Global Music Theory

Thomas Noll
Research Group KIT-MaMuTh for Mathematical Music Theory

Institute for Telecommunication Systems, Technical University of Berlin
Sekr. FR 6-10, Franklinstr. 28/29, D-10587 Berlin,
The article investigates aspects of globality with respect to music the-
ory and especially mathematical and computer-aided music theory. The
local/global dichotomy is applied (a) to the discipline such from a cul-
tural semiotic point of view, (b) to the strategies of scientific knowledge
management dogmatics, modeling and hermeneutics, and (c) to the music-
theoretical discourse subjects. A detailed discussion is dedicated to the
study of Guerino Mazzola’s proposal for a mathematical denotator system
for music-theoretical objects which is finally applied to Daniel Harrison’s
dual network of harmonic concepts.
1 Music Theory and Scientific Culture
The Klangart ’99 Global Village - Global Brain - Global Music was de-
voted to the global nature of musical culture and presented approaches to
interdisciplinary music research. Hence, on a metalevel, it is worth study-
ing the global nature of music research. Interdiscplinary collaboration
leads to a complex interplay of research interests. Although the dynamics
of research interests in a scientific community work on their own and are
certainly not fully controlled by institutions and individuals, it is nev-
ertheless useful to reflect upon these processes. We will argue in favour
of the idea that globality of music-theoretical knowledge in some respect
mirrors the globality of its object domain. However, global knowledge
is not the same as knowledge about globality. In contemporary physics
one observes a strong desire for Grand Unified Theories turning the main
accepted working theories
of the principal interactions into one.
It is not clear wether it is legitimate and of great benefit to compare
physics with musicology. What are the accepted local working music theo-
ries to be unified? Is there a desire to do so? These questions are not only

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General Relativity is one local perspective among others. Nevertheless it is a theory about
global structures.
directed towards epistemology, but to a high degree towards the mecha-
nisms of scientific culture. Therefore we refer to a semiotically motivated
tripartition of culture and discuss it with respect to the local/global di-
chotomy, because these are constituents that may be suitably associated
with the Klangart topic. The basic semiotic anatomy and mechanisms
of culture are based on the interaction of three domains, namely social,
material and mental culture (cf. [13]).
1. Social culture is constituted by a community in which individuals
and institutions occupy different positions in a structure of inter-
dependences, that regulate their actual behavior through manifold
kinds of stimulation and restriction. For our considerations of a
scientific community we are especially interested in the regulation
of research and communication on the background of specialization
and division of labour.
2. Material culture is constituted by all kinds of artifacts produced
and consumed by its members, like musical instruments, computers,
etc. - including all kinds of sign vehicles, like scores and datafiles.
We are especially interested in the conditions under which computer
programs and electronic musical corpora may contribute to a new
experimental paradigm.
3. Mental culture is constituted by knowledge domains, natural lan-
guages, musical and other sign systems, theories, etc. We are espe-
cially interested in the way theories and other knowledge domains
may coexists and/or influence each other.
Music Theory has to be characterized as an open substructure of a
larger surrounding culture having many operlaps with and ramifications
into musical, scientific and technological domains. We may presuppose the
penetration of ”alien” disciplines into music theory as something natural
with regard to the cultural mechanism. But we focuss our attention to
phenomena of globality inside the music-theoretical subculture though its
unquestionable openness.
It is very popular to illustrate globality with a network-metaphor: Ev-
erything can be linked to everything else. But there is a difference between
a mere reference from one object to another and two objects being ”glued”
along a shared substructure. The latter happens when geographers recon-
struct the globe from an atlas of overlapping maps. The idea of gluing
local maps is behind the mathematical concept of global structures. The
overlap of the maps allows a controlled transition from one coordinate
system to the other.
Mathematical models of global structure can be applied to the music-
theoretical domain in two ways:
1. in order to conceive musical structures as global ones,
With respect to ongoing discussions about globalization of knowledge through internet
technology one should not appraise globality naively. Global accessibility to information
will perhaps support a more general process of knowledge globalization towards a new type
of encyclopedism. But such a process will heavily depend on further fundamental research.
Mazzola (cf. [7], [8]) argues in favour of a programmatic role of music within such a movement.
We nevertheless prefer to continue our attention to the needs of Music Theory.
2. in order to understand knowledge about musical structures as global.
Of course, without being forced by the music-theoretical content, one
would not leave a suitable coordinate system. Therefore we start with a
simple musical example of a chord sequence resisting against interpreta-
tion within a specific local coordinate system: the Euler Tone-Net.
coordinate system is explicitly or implicitly favoured by many authors.
It is spanned by fifths (horizontal direction) and major thirds (vertical
direction). Triads correspond to triangles.
Figure 1: A simple chord sequence with tied notes




