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Milestones (modal tune)

Composer Miles Davis    (click to list other tunes)
Submitted by David Luebbert
Posted 8/12/02; 10:20:36 AM
Msg# 2797 (top msg in thread)
Prev/Next 2796/2798
Reads 20672


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Chord progression for Miles Davis modal tune, "Milestones", not to be confused with Miles' earlier bebop composition also entitled "Milestones". This was first performed on Miles' album for Columbia Records entitled "Milestones".

The tune uses an AABA harmonic plan with the A sections lasting 8 bars and the B section 16 bars.

The Gmi7, Ami7, and BbMA7 chord used in the A section are all diatonic chords within the key of F Major. The melody during this section outlines the first three notes of the Bb lydian mode (the 4th mode of F major). Bb lydian sounds like the scale that is used during the improvisations. The A sections of "Milestones" have a bright, major feeling to them. Of all of the seven available church modes, musicians experienced with modes consider the lydian mode to have the brightest sound.

 The Ami7 chord is held throughout the entire B section. It seems to be functioning as a ii chord in the key of G major . The melody during this section seems to outline the lower half of the B phrygian mode (the third mode of G major). It appears that during the B section, B phrygian is the scale that maintains the characteristic sound of the improv in this section.

B phrygian includes an F#. Since the melody uses only the first five notes of B phrygian and never uses F or F#, it seems like the improvisor is also allowed to interpret the Ami7 as a vi chord in the key of C. With this interpretation, the scale to use for improv would B locrian (seventh mode of C major). The difference between B phrygian and B locrian is that B phrygian uses F# where B locrian uses F.

The B section of "Milestone" has a dark, brooding feeling. Experienced musicians usually say the locrian mode  produces the darkest feeling of the church modes, with the phrygian felt to be next darkest sounding.

The harmonic game in this tune is apparently to use three chords to outline the F major tonality and melodically use the brightest possible modal coloration within that tonality during the A section, and then use a different meaning of one of the three original chords to imply either G major or C major and to melodically use the darkest possible modal colorations in those keys.

 To summarize, during the A section the improvisor uses the notes of the F major scale (one flat, Bb) emphasizing the lydian flavor starting on the 4th scale step, Bb. During the B section, the improvisor can use the notes of the G major scale (one sharp, F#) emphasizing the phrygian flavor of the third scale step, B, or else can use the notes of C major (no accidentals) emphasizing the locrian flavor of the seventh step, B.

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Listen to a "Milestones", Track #4 of Miles Davis' album "Milestones" in Windows Media Viewer format (courtesy of Amazon.com)


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Last update: Monday, August 12, 2002 at 1:58 PM.