Research Seminar: John Mackey

John Mackey

The Pentatonic Matrix

“My PhD research is an ethnographic reflection into my improvisatory practice which was ironically born out of a mistake during a practice session in 1st year at Edith Cowan University in 1987.

In essence, my improvisatory system is structured around the symmetrical nature of the Pentatonic Scale, its cell permutations, common tones borrowed from different key centres and the blending of multiple pentatonic scales to create a chromatically charged improvised line.

A matrix of different combinations derived from chords, gives the user many options to choose from when working through the comprehensive system.

Today’s talk will cover the options associated with adopting my system for performing improvisations outside of the key centre.”


John is a renowned saxophonist, composer and educator. He has been lecturing at the ANU School of Music since January 2000. John was nominated for the Freedman Jazz Prize in 2001 and has recently been invited into the Higher Education Academy in the UK as a Senior Fellow and is excited about a recent co-invention with the Physics and Engineering Department at ANU.

John has performed with many international artists inlcuding:

Ray Charles, B.B. King, Dame Kiri Tekanawa, Kurt Elling, Dionne Warwick, Kendrick Scott, Nat Adderley, Eddie Henderson, Roy Hargrove, Red Rodney, Lew Tabackin, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kenny Werner, Bob Mintzer, Richie Cole, Johnny Griffin, Al Cohn, Woody Herman, Ralph Moore, Mark Levine, Don Rader, Ronnie Scott, Jim McNeely, Kenny Werner, Mike Nock.

Limited number of seats available in this Research Seminar, for the public (seats will be automatically reserved for School of Music students who attend research seminars for coursework). Public RSVP via this EventBrite listing.

Updated:  15 May 2019/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications