There’s a word you’re probably not familiar with unless you’re an Ornette Coleman fan; it’s his own invention to express his theory of music as information, and his account is not all that comprehensible:

Harmolodic is a noun. A name used as a transmitter for communicating information.
Communicating the equal access of information for multiple expression.
Harmolodic applied to the five senses. As altered information equal to their own perception…
The five senses work in concert and respond instantly to information concerning the Body, like sound responds to music.
In the twenty first century, music and language will become homogenous in sound where the ethnical tongues will remain the same. Melody, composition, improvisors, styles in their present form will become Harmolodic according to each one’s own concept.

But hey, he’s a composer, not a lexicographer. At any rate, I love his music, and thought I’d celebrate him on his birthday (prompted by the always hip wood s lot).

While I’m broadcasting from the Vanguard (and I note with pleasure that’s the #8 Google hit for the word), I have to mention something that startled the hell out of me yesterday evening. As I was getting on the Metro-North train that would shortly whisk me home along the gorgeous Hudson River, I glanced over at the train across the platform, whose cars had the names of river towns in large block letters on the sides. One said OSSINING, another COLD SPRING. In between, a car’s legend read simply, inexplicably, and joyously THELONIOUS MONK.


  1. It’s important to remember that Ornette is an autodidact without a lot of formal education. I have more than a little formal background in musicology, and I find any attempt to precisely articulate even a fraction of what’s going on his music to be a fiendishly difficult task. But I know it’s there. (I keep picturing some kind of n-dimensional multifunction curve, where the X axis is time, and the X+n axes represent sets of possible rule classes. Woof.)
    Here’s a couple of Ornette quotes (alas, from memory) from before he coined the term Harmolodic. These should be a bit more comprehensible:
    “I knew I was on to something when I realized I could make mistakes.”
    “It’s possible to play flat in tune and sharp in tune.”

  2. Yeah, I love those quotes too. Anthony Braxton is another composer/theoretician whose music I find a lot more comprehensible than his theory.

  3. I think the term “harmolodic” has morphed into something that applies to a lot more than music. At least that’s the sense I got from a recent interview with Blood Ulmer in Guitar Player (which does not appear to be on line).
    Still, if it inspires you to change your name from Rudy McDaniel to Jamaladeen Tacuma, it gots to be hip!

  4. It’s funny how people here seem to share widely separated interets, such as Flann O’Brien, Yukagir, and Ornette Coleman. Maybe there’s a Swedenborgian correspondence there.
    I’ve always wanted to look at George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic system. I have a hunch it’s a little like Bartok’s system, which gravitated to far tonalities rather than near ones (from C to F#, Eb and A, rather than to F and G).
    A musican I’d like to recommend is Marion Brown, especially Sweet Earth Flying and Geechee Recollections. His stuff’s out of print. He’s associated with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Muhal Richard Abrams,and he’s the best of the bunch IMHO. Some of his stuff reminds me of the “night music” in Bartok’s string quartets.

  5. I’ve got his Porto Novo, with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, another unjustly neglected figure. But I like all those Chicago guys, especially Roscoe Mitchell.

  6. I wouldn’t see an interest in Flann and in Ornette to be widely separated. Both are key figures of the 20th century avant-garde, aftter all. I bet there is a statistical correlation between fans of the two men’s work. Aside from Language Hat, myself, and Wood’s Lot, novelist Gilbert Sorrentino is also a fan of both. On the other hand I have no idea who Yukagir is.

  7. I should have said “what” Yukagir is (now that I’ve looked it up and know it’s not the name of a person.)

  8. Me on the other hand, I’ve never liked all that jazz much, but I’d like to know more about Yukagir, or Flann O’Brien, whichever is fine with me.

  9. *hands PF a Yukagir translation of An béal bocht*

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