s s
s s
The four figures above represent four Euler Tone-Net Maps each con-
sisting of two successive triads in the sequence. What counts here is not
their succession as such, but the fact that tied notes occupy identical po-
sitions. The little circular nodes within the triangles together with the
connecting edges represent prescricptions for triangles to be glued. The
resulting global object cannot be embedded into the Tone-Net.
This structure somehow reflects the global character of knowledge
about harmony. We may conceive the above construction as a proto-
col of a mental experiment of hermeneutic nature. Instead of directly
concluding that the chord sequence is a global structure, we could inspect
other theoretical viewpoints. We list some of them:
1. to neglect the independence of fifth- and third-kinship. This is what
most scholars do in practice, although often not in their theoretical
reasoning (e.g. Heinrich Schenker and his school),
2. to neglect the homogeneity of the tone space, (e.g., not to consider
the triad of scale degree II as a proper one, like Moritz Hauptmann)
Positions in the Euler Tone-Net correspond to octave classes in just tuning, cf. [6],[12].
In Mazzola’s terminology this is an example for a non-interpretable global composition.
3. to neglect that tied notes should occupy identical tone positions.
This is what Martin Vogel suggests.
To detect the actual global nature of our present knowledge about
harmony would need to make an inventory of those approaches having
working parts, i.e., explanatory power for conrete phenoma of interest.
Encouraging points of departure are those where music theorists recognize
their situation as a crisis - either of music or of their theory. Presently, one
observes a solidarity between local approaches and musical periods and
styles (e.g., Schenkerian analysis for Baroque music till early Romantics,
Neo-Riemannian analysis for late Romantic Music). From the viewpoint of
historical relativism in the second half of the 20th century, there appeared
to be no need to theoretically trace contiguity along the diachronic axis
of music history.
We now leave the concrete example in order to comment upon some
basic research strategies. The internal dynamics of mental culture can
hardly be explained as an intended result of the collective behavior in
social culture. Especially an apperance of unauthorized ”aliens” may pass
without any noticable effect, but it may lead to unpredicted turbulences
as well. Growth, maintenance and evaluation of knowledge within the
mentality of a scientific culture are internally caused by a fundamental
drive towards local and global coherence. Processes of localization and
globalization occur in systematic interaction.
We suggest to distinguish the following three types of knowledge man-
• Dogmatics preserves local coherence within a domain of knowledge
by selective incorporation, i.e., through filtering.
• Modeling obtains local coherence within a domain of knowledge
through construction.
• Hermeneutics collects and compares varying viewpoints on given
objects of interest and hence forces globalization of knowledge.
If there is any kind of native interest in the object domain at all, it is
the hermeneutician, who is in control of it. It should be stressed that the
two localization strategies involve a specific normative/creative behavior
intervening with such native interest. Nevertheless, one should not un-
derestimate the role of model and dogma. While there is always some
danger for a modelist to confuse a model with reality, there is also a par-
allel source of confusion for his critics, who are likely to take engagement
for a model already as confusion between model and reality. Something
similar holds for the honest dogmatist and his critics. We come back to
this issue in the following section.
Whenever hermeneutic activity discovers a partially global coherence,
this already implies knowledge about a global object and hence might
lead to further modeling activity. The systematic interaction between
knowledge localization and globalization is of recursive nature.
2 Mathematical and Computer-Aided
Music Theory
Our discussion of computer-aided experiments in Mathematical Music
Theory is especially motivated by the concept of the RUBATO software
for musical analysis and performance.
For both disciplines it is charac-
teristic that the involved researchers spend a lot of time and energy for
large portions of scientific work that are not directly motivated by music
theoretical interests. However, there is a complex interaction between the
direct and indirect research interests, that can hardly be classified into
proper research on the one side and service on the other. Another do-
main makes this evident: the influence of Psychology and Sociology on
Systematic Musicology in the last decades goes far beyond mere service,
because there is a significant influence of these disciplines on the dynamics
of musicological interest.
First we give a very short characterization of Mathematical Music The-
ory as a subdiscipline of General Music Theory. We especially refer to the
Z¨ urich School of Mathematical Music Theory, which has been initiated,
developed and programmatically inspired by Guerino Mazzola.
There are two complementary research interests within General Music
Theory, namely
1. Analysis, i.e., understanding of concrete ideosyncratic musical struc-
2. Theory, i.e., understanding of general principles and rules behind
musical structures
The dymanics of interest in General Music Theory is characterized by a
permanent change of focus between analytical and theoretical approaches.
Something similar can also be observed within Mathematical Music
Theory. On the one hand, there are approaches providing methods in-
tended to represent concrete musical structures in terms of concrete math-
ematical objects: Denotators. These denotators are then further investi-
gated by suitable mathematical methods in order to obtain insights into
the concrete musical structures. On the other hand, there are approaches
aiming at solving a specific problem within music theory by explanatory
power of a suitable mathematical model. Hence there are four channels
of transfer to be considered:
Musical Structures
General Music Theory


