E diminished - B D F

These are the fundamental building blocks of chord construction. It is how chords are built. All chords are derived from the major scale. Those chords can be altered in a variety of ways by adding additional notes called tensions, or "color tones". Those are the salt and pepper notes that make things interesting. Sometime notes that are not diatonic to the key can be added to stretch the harmony even further. Ones own ears are the final judge when it comes to what works and what doesn't.

The Lydian Mode

The Lydian Mode

The Lydian Mode Expanding the Musical Vocabulary © Larry Allen Brown

One of the interesting things that can be done when improvising over a major chord is to shift into the Lydian Mode. It's easy to do.

The characteristic note in the Lydian mode is the raised 4th. ( flatted 5th ). When improvising on the guitar for example, spotting that note in the heat of the moment can be difficult. There is a very simple way to do this.

Knowing the Scales

Using the key of C as an example ( no sharps or flats to deal with ) the notes from that scale are C, D, E, F, G, A and B. The Lydian mode will invoke a raised 4th degree. In this case that would be the F. The easiest way to accomplish this would be to simply play a scale that has all the same notes as C with one exception. An F# is needed . The key of G supplies that. Every note in the G scale is also in the C scale with one exception: The F is now F#. All the other notes are the same as the C scale. The formula is simply to play a scale that is rooted up a 5th from the key of C. That would be the G scale. When playing in G, play up a 5th and superimpose the D scale and so forth. In the course of improvising, hitting the #4 ( #11) will naturally occur and the difference will be noticeable.

Using the pentatonic

Another way of accomplishing this and adding additional color tones would be to play a major pentatonic scale a whole step up from the key of the moment. ( or the minor pentatonic a half step lower then the parent key). If C major is the chord, play the D major pentatonic ( or B minor pentatonic - same notes ). When doing this, the notes that would be emphasized would be B which is the major 7th of a C chord. D which is the 2nd ( 9th ), E which is the 3rd, F# which is the # 4 ( # 11 ) and A which is the 6th ( 13 ). Since the pentatonic scale has no leading tone like a major scale, it works great. A D major scale for example would have a C# in it and that note played against a C natural is likely to set ones teeth on edge. Playing the D pentatonic avoids that minor 2nd interval.

George Russell brought the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization ( LCCOTO ) to the public awareness over fifty years ago. Russell’s work represents a radical expansion of the harmonic language for both composition and analysis. It marks an abandonment of the major-minor system, which dominated Western music for over 350 years. Russell’s root scale follows the natural overtone series and runs from C to C with F#, rather than with the customary F natural of the major scale. Russell made a powerful argument that the Lydian scale is the true parent scale rather then the accepted major scale. Anybody who has listened to jazz over the past 50 years has heard his concepts being put to use. Russells concepts are more likely to be found in private conservatories such as the New England Conservatory, or the Berklee College of Music.

Jason Gross explains the reasoning behind the LCCOTO- "For Russell, the Lydian mode (with, in the key of C, its tonic F and dominant C) was a more logical candidate to become the primary scale because it suggests a greater degree of unity between chords and scales. Russell argues that a major scale, for example C, consists of two tetrachords that embody two tonalities, not one. But if you adapt the major scale to Lydian mode (in the key of C that would be a C major scale with F-sharp instead of F), it removes the duality of conflicting tonics, and more fully satisfies the tonality of the major chord. With one tonic used for each respective scale, Russell reasoned that a greater variety of chords could be stacked. This offered a new path for adventurous musicians: Standard chord progressions need not dictate the course of an improvisation, as each note is equidistant from a single tonic center. Notes could flow more freely beyond the strictures of a song's chords."

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