a new direction

Harmonic analysis of Schubert Fantasie, D. 934, opening bars.

The power of electronic music – even the most dedicated analogue instrumentalist must admit – is beyond question.

Though they do not cover the same musical ground as a finger on a string or breath in a column of air, the filters, echoes, synthesizers, and effects applied to waveforms in electronic music have enormous effect.

Harmony, however, remains insufficiently parametrized. This leaves an important dimension under-explored, and also stifles the integration of digital and acoustic instruments. Tonality guides our own real fingers with memory and prediction, and the methods of electronic music do not well or fully take this into account.

I have been working as a performer of mostly classical music at the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for the past fifteen years, and teaching at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. This work should bridge live performance and musical study in the analog/print style with performance around parameterised digital criteria.

parametrising harmony

I will work to address the process of parametrising harmony over the next weeks and months, exposing a tiny algorithm which back-propagates over a small set of bits, treating the bit as ternary rather than binary. This algorithm, being developed at GitHub as harmony partition, efficiently and flexibly describes a wide range of conventional harmonic usage.

I will document the process of making and using it here, and I hope I can build for you a proper guide, through a series of Jupyter notebooks which outline the theory and applications of this idea. Some of these steps will be pragmatic, some music-theoretical, and some just playful explorations. The main thing is to see if a community and musical language can build around this musical process.

A proper Pypi package will be available in mid-January 2021.


Initial results of the use of this algorithm can be seen at work at the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival. To begin: Beethoven Sonata, Op. 111, played by Conor Hanick, an analysis of the second movement. http://www.cvillechambermusic.org/op-111-analysis.html

This blog will cover not only the theory, but also the implementation of the algorithm for use in musical practise.

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