Mathematical Music Theory
This software has been developed by Guerino Mazzola and Oliver Zahorka (University
of Z¨ urich) for NEXTSTEP and ported to Mac OSX by J¨org Garbers (Techical University of
Berlin). Its further development is subject of an OpenSource-Project.
The vertical arrows denote shifts of interest between ideosyncratic
structures and theoretical problems. The horizontal arrows denote math-
ematical modeling (left to right) and music-theoretical interpretation of
mathematical facts (right to left). Mazzola’s earlier investigations (e.g.,
on modulation and counterpoint) started from theoretical problems and
are hence located on the top side of the square. The analytical appli-
cability of these approaches is limited to very special musical structures.
As a consequence, Mazzola’s later investigations within the context of
the RUBATO-project aimed at reaching the bottom side of the square
as well. The analytical RUBETTEs are software tools to be used within
the RUBATO frame application. They provide methods for the analysis
of scores (given in MIDI-format) through the transformation of empiri-
cally given sets of tones (in the onset-pitch space) into highly structured
mathematical objects and finally encoding them in analytical weigths.
These transformations are motivated by general ideas on paradigmatics
and syntagmatics, but they are not comparable to grammars. There is no
normative distinction between well-formed and ill-formed musical struc-
tures. The RUBETTEs work on any set of tones. As a consequence, there
is a division of labour involved between
1. RUBETTE-authors who offer analytical transformations of musical
input data into mathematical structures and analytical weights,
2. and RUBETTE-users who interpret these structures and weights in
the context of other analytical methods and/or by means of experi-
mental performance.
In the case of the existing RUBETTES
it is interesting to characterize
this division of labour from a scientific point of view. To call RUBETTE-
authorship a mere service would certainly miss the point. The transfor-
mations from musical input data into the analytical data include (in the
given cases) a lot of theoretical ideas - including music-theoretical and
semiotical ones. On the other hand, these approaches start from the left
bottom corner of the square and end up at the top right one. There
is not a strong music-theoretical hypothesis behind each RUBETTE to
be falsified. The user is invited to find out what is interesting in given
ideosycratic structures under the specific perspective - provided by the
RUBETTE. The creative scientific work as well as the responsibility are
hence distributed among both: authors and users.
We recall the remark about the engagement of a modelist in his model
resulting in a shifting focus of scientific interest. Once a mathematical
model of a specific music-theoretical situation is established, it asks for
separate attention. What distinguishes a model from a mere description is
its metaphorical mechanism. The more knowledge about the model can be
transferred into the music-theoretical domain, the richer its explanatory
power. Hence, gaining knowledge about the model is a necessary pre-
requisite for the metaphorical transfer. It is essential that the researcher
moves with the focus of his interest from the object domain to the model
and back.
The same holds for RUBETTES currently being developed by the KIT-MaMuTh-group
at the Technical University of Berlin
The situation becomes more difficult when the division of labour be-
comes institutionalized. The investigation of a mathematical model can
be done more effectively by a mathematician, who himself might not be
able to judge its applicability in music theory. The RUBETTE-concept
provides a suitable means to support the interdisciplinary communication.
As an example, we mention Anja Fleischer’s investigations into metrical
coherence, that are empirically based on the work with the MetroRU-
BETTE (cf. [2], [1]). In a first step, Mazzola defined a model of metrical
regularity with mathematical intuition and tested it on a small corpus
of examples. However, the musictheoretical meaning of these structures
was still unclear, when an algorithm was implemented. Later on, Anja
Fleischer (and other RUBATO-experimenters as well) had a closer look on
the resulting inner metrical weights of many musical pieces and compared
them to other analytical structures, especially to the outer bar structure.
Various types of correspondence between the two turned out to provide in-
sight into the general phenomenon of metricity and meanwhile suggested
a refinement of the tools for inner metrical analysis. In this particular
case the division of labour and the communication through the mediat-
ing software worked quite well and lead to an effect of interdisciplinary
synergy. Furthermore, the concept of metrical coherence exemplifies the
hermeneutic strategy mentioned above: to detect global coherence. In
this specific case the coherence occurs between outer metrical bar struc-
ture - an accepted standard in music theory, and inner metrical structure
- a mathematical analysis of the pure onset structure that deliberately
neglects any information concerning bar lines and time signature.
