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MACK, Eric - A Course in MaMuTh Part1 and 2

# MACK, Eric - A Course in MaMuTh Part1 and 2

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article written by Erick Mack
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09/16/2010

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A COURSE IN MATHEMATICAL MUSIC THEORY
ERIC MACK
1.
Mathematical models of the musical scale-Part 1
The old naming system for musical notes is based an old tuning system in which the twelve notes of themusical scale were unequally spaced. The result of this temperament (tuning scheme) was that some combi-nations of notes sounded better than today’s notes would when played together in a melody/harmony andother combinations sounded
extremely
out of tune when played together in a melody/harmony. Generally,you may think of unaltered letters
{
c,d,e,f,g,a,b
}
(White notes on the keyboard called the Major scale)as the good notes and the altered notes
{
c
,d
,
,g
,a
}
(Black notes) as the out of tune set. In contrast,our modern system (called Twelve Tone Equal Temperament or 12TET) spaces the twelve notes out evenly(according to our ears) tempering the extremes of ”perfectly in tune” and ”badly out of tune” in favor of something in the middle.Of the many topics of interest in Musical Theory, we will survey three areas: classiﬁcation of chords, commonmusical operations that are easier with the number correspondence, and the musical role of symmetry withinchords.1.1.
Z
12
and twelve tone equal temperament (12TET).
We will begin by setting up the conversionto mathematics notation. Our tuning assumption give us twelve aurally equally spaced pitches that cycleback on themselves every twelve notes. The mathematical object with this same structure is the
group
Z
12
=
{
0
,
1
,
2
,
3
,
4
,
5
,
6
,
7
,
8
,
9
,
10
,
11
}
in which addition/subtraction and multiplication are carried out mod-ulo 12 (clock face math) Under modulo 12 arithmetic if an operation yields a number larger than twelve,then divide by twelve and retain the remainder as your answer. If an operation yields a negative number re-peatedly add 12 to it until it becomes positive. Division is not deﬁned since fractions have no equivalent note.equal temperament 12TET =
{
c, c
, d, d
, e, f,
, g, g
, a, a
, b,
}       
Chromatic scale
=
{
0
,
1
,
2
,
3
,
4
,
5
,
6
,
7
,
8
,
9
,
10
,
11
}
1.2.
Working with musical sets.
Within Music set theory there are two ways in which we may view asubset of
: (1) vertically as a collection of notes to be played together at the same time (called a
chord
) or(2) horizontally as a collection of notes to be played in succession (called a melodic fragment or a
motive
). todraw a distinction between these two usages I will notate chords sets vertically and motive sets horizontallyas deﬁned below.
Deﬁnition 1.2.1.
A
Motive
is a combination of notes (or lack-there-of) respecting order and note repetitionthat are played successively.
=
n
1
, n
2
,
···
n
r
Deﬁnition 1.2.2.
A
chord
is any combination of note(s) (or lack-there-of) independent of order and ignoringrepetition that are played at the same time or in close succession and is denoted
=
n
r
,
...
n
2
,n
1
n
1
,...,n
j
j
= 1
,
2
,
3
,...
Remark
1.2.3
.
This deﬁnition is intensionally non-speciﬁc to allow our musical conception of chord to bebuilt up rigorously. It allows for chord consisting of only one note (hereafter referred to as
degenerate chords
)and even the chord consisting of no notes at all (called the
emptyset
chord).
1

