The following was written by Emmett Chapman and posted to Sticknews
on September 10, 2001, in response to several members' questions about
his "Offset Modal System"™, with accompanying "Wheel"™ and
"Stone"™ musical charts as originally presented on his "Parallel
Galaxy" album cover, released in 1985 as an LP and re-released in 1999
as a remastered CD.
The Triple "Wheel" Chart
Both LP and the re-released CD versions of my "Parallel Galaxy" album
contain the "Wheel" and "Stone" musical charts explaining the
entire discovery to those who are inclined toward gaining non-verbal
knowledge by way of pattern recognition within closed systems, as
with charts encapsulating information in geometric form, in this case
patterned after astrology charts. When I finish such a process, I
usually become more "verbal" than usual at that point, piling on
colorful terms and phrases in an effort to illuminate the discovery.
On my currently available "Galaxy" CD, the triple Wheel chart is on
the front cover and the seven faceted Stone chart (set in an unmarked
matrix of twelve even divisions) is on the label of the CD itself.
I used this system to compose and improvise one of the songs, titled
after the "Galaxy" album itself, as a celebration of the discovery
and codification of an alternative modal system. It was like
discovering a living Garden of Eden, a tempting "paradise" where just
one of the physical laws in that universe is off by a twist (as in
one of the more famous Star Trek episodes). Since then, the Offset
Modal System has grown deeply into my songs and improvs, a musical
theory that can be put into practice with unending variation.
What is this system, I hear you asking (or are you asleep)? It's all
contained in seed form on the two charts of the CD and LP. (The
third chart, present on the LP version only, is my own horoscope.)
Time permitting, I hope to eventually compile my notes into a large
book on new music theory for composers and musician improvisers.
I should explain that the triple Wheel is a bit of a maze, with the
least likely path leading the way out (altering C in a C major scale,
of all things)! Then you alter the fifth, a G, to arrive at the
"Double Offset Mode" (the outermost of the three Wheels). And then -
you never play in C.
Triple "Wheel" chart as seen on "Parallel Galaxy" CD cover
It's a triple overlay of Wheel charts with the traditional Greek
modes at the inner one, all seven notes of which are connected by
yellow lines in fourth intervals. The middle Wheel is the most
fruitful, I feel, and displays haunting and exotic modes with chords
and scales ascending counter-clockwise, a coherent system of harmonic
and scalar movement applicable to any key center (so multiply it all
by twelve). The outer Wheel "offsets" one more note from the
traditional modal system, producing even more exotic and somewhat
The counter-clockwise Wheel is conceptually a top view of a spiral of
ascending notes, ranging through as many octaves as you might like to
imagine. The matrix is twelve even divisions, as with the twelve
equal tempered notes of the octave, the twelfth being known as a
major 7th, and the thirteenth being non-existent, in that it's the
first tone repeated at the next octave on this spiral staircase.
Tone eleven, by the way, is a blue note, the flatted 7th (thanks to
Steve Adelson for his pun on Tony Levin's name, used as a song title
on his excellent CD album release, "The New Sticktet", featuring Tony
together with Steve on that titled song).
Back to the radial grid. Aligned inside this matrix of twelve points
is a symmetrical Stone of seven points, depicting all seven of the
altered modal scales simultaneously. As with the Greek modes that
still dominate today's music, any note on this chart can be the root
of its chord with scale. Chordal movement through all seven of these
roots then form an "Offset Modal" relationship in the same manner as
with traditional modes.
The actual lettered notes are just examples, of course, as you can
modulate the whole system to all twelve key centers. Seven notes,
any one of which can form a distinctive chord with scale, multiplied
by twelve chromatic tones contained in an octave as key or modulation
centers, equals 84 modal possibilities. No news here, it's the same
amount of permutations as with the familiar Greek modes. Then
multiply it all by two to include the same set of possibilities at
the outer Wheel, and you have 168 colorful new modes, many of which
have been used intuitively but sporadically by inspired classical
composers, but without all the interconnections that come with a
"Stone" chart as seen on "Parallel Galaxy" CD label
As for James' question about my astrological influences and
correspondences to this musical theory and practice, astrology was
very instrumental in codifying my discoveries. The intervals within
chords and scales relate directly to the geometry of angular
relationships of zodiacal signs, planets and cusps, (numbers
divisible into twelve), possibly even to the evocative moods created
by harmonious versus stressful angles (lined respectively marked in
blue and red on my musical and astrological charts).
There's no doubt I could write several books about these two
interwoven subjects of the "Offset Modal System" and the
corresponding closed systems of music and astrology. As an
astrologer I'm not even a believer, just a practitioner and hobbyist
since age 14 or so. Astrology, whether or not it offers any working
truth, is a valuable dialectical tool to discover "the geometry of
relationships", as I like to put it.
The chords with scales in the middle "wheel" come in strangely
related pairs, a pair of uplifting "7th chord" scales, a pair of
minors as John Coltrane played them, a pair of Middle Eastern
major/minor scales, and a "super Lydian" mode with everything raised
but the root.
I'll stop at this point and wait for feedback and vegetables. The
information requested is all there in the charts, but I'd be glad to
continue a discussion here on Stick News.