In this discussion we already reached a meeting point of Mathematical
and Computer-aided Music Theory. The role of the RUBETTE-author is
somehow located between mere service and working (Mathematical) Mu-
sic Theory. He has an initial idea and provides tools intended to better
understand his idea. He creates these tools not just in private, but invites
other researchers as well to develop Music theory in collaboration. The
interface to performance experiments provides another channel of com-
munication. Users may include their aesthical judgements about artificial
performances produced by the PerformanceRUBETTE on the basis of
analytical weights in order to decide about their scientific interest in a
specific mathematical model.
Now recall the two fundamental directions of interest in General Mu-
sic Theory: interest toward ideosyncratic structures and interest toward
systematization. Analysis of a given piece is a hermeneutic activity. The
ideosyncratic structure of a piece is typically reflected in specific corre-
spondences of local analyses. In other words: The analyst collects global
knowledge about the piece with the intention to construct a global object
from it. The existing analytical RUBETTEs are specialized tools for local
. The RUBATO concept includes the idea of a communicative
platform for this hermeneutic activity. As a consequence, another research
As a side-effect users may even consume analyses for performance reasons without in-
specting them.
Due to the mentioned recursivity of the local/global dichotomy local viewpoints may yield
global objects in their own right
interest enters the field: Software Integration Techniques.
A single computer-aided music-theoretical experiment essentially con-
sists in
1. a problem or a question that motivates the experiment,
2. a program whose behaviour can help to better understand or even
solve the problem or to answer the question,
3. musical data that are used as input data for the program.
While the original motivation - to find out something about the prob-
lem - may be a special task from a larger music-theoretical context, the
experiment itself splits into subtasks that are not directly connected with
that context. If a suitable program and/or corresponding data are not
available to the experimenter, he (or she) has to prepare the experiment
first by writing a program and/or encoding data. An individual music-
theorist may do so whenever an experiment comes to his mind. He will
consider these subtasks as necessary steps within the organisation of his
work. He will reuse programs or data whenever possible, but ideally he
would not change his motivating question just because of problems with a
program or with lacking data. The motivation for the experiment governs
all subsequent intentions. The experiment is sucessfull, if an answer or
some new insight into the problem has been gained. From this local per-
spective, there is no reason to invest time and energy into the managment
of further single experiments of the same kind, unless they are necessary
in the same concrete music-theoretical context in which the experimenter
is involved.
The growing practice of making computer-aided experiments, the ex-
istence of already written programs and encoded data provides two other
directions of possible scientific activity:
1. reuse of programs in similar experiments with varying data,
2. reuse of data in other experiments with varying questions.
But the hermeneutic interest of an analyst has its own dynamics -
depending on findings in a specific situation. Thus one has typically
a tension between intended experminents and immediate practicability.
The challenge of the RUBATO concept consists in its support capability
to flexible analytic experiments including the possibility of a division of
labour among several researchers. See also J¨org Garbers contribution to
this volume ([3]). With regard to mathematical modelling this is related to
another field that attracts scientific interest, namely the ongoing process
of systematization within Mathematical Music Theory. The development
of software integration techniques includes two roles of mathematical mod-
els, namely data models and models for music theoretical objects, which
come in close interaction, but must not be confused.
3 Metalanguage
Already in his first book Mazzola (cf. [5]) suggested a theoretical frame-
work comprizing all of his concrete music-theoretical models. In his most
recent book (cf. [9]) this aspect plays a central role and led to an extended
meta theory. Hence the attempts of localizing specific mathematical mod-
els within the framework of a scientific metalanguage is another aspect of
a shifting scientific interest. One should mention that Mazzola’s metalan-
guage goes beyond a mere descriptive framework. It includes classification
methods, that apply to a large class of possible models and it supports
the construction of complex models from given simpler ones.
Music-theoretical knowledge is based on denotation and predication.
Denotators identify discourse subjects, while predicates load them with
meaning in various ways. We give a short portrait
of the Denotator
system. Its design has been motivated by two main ingrediences as shown
Musical parameters
and their transformations
Complex objects
and universal constructions

