clusters/tight voicings/dissonance in Horace Weston’s music

Horace Weston’s approach to harmony was bold and advanced.

In his composition “Egyptian Fandango” (sheet music here) there is an E7 spelled f#-g#-d-e, putting two whole-tone pairs next to each other to maximize dissonance:


F#-g#-d-e by lucas_gonze

Something really unusual there is the f#, the 9th of the chord, as the bass note. Modern jazz might do that to give a sense of two chords at once, meaning an E7 chord and an F# chord happening at the same time. But the way this is voiced with the 9th right next to the 3rd makes the f# act more like a coloration than a tonal center. Funk would have a 9th but only if the 3rd and root are in other octaves, far away from one another to prevent dissonance, and anyway the 9th would never be used as the lowest note. It’s a quirky and creative touch on Weston’s part.

Another approach to this voicing from the same song, this time staggering the high note to be on the downbeat, putting the rest of the notes together on the upbeat, and adding the 5th of the chord in the root:


B-f#-g#-d-e by lucas_gonze

This is again a personal and creative concept. The phrase here is the classic oom-pah boom-chuck 1-2 bass-chord chop, but the first note is above the entire chord rather than below it. If that e note before the chord were an octave down, it would be the same old same old. Weston had ideas.

Here’s the entire bar where that chord is sitting:

phrase from egyptian fandango

Phrase A from Egyptian Fandango by lucas_gonze

And here’s the overall phrase containing that bar, to help you situate this with respect to the beat:

Phrase B from Egyptian Fandango by lucas_gonze

Here is a video performance of the song as a whole:

A similar harmony to the above is in Weston’s composition “Horace Weston’s Celebrated Polka” (view sheet music at the Library of Congress). In the B section the main idea is a closely voiced V7 chord, with the 5th, the b7 and root note right on top of each other in a strongly accented chop:


D-a-c-d by lucas_gonze

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