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Composer / Percussionist / Author Adam Rudolph Publishes 'Sonic Elements' For Instrumentalists And Composers

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It’s my great pleasure to highly recommend this book. Sonic Elements should be read and studied by every creative musician.
—Wadada Leo Smith
With Sonic Elements, composer and percussionist Adam Rudolph presents exciting and innovative ideas about intervals, harmony, and rhythms. He also expands upon his rhythm concept of “Cyclic Verticalism”, which he first presented in his 2006 book Pure Rhythm.

Written for performers, students, educators, and composers, as well as anyone interested in music, Sonic Elements is a unique and profound contribution to books on music pedagogy and philosophy.

In the introduction to Sonic Elements Rudolph writes:

“The purpose of this book is to inspire both instrumentalists and composers to look at musical elements in new ways. This is not a “how to” book, nor is it meant as any kind of music theory dogma. It is simply another way of looking at music materials. When we can think and hear in new ways we can expand our creative approach and concept.”


Rudolph developed and refined the materials in this book over a period of several decades in educational settings and in concert performances with his Go: Organic Orchestra, Moving Pictures, and Hu: Vibrational ensembles.

In the mid 20th century, musicians such as John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Rudolph’s long-time mentor, Yusef Lateef, began to investigate and invent ways of organizing intervals in their improvisations and compositions. In Sonic ElementsSonic Elements Rudolph continues this tradition of research and experimentation. His concern with explaining and codifying these essentials of musical creation has led him to invent a visual notation, what he calls Matrices and Cosmograms. He writes:

“The Matrices and Cosmograms allow for multiple perspectives and interpretations of intervallic, melodic, and harmonic materials. By playing and practicing inside the Matrices and Cosmograms a musician will develop dexterity on any instrument in ways that are different from practicing scales and arpeggios. This kind of creative involvement cultivates the capacity for spontaneous composition.”


With Sonic Elements Rudolph also expands upon his rhythm concept of Cyclic Verticalism by presenting what he calls Signal Rhythms and Ostinatos of Circularity. Here, too, he has also created a unique notational means using both circular representation and layered boxes. Rudolph explains:

“Signal Rhythms are short ostinato patterns which imply multiple meters, motion, and feel. Each Signal Rhythm has at its core a balanced interplay of odd (male) and even (female) sonic rhythm units. I decided to depict them in a circular Mandala-like fashion which I think best visually represents the nature of what they are and how they function. Ostinatos of Circularity are made by combining entire Signal Rhythms or parts of a Signal Rhythm into larger cycles. The cyclic (horizontal) and polymetric (vertical) interplay of odd and even rhythm groupings creates an unlimited expansion of energy which has transcendent qualities.”

Throughout Sonic Elements Rudolph has interspersed several philosophical essays on music and creativity. These include his reflections on mysticism, dialogue, time, dream forms, timbre and tone, circularity, consciousness, intuition, and inspiration.

Put together, the multi faceted presentation of Sonic Elements offers up a unique and significant contribution to music pedagogy and a valuable resource for any serious musicians library. Rudolph writes:

“My hope is that these materials will provide an inspirational spark for both composers and performers to make their own discoveries and develop their own creative ideas in the context of the endless nature of what music can be.”

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