The upper left corner represents denotative aspects in the systematic
investigation of generalized musical parameter spaces as proposed in [5]
and [6]. The upper right side labels denotative aspects of general concept
analysis and construction which gained Mazzola’s interest in connection
with data modeling for RUBATO. It seems useful not to directly enter
Mazzola’s system. For the most part of this section we restrict our con-
siderations to a simplified ”dollhouse”- ontology corresponding only to the
upper right corner. In order to avoid confusion we mark the ”dollhouse”-
Denotators with the prefix , with the idea in mind that these are built
upon simple acts of pointing at (arbitrary) objects. At the end of this por-
tait we comment on the refinements which come into play in Mazzola’s
ontology together with the integration of the upper left corner.
The accessability of Denotators is controlled though Forms. A Form
basically consists of an AmbientSet having Denotators as its elements.
Extensionally, the AmbientSet serves as a Denotator-container. In addi-
tion, a Form includes the definition of its construction relative to other
Forms. This attributes a formal intension to the Denotators in addi-
tion to the mere elementship.
We now adopt Mazzola’s definition to our narrowed pointing-ontology.
A Denotator is constituted by its name, its Form and its Coordinates.
This can be written as
Name : Form(Coordinates)
The reader should consider our remarks as a vademecum rather than a proper introduction
and is refered to Mazzola’s exposition in [9], Chapter 6.
The coordinates identify the Denotator as an element of its Ambi-
entSet. How is this related to the corresponding Form F?. The Ambi-
entSet AS(F) is the core of the Form. It is embedded into the FrameSet
FS(F) by an injective set-map which is called the Identifier:
Identifier : AS(F) → FS(F)
In many practical cases, AmbientSet and FrameSet coincide, and the Iden-
tifier is the Identity map. The FrameSet is defined through one of five
construction types that apply to a Coordinator, i.e., to the source struc-
ture to be used in the construction. The definition of a Form looks like
Name −→ Type(Coordinator)
The five construction types are labeled as follows:
Simple Syn Power Limit Colimit
It is useful to discuss these construction types and the role of the
involved coordinators in some detail and to illustrate them by musical
examples. We skip the Syn-type, which stands for ”Synonymy”.
The coordinator of a Simple Form is an arbitrary one-elemented
set. Pointing at some isolated object is the basic activity that motivates
simple Denotation. In the pointing ontology ”simple” is equivalent to
”single”. Hence, the Coordinator of a Simple Form is the pointer · itself.
The FrameSet FS(S) of any simple Form S is always the same, namely
= {·}, while its AmbientSet AS(S) can be any one-elemented set. The
definition a SingleTone-Form might look like this:
”SingleTone” −→ Simple(·)
{τ} →
Power, Limit and Colimit are known as universal constructions in cat-
egory theory. For readers not familiar with that we recall the three strate-
gies of knowledge management mentioned in the first section: hermeneu-
tics, dogma and model. A closer inspection of the ways how to manipulate
denotators following these strategies gives a suitable heuristics for these
We start with those principles of Denotator construction that are
necessary for hermeneutic activity. A fundamental modality to go be-
yond mere denotation of single objects is called Coproduct. It is the
free or ”unlimited” special case of the more general Colimit type. The
hermeneutician makes use of it, when refers to Denotators of two or
more Forms as if they were of the same Form. One may even build
Coproduct of multiple copies of a given Form. This is a suitable way to
define a TwelveTone-Form:
”TwelveTone” −→ Colimit(SingleTone, . . . , SingleTone)
Identity 12 times
The coordinator of Syn-construction is a Form, whose ambient space is the frame space
of the constructed Form. Hence Synonymy allows to rename a Form and to narrow its
The FrameSet FS(TwelveTone) = {τ0, . . . , τ11} of this Form consits
of 12 copies of the element τ of AS(SingleTone) = {τ}, indexed by the
positions of the 12 identical Cofactors in the Coordinator of this Form.
The structure of such Coordinators is explained below.
Another typical activity of a hermeneutician is to find out correspon-
dences. Hence he has to be able to freely combine Denotators of various
Forms. The corresponding Form-construction is called Product. The
FrameSet of such a Product-Form is the cartesian product of the un-
derlying AmbientSets. The Product is a free or ”unlimited” case of the
Limit-type. Intervals can be described as ordered pairs of TwelveTone-
”TwelveTonePair” −→ Limit(TwelveTone, TwelveTone)
As third basic operation he needs the possibility to collect any Denotators
of interest. The construction of Power-type Forms allows the denotation
of Denotator collections. This construction avoids confusion between
Forms and Denotators. The coordinator of a Form G of type Power
can be any another Form F. Its FrameSet is supposed to be the power
set of the AmbientSet of F: FS(G) = 2
. One may recursively collect
Denotators in higher order Power-type Forms, e.g.:
”TwelveToneChord” −→ Power(TwelveTone)
”TwelveToneChordSet” −→ Power(TwelveToneChord)
Now we continue in our heuristics. The idealized hermeneutician is
specialized to find interesting objects and correspondences between them
and hence - in a purely descriptive mood - he is not interested in putting
limitations on the Denotators themselves. He minimizes his denotative
efforts to the necessary operations and is mainly involved in acts of pred-
ication. For the dogmatist it is typical that he transfers systematically
occuring dependencies from the concrete to the formal level. Instead of ob-
serving dependencies between Denotators - as the hermeneutician does
- he formulates dependencies between Forms. Dependencies between
Forms are suitably described in terms of Form-Diagrams. Such a dia-
gram consists of a directed graph Γ, whose nodes are loaded with Forms
and whose arrows are loaded with set-maps beween the AmbientSets of
these Forms. The set-maps are the carriers of formal dependencies. The
figure below shows a typical abstract graph Γ consisting of three nodes
and five arrows:

