Saturday, September 4, 2010

Surface Structure vs. Deep Structure Part II

In my previous post, I spoke a bit about surface structure and deep structure, their linguistic implications, and how they may apply to improvisational pedagogy. In this post, I'll share some examples of how I use these techniques in my own playing and teaching.

Dave Liebman says "Learn from the fathers, not the sons" and this is a hallmark in my study. Transcription serves as the point of entry for all of my study and the transcription I do is of "Primary Sources" - more about that later. We'll start with a Warne Marsh ii7 V7 line I recently transcribed:

This line constitutes a "surface structure" statement. Many would use take this line through all keys and begin to use it over similar harmonic progressions, much the same way we would quote a line of Frost or Shakespeare. It would function very well, and give us very usable vocabulary. There is, however, much more that can be mined from this line. By using a series of transformations, in this case all based on traditional "theme and variations" technique, we can develop much more vocabulary that is original but shares the same "deep structure" as Warne's original line. Here are some examples:

We see that after some rather basic transformations, we have 5 new surface structure statements that all share the deep structure of the original line. Each of these lines can then be practiced through keys and used as vocabulary for improvisation.

Our next step is to return to the original line and really isolate the deep structure. What is the essential construction of this line? What makes it work? One solution follows:

This deep structure now becomes the basis for development of more original material through the process of transformation as discussed above. The next post will go through that process.

It is clear that approaching vocabulary development this way can result in a much deeper well of material than we would have by simply learning and using Warne's line. The beautiful thing is that all newly developed material has Warne's material as its deep structure. Because of this, most transformations will retain the strength and logic of the original line.

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