2 ERIC MACK
Deﬁnition 1.2.4.
Let
R,
be chords. we say that
R
is a
subchord
of
if
R
is subset of
and is denoted
R
. Clearly all chords are subchords of
(including itself) and likewise the emptyset,
, a subchord of all chords and is sometimes called the trivial chord. If we wish to say
R
is a subchord of
but is not equalto
itself, we say
R
is a
proper subchord
and write
R
or
R
.Similar deﬁnition for
Submotives
may be assumed.One major goal of music set theory is to ﬁnd a way to classify/organize the 2
12
= 4096 diﬀerent subchordsof
.
Remark
1.2.5
.
For those of you that know a bit more about music, you might be interested to note thatthese 4096 chords ignore voice leading possibilities or even chord inversions. Taking these into considerationraises the number of diﬀerent ways to write a chord to more than
12
n
=0
12
n
=
12
n
=0
12!(12
n
)!= 1
,
302
,
061
,
345.Don’t worry about understanding the preceding calculation.
Homework:(1) A good place to start classifying these chords is by grouping them by cardinality.Use Pascal’s triangle to ﬁnd the number of subchords (
A
) of each cardinality;
n
(
A
) =0
,
1
,
2
,...
12 (Refer to 2.2(60)). If to with to expand you understanding of Pascal’s Triangle andmay be do you Project on it, then look at 1.3(example 1, excursion, 11,12,26) as well. Remembertotal number of subchords will need to add up to 4096.(2) More practise with 2.3 concepts
For each of the following groups of chords or motives make a Venn Diagram.
(a) These are some common chords you ﬁnd in a song.
A
=
g,e,c,a
,D
=
c,a,f,d
,G
=
f,d,b,g
,
=
b,g,e,c
.
(b) These are some Motives used to outline an improvisation over the previous chords.
a, c, e, g
,
d, f, g, a
,
g, a, b, d
,
c, d, e, g
.
(c) These are Blues chords.
=
a
,g,e,c,
,
=
d
,c,a,f,
,G
=
f,d,b,g,
.
(3)
Find the intersections of the following.
(a) These chords are commonly substituted for each other. Any ideas why?
G
=
g
,f,d,b,g
,
=
d,b,g
,f,c
.
(b) These are
and
G
major scales. They are called closely related scales. Any idea why?
=
c, d, e, f, g, a, b
,G
=
g, a, b, c, d, e,
.
(c) These are
and
Major scales. Contrasting this problem with the previous one, would yousay these are closely related scales?
=
c, d, e, f, g, a, b
,
=
c
, d
, f,
, g
, a
, c
.
(4) Let
be the universal set. Find the complement of
A
=
a, b, c, d, e, f, g
.
A
is calleda minor scale and
A
is called a major pentatonic scale if we reorder it to
{
,g
,a
,c
,d
}
.

A COURSE IN MATHEMATICAL MUSIC THEORY 3
1.3.
Intro to modular arithmetic.Deﬁnition 1.3.1.
Let
n,m
be two notes. The distance between two notes is called an
interval
and shallbe denoted
dist
(
n,m
) =
n
m
to
n
from
m
). the smallest nonzero interval iscalled a
halfstep
. The second smallest interval also gets a name and is called a
wholestep
and is equal to twohalfsteps. If
dist
(
n,m
) = 12 then you would ﬁnd that
n
and
m
have the same note name. This special typeof interval, which has a central role in music as we know it, is called an
octave
.
Example 1.3.2.
Find the interval between(1)
dist
(
a,a
)(2)
dist
(
a
,a
)(3)
dist
(
b,g
).Solution:(1)
dist
(
a,a
) =
dist
(9
,
10) = 9
10 mod 12 =
1 mod 12 = 11 halfsteps(2)
dist
(
a
,a
) =
dist
(10
,
9) = 10
9 mod 12 = 1 mod 12 = 1 halfstep(3)
dist
(
b,g
) =
dist
(11
,
8) = 11
8 mod 12 = 3 halfsteps.
Deﬁnition 1.3.3.
Two intervals that add to an octave (12halfsteps) are called
complimentary intervals
.i.e., example questions 1 and 2. In pure mathematics, these are called
in
Z
12
because theyadd to zero under mod 12 arithmetic.A way to further break down our 4096 diﬀerent chords into separate classes is to group chords with thesame interval structure.
Example 1.3.4.
Matching interval structures(1) Show that the following chords have the same interval structure.
G
=
d,b,g
and
=
g
,f,c
.
First, convert to corresponding numbers
G
=
2
,
11
,
7
and
=
8
,
5
,
1
.
Next, compute each distanceIntervals from chord
G
Intervals from chord
dist
(7
,
11) = 8
dist
(1
,
5) = 8
dist
(7
,
2) = 5
dist
(1
,
8) = 5
dist
(11
,
7) = 4
dist
(5
,
1) = 4
dist
(11
,
2) = 9
dist
(8
,
5) = 3
dist
(2
,
7) = 7
dist
(8
,
1) = 7
dist
(2
,
11) = 3
dist
(5
,
8) = 9The intervals from the two chords match up (even though they are out of order) so the two chordshave the same interval structure. In traditional music theory this particular interval structure iscalled a major chord.(2) Without showing why, its worth noting that all major scales have the same interval structure.In general for an
n
note chord there are
n
(
n
1) intervals that must be compared. For large
n
’s you canimagine how tedious this can get(i.e., For
n
= 8,
n
(
n
1) = 56. ouch!!). We’ll see later that there is a lesstime consuming way to check this.
Homework:(1) Compute the following intervals.(a)
dist
(
f,c
)(b)
dist
(
f,b
)(c)
dist
(
b,
)(2) Show the following have he same interval structure.(a)
L
=
d,b
and
=
c,a
.

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