The SublimeLoop

For nearly 30 years I’ve been haunted by a tune. Perhaps less than a tune : four bars, twenty notes. Just a riff, really. A loop. And not even a particularly unorthodox tune. A simple vamping pattern. The most ordinary chord sequence in the world maybe.

And yet …

I first came up with this tune in sometime in the mid-late 1980s. Playing as a teenager with a program called Music Processor on the BBC Micro. I made a piece that I loved. But I knew that it didn’t do justice to this sequence. To what it could be. To the sublime, vibey, bite of it.

Over the next 25 years, I’ve toyed with this riff to make tracks in one genre or another, with one name or another, with one theme or another played over the top, but I’ve never felt that I’ve had the power to do justice to what it could be. To what it has within it.

In 2009 I had another go.

And then I decided that I never would capture the rolling, continuum energy of the thing. My musical understanding was too amateurish. My skills too feeble. And I knew that another strategy would be necessary. I’d create a web-site where I’d show all my failed attempts to build a magnificent home for this loop. I’d document my obsession.

Finally, here is that site.

What is this tune? It’s laughably simple really.


And here's how it sounds.


(Rendered by MuseScore)

Perhaps not the most ordinary chord sequence in the world. I’ve shockingly managed to avoid learning enough basic harmonic theory over the last 30 years or so to really understand what I’m playing with, but the site tells me that the chords are these :

C m aug5, D m aug5, D aug5 sus4, C no5

I guess that’s C minor with augmented 5th, then D minor with augmented 5th, D major with augmented 5th and a suspended 4th?? (or is that just G minor?), and then a C without any sort of 5th at all (although the E is doubled across two octaves).

For all I know, this could be the way that every other pop song on earth goes. Although I think I’d like more pop music if it did. I’d love to know. Or to hear of songs using this sequence.

Anyway, I’m not claiming any originality with these four bars. But, to any extent that I have some claim on them, I’m explicitly saying here that this riff is creative-commonsed. Feel free to take it and play around with it. In fact, more than that, I’d love to hear if anyone else manages to do something with this loop. Part of what I’d like to do on this blog is encourage other musicians to take this loop and make something with it. Either by sampling the pieces I put up here. Or playing it yourself, in your own style.

Maybe you can build the right home for this loop that I couldn’t.

If you do, then please send me the track and I’ll be sure to promote it (and maybe host it) here.

Meanwhile, I’m going to dig out some old tapes (and some not so old mp3s) and give you some examples in the next posts.

Update : It’s possible that the Sublime Loop is Arthur C. Clarke’s "The Ultimate Melody".