s s s

In order to complete this graph Γ into a Form-Diagram D, consider
three Forms F1, F2 and F3. Let A1 = AS(F1), A2 = AS(F2) and
A3 = AS(F3) be the corresponding AmbientSets. Consider further five
f, g : A1 → A1, h : A1 → A2, i : A2 → A3, j : A3 → A2.
The figure below shows the resulting Form-Diagram D:

F1 F2 F3

In order to understand the construction of a Limit-type Form L from this
diagram we first recall specific hermeneutic activity that likely motivates
such a diagram. In order to describe dependencies between Denotators,
that are formally expressed in the arrows of the diagram D, a hermeneu-
tician would base his observations on the free product of F1, F2 and F3,
i.e., on a diagram D0 having three nodes loaded with F1, F2 and F3, but
not having arrows.
”F123” −→ Limit(F1, F2, F3) = Limit(D0)
In his discourse the hermeneutician refers to specific denotators
”d” : F123(f1, f2, f3)
which attracted his interest because of an observation, that is expressed
in the following predicate P:
P(x1, x2, x3) := f(x1) = x1 ∧ g(x1) = x1 ∧
h(x1) = x2 ∧ i(x3) = x2 ∧ j(x2) = x3
The idealized dogmatist would therefore limit the scope of his interest
from all possible F123-Denotators to those for which the predicate P
is true and therefore aquires the ability to filter them out - even those
that practically would never have been observed by a hermeneutician. He
turns the predicate P into a system of equations for Forms
This is reflected in Mazzola’s convention for the notation of Coordinators of Limit and
Colimit type: Form Diagrams without arrows are written as a lists of Forms. Their positions
in the list represent the nodes of the diagram. The 12 Cofactors of the TwelveTone-Form
correspond to nodes of a diagram without arrows, each being loaded with the SingleTone-

