[extropy-chat] Re: Serial music and transhumanist art forms

Hal Finney hal at finney.org
Thu May 5 19:26:20 UTC 2005

Jef Allbright forwards:
> primeradiant wrote:
> >     By 'serial' I meant, of course, 12-tone music, hence Schoenberg, 
> > Berg Webern, Stravinsky (middle period, e.g. /Abraham and Isaac/), the 
> > post-war Europeans including Boulez, Berio, Dallapiccola, Lutoslawski, 
> > Schaffer, Xenakis, earlier Stockhausen, the American School including 
> > of course Milton Babbitt, Wuorinen, Lewin etc.

I'm not familiar with this musical style.  From what I understand it
arranges the 12 musical notes in a particular order as the basis of the
musical composition.

But I will mention an interesting variant I ran into a few years ago on
a programming project.  It was for a computerized home exercise program;
we had an animated figure acting out the exercises and the voice of Jack
LaLanne shouting encouragement.  The musical composer was a creative guy
who loved to push the envelope on the music synthesis software we had
designed, and I interfaced with him to get his music into a form that
we could create using the primitive computer technology of the time
(early 1980s).

For one of the songs, he wanted to do something unusual with the
musical notes.  Instead of the conventional musical scale which has 12
notes, he wanted to use an 18 note scale.  This scale goes C, C sharp,
D flat, D, D sharp, E flat, E, E sharp/F flat, F, and so on.  Unlike in
the 12 note scale, C sharp and D flat are different; and there is an
extra note between E and F and between B and C.  This makes 18 equally
spaced notes.  Interestingly, this causes the frequencies of all of the
notes of the conventional scale (C, D, E...) to be about the same as in
the 12 note scale.

It was just as easy for us to synthesize these 18 notes as the regular
12 ones, so he wrote some music using the 18 note scale.  And it
sounded great!  Not quite like regular music, but not too far off either.
Just different enough that you could tell something unusual was going on,
but for an untrained musical ear it was hard to say what it was.


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