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digital harmony

sine wave blues

I would post this as ‘blues’ only because I know it’s not blues and never should be categorised as such.

It’s just some sort of tightened symbolic rendering, some mathemagical/numerological shadow.

But here in our digital igloos, before our computers, respecting our ‘social distance’, we play with dots and waves, alone. Perhaps, at least, there is some glue in this, for us all to use later, when there are instruments and gatherings.


In any case: for beginning to play along with harmony, there is hardly a better starting point than a simple blues progression. Here’s a little low resolution, lockdown blues, with a digital absence of style as backup.


I’ve tried to keep it in a kind of digital lo-res, trying to be aesthetically clear that we’re working at the bottom of the computer, in binary, and making decisions by hand, in some kind of reality.


The whole of it derives from three numbers: 0, 1, and -1, applied to a travelling harmony state.

Below is a graph of the waveform (barely recognisable as a waveform, in the green-blue strip) of the sinewave-piled blues progression, repeated ten times (GGGG-CCGG-DCGG). Below that a harmonic analysis of the waveform, based on a Fourier analysis. All is based in C Major (the red at the bottom), centered around G dominant (orange).

When I add a bass line and analyse the more complex waveform, the analysis turns to the flat side, centering itself, rather properly, in a B-flattish area. It’s an alternate analysis, equally valid:

If I set one of the hyperparameters higher, to filter out less of the signal, the basic structure returns, even if the extension analysis (the line at the top) disappears:

So to a large extent, the basic structure remains, even in a more complex system. Even my own live blues show through, somewhat:

Thankfully, it’s not so absolutely clear.


Harmony can indicate direction and tension in a near-total absence of timbre and dynamics. Harmony is something that folds us forward.

What we add on our own, in timbre and dynamics, is infinitely complicated, barely succumbing to any analysis, but still showing some structure. At least we know we’re on the flat side, and finding pillars of G major7. In the end, the variation within the analysis is akin to the many directions — the many potential continuities — we hear when we listen closely. It’s just at the edge of categorisation, where it ought to be.

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