Black Radish – A creative application of the 3rd Messiaen Mode

Black Radish is my latest work in which I have limited myself to the third Messiaen Mode – nothing more, nothing less.

* Vegetable Note: The Black Radish is the winter cousin of its purpler spring version. But don’t be fooled – whilst it is less common, this variety packs an extra punch with a slightly tougher texture.

In reference to my previous post: // The Third Messiaen Mode which focused purely on the theoretical components of this mode, the 9-note scale has provided me with a refreshingly different approach towards particular note choices and melodic lines (listen below)


In my current area of focus, it is easy to fall into the trap of using repeated ideas, which is what I am consciously trying to avoid through my solo-development. However, through my exploration of ideas over the past couple of weeks, I found that the purposeful omission of certain notes outside of the mode forced me to further consider my compositional choices.. (read below!)/.


The compositional process:

The tonal centre of Black Radish can be loosely interpreted around an A lydian sound throughout the piece. However, I have consciously altered the bass notes underneath different melodic lines to shift away from this consistent harmonic centre – for example, utilising also an F (00:10) and a D (00:30).

The middle section of the piece features the use of left-hand tapping, arco bounce and bowed partials (1:00 in the recording). It is mostly atonal, moving through different motivic structures within the mode. Upon reflection, this part of the piece was particularly successful in allowing me to regenerate new possibilities on my instrument and to actively make atypical creative choices as a composer. *Vegetable note: The punchy effect of this section was also influenced by the edgy vibe of the mysterious Black Radish.


The beauty of limitation: a note of reflection:

As both an improviser and a composer, it has been hugely beneficial to set a pre-determined parameter/s upon myself during the creative process – in this case, harmonic limitation. Hence, as I continue to experiment in my daily practice, I am valuing the essence of simplicity that is felt when I consciously limit my focus into smaller areas. Not only has this been a relief for my scattered brain, but it also provides a feeling of true growth and a desire to push further and further away from ones comfort zone – even if it feels slightly forced at the time. Through this process, I now have another vegetable-piece to add to the pending album… What a mysterious treat. 

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