Lead Sheet of Ornette Coleman's "Sleep Talking"

Title: Sleep Talking
Artist: Ornette Coleman
Album: Sound Grammar

"Sleep Talking" Lead Sheet (PDF)
Listen to "Sleep Talking"

This track has been following me around the last few days; when I go to sleep, when I wake up, during meals. I never know why these things happen, but I'm glad they do. I was first turned onto Ornette's newest record “Sound Grammar” by my roommate about a week ago after discovering his “The Shape of Jazz To Come” CD, and I have listened to it a lot since that first time. There is a lot for me to love about it: two bass players, one playing with a bow, almost taking the horn's role; crazy free improvisatory pieces; and mostly almost-out-of-control playing.

One track particularly struck me and that is “Sleep Talking”, which he overtly references the beginning of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. (Last Monday, I was able to catch a workshop with Jamie Baum, jazz composer and flutist, at Portland State University, where she talked about how she used Rite of Spring as a genesis for many of her own compositions, and seeing all of this culminate in less than a week's time is fairly serendipitous, especially to such a nerd as myself.) There were a few reasons I transcribed this piece:

  • I'm all about sampling and recycling music for a new purpose, so this is not only a great track, but also an interesting study in using other music (in this case, Rite of Spring) in new compositions.

  • The notation of a free composition has always been a challenge for me, making what's written evoke what should be played, so I decided to see what kind of system I could use to make a lead sheet for the piece.

  • There were parts of the melody that I wanted to explore, and simple as they were, yielded some distilled harmonic and melodic ideas that I have heard and liked but was not able to pinpoint before.

  • It has been stuck in my head for days and I feel compelled still to listen again and again. That's what music is all about, right?

I transcribed this pretty quickly, and I think this is largely due to my going over it in my head quite a bit before ever even thinking about transcription. The hardest part was notating it.

I wanted to allude to the music without making anything totally set in stone. For clarity's sake, I also really didn't want to use more than one symbol per note, which is why I didn't end up using a more obvious staccato or legato marking. What I settled on was the quarter rest symbol, meaning space, and two different stemless noteheads: filled and open meaning short and long, respectively. There is also harmonic content that is almost necessary that I was on the fence about giving; allowing the musician to move through the tune without many rules was more important to me than being true to the recording. I put none in, since if you listen to it, you can hear it yourself, or if you don't want to, you can find your own way.

Thanks for reading, and I'd love any feedback on the notation or the music! If you liked this, do check out the rest of the album, and the also incredible "The Shape of Jazz To Come".

Ornette Coleman
Homepage // Wikipedia // Amazon // "Sound Grammar" on Amazon

"Sleep Talking" Lead Sheet (PDF)
Listen to "Sleep Talking"