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Norges musikkhøgskole Norwegian Academy of Music Search

Lydi­an Chro­mat­ic Concept of Ton­al Organ­iz­a­tion

Two semesters, autumn and spring.

Final assessment: Assessment by the course instructor.

Language of tuition: Norwegian and English.

The course is aimed at undergraduate and graduate students of improvised music/jazz. Places may be offered to students of other disciplines who show a great understanding of advanced jazz harmony. These students will be obliged to take a theoretical or practical test prior to being admitted.

Course description

The course is an exploratory, philosophical and practical introduction to George Russell’s theory for improvisational musicians, known as the “Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization”.

George Russell was an American jazz pianist, arranger/composer and music theorist whose theories of tonal gravity and the Lydian chromatic scale became extremely influential in jazz music in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Russell’s concept is a system that is both fundamental and very advanced. The system serves as a tool for improvisational musicians who want to foster a greater level of maturity, meaning and harmonic richness in their playing.

Course Instructor: Helge Lien.

Learning objectives

After completing the course the student is expected to be able to use the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization.


In this course, we will work on understanding and practising the concept of “tonal gravitation”. We will also carry out theoretical and practical work on the 11 different scales that arise from the basic Lydian scale. This will comprise a combination of aurally-based vocal and instrumental work and analytical work.

The theory provides a basis for understanding and performing all kinds of music. In this course, we will concentrate primarily on various nuances of jazz improvisation, and on modal and more chord-oriented forms. A high level of openness and curiosity is expected, as well as a good basic knowledge of jazz harmony/scale theory.


The course is taught weekly, as group instruction. The students present their own self-composed/improvised lines, tunes, improvisations, improvisational exercises, reharmonizations or arrangements. There will be a large degree of freedom in the kind of material that is presented, as long as it can be explained in terms of the Lydian Chromatic Concept.

Course requirements

Active participation in the course is a requirement. This normally entails that if a student is absent for more than 20% of the course time, he or she will fail the course.

The instructor will assign five practice tasks. Of these, 80% must be answered/presented during the class.

Final assessments

All coursework must be approved before the student can be given a final assessment.

The student is assessed in relation to the learning objectives of the course. The final assessment will be a pass/fail grade and is determined by the subject teacher on the basis of an individual assessment of the student’s academic level through the work accomplished in the course.


Any reassessment is subject to the same procedure as an ordinary assessment.

Published: Mar 19, 2021 — Last updated: Apr 7, 2021