Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization

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Lydian mode on C About this sound Play .
Thirteenth chord constructed from notes of the Lydian mode. About this sound Play 

The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization is a 1953 jazz music theory book written by George Russell. The book is the founding text of the Lydian Chromatic Concept (LCC), or Lydian Chromatic Theory (LCT). Russell's work postulates that all music is based on the tonal gravity of the Lydian mode.

Deriving Lydian[edit]

Russell believed that dominant function was the driving force behind all harmonic motion. Russell focuses on the Lydian mode because it can be built with fifths. For instance, to construct a C lydian scale one could list the first seven tones on the circle of fifths starting with C, the desired tonic. This process would yield C, G, D, A, E, B, F. If these tones are voiced in the space of an octave, they form the Lydian mode (C, D, E, F, G, A, B).[1] Additionally, Russell observed, when these tones are voiced in thirds they form the preferred form of a major 13th chord.[2]

Tonal gravity[edit]

Russell posited that tonal gravity emanates from the first seven tones of the Lydian mode. As the player ventures further from the Lydian tonic however (and further up the circle of fifths), the tonal gravity shifts. For example, if notes further up the circle of fifths (e.g. 3) are used, the tonal gravity is probably shifting.[3]


Russell's theory has had far reaching impact, especially in the realm of modal jazz. Art Farmer said that it "opens the door to countless means of melodic expression"[4] and critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt described it as "the first work deriving a theory of jazz harmony from the immanent laws of jazz" and as "the pathbreaker for Miles Davis' and John Coltrane's 'modality'".[5] Bill Evans and Miles Davis utilized the theory[6][7] and used it to record modal jazz, such as the album Kind of Blue. John Coltrane's modal jazz is usually analyzed using Russell's method.[8] Additionally, many conservatories teach Russell's theory to varying degrees.[7][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Olive Jones and George Russell, The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring, 1974), pp. 63-74 , p.65.
  2. ^ "Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization", Note: gray text on gray background (select text or copy and paste to make legible).
  3. ^ "Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization 2",
  4. ^ Harrison, Max (1991). A Jazz Retrospect. London: Quartet Books. p. 58. ISBN 0-7043-0144-X. 
  5. ^ Berendt, Joachim (1976). The Jazz Book. Paladin. p. 357. 
  6. ^ [2], video by WGBH about Russell's life and his impact on jazz.
  7. ^ a b "Excerpt from 'The Gravity Man' by Alice Dragoon",
  8. ^ [3] Aural Archetypes and Cyclic Perspectives in the Work of John Coltrane and Ancient Chinese Music Theory Hafez Modirzadeh Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 75-106; Published by: Center for Black Music Research - Columbia College Chicago and University of Illinois Press, p.80
  9. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization",

Further reading[edit]

  • Russell, George (2001) [1953]. "Chapter 1 The Lydian scale: The seminal source of the principal of tonal gravity". George Russell's Lydian chromatic concept of tonal organization. Volume One: The art and science of tonal gravity (Fourth (Second printing, corrected, 2008) ed.). Brookline, Massachusetts: Concept Publishing Company. pp. 1–9. ISBN 0-9703739-0-2. 

External links[edit]