Here is how I came to write “Big Cat Walk”. While I was sitting at my computer working on various projects, my family was playing a computer game. I was listening to the music in the background. First of all I heard these four minor chords: C minor, Eb minor, F# minor, and A minor.
You get that pattern by starting with a minor chord and always going up a fat tone for the next minor chord.
I know about this pattern. I have not yet come up with a name for it, but every good composer I know of uses it. Each root is one of the notes in a diminished chord. And if you start with any diminished chord, you can get to four different dominant 7 chords by moving any note in the chord down by a half tone.
We need something for this set of chords that uses a word meaning four. I’m working on it.
Then I noticed in the video game music that the composer was using the same trick that I’ve been talking about, which I call the “Trinity of Chords”. This is where you start with either a major or a minor chord and then move up a bitone for the next one. There are three, all equal, thus the name “Trinity”.
Finally, I noticed that the four chords that were all minor worked perfectly with an octatonic scale. Furthermore, when you combine that scale with the minor chords, the result is the complete chromatic scale. In other words, you simply can’t get more chromatic then using this idea, but the result is still very tonal because minor chords are so fundamental and easy to listen to.
Finally there is the matter of the pictures and the title. I asked Maya, my granddaughter, what she imagined when she heard the piece that I wrote. She immediately said “Cat Walk”. I thought that was a good idea. I then asked her if she was thinking of a “kitty cat” or a big jungle cat and she said she was thinking of a big cat. So that’s where I came up with “Big Cat Walk”, and when I looked for pictures of big cats, I ran into pictures of the black panther and fell in love with them.
So this whole piece is really an etude. It is meant to teach basic principles. It is a study piece for octatonic, the Trinity Chords, and the four minor chords that I don’t yet have a name for. But after I wrote it I decided that I really like the sound, and I threw in yet more things that I haven’t even tried to explain here.