» ·

p1 p2 p3

F1 F2 F3

The variable Form X of this system of equations involves three variable
set-maps pi : FS(X) → Ai i = 1, 2, 3 from the FrameSet FS(X) of X
into the AmbientSets of F1, F2 and F3 and the equations read as follows:
f ◦ p1 = p1 ∧ g ◦ p1 = p1 ∧
h ◦ p1 = p2 ∧ i ◦ p3 = p2 ∧ j ◦ p2 = p3
A Limit-Form for the diagram D is an optimal
solution of this
equation system. One such optimal solution L is explicitly given as follows:
FS(L) := {(f1, f2, f3) ∈ FS(F123) | P(f1, f2, f3)},
where the maps p1, p2 and p3 are the natural projections from the carte-
sian product FS(F123) = A1 ×A2 ×A3 to its three factors.
In our heuristic we associate the dual construction of a Colimit-Form
for a diagram like D with the activity of an idealized modelist. His main
activity consists in gluing objects. He may do so on the denotator-level
as well as on the formal level. The global object obtained from the four
Euler-Tone-Net-Maps (cf. section 1) is a typical example for such an
activity on the denotator level.
Another type of gluing things is classification. This is what happens in
a Colimit-Form construction. Our idealized modelist starts by studying
the Coproduct
” −→ Colimit(F1, F2, F3) = Colimit(D0).
Its FrameSet is the disjoint union
) = A1 A2 A3
In his further activity he aquires the ability to identify those F
denotators with each other that are connected by one of the set-maps in
the diagram D. He thus turns the predicate P into a system of equations
for Forms
The optimality is expressed in the universality property for Limits.
this is actually a Colimit-construction cf. [9], chapter 13


q1 q2 q3

F1 F2 F3

The variable Form Y of this system of equations involves three variable
set-maps qi : Ai → FS(Y ) i = 1, 2, 3 from the AmbientSets of F1, F2
and F3 into the FrameSet FS(Y ) of Y and the equations read as follows:
q1 ◦ f = q1 ∧ q1 ◦ g = q1 ∧
q2 ◦ h = q1 ∧ q2 ◦ i = q3 ∧ q3 ◦ j = q2
A Colimit-Form for the diagram D is an optimal solution for this system
of equations. One such optimal solution C is explicitly given in terms of
the FrameSet FS(C) - being the set of equivalence classes generated from
the five graphs of the set-maps f, g, h, i, j within FS(F
) × FS(F
The reader may imagine chains of dominos that provide equivalences
between their two ends. The dominos themselves are elements from
the five graphs (x1, f(x1)), (x1, g(x1)), (x2, h(x2)), (x3, i(x3)), (x2, j(x2))
(xi ∈ Ai) and can be turned into their ”mirror images” as well, i.e., into
(f(x1), x1), ..., (j(x2), (x2)). The three maps q1, q2 and q3 of this solution
are induced by the injections ei : Ai → FS(F
In order to inspect a music-theoretical example, we study a much
simpler diagramM3, whose graph consists of just one node and one arrow.
The node is loaded with the TwelveToneChord-Form and the arrow is
loaded with the Minor-Third-Transposition for chords: t
: 2



. The transposition t
for chords is defined by lifting the Minor-
Third-Transposition for tones
t3 : {τ0, ...τ11} → {τ0, ...τ11}, t3(τi) := τ
i+3 mod 12
to chords: t
(X) := {t3(x) | x ∈ X}. For simplicity of notation, from
now on, we use the same symbol t3 instead of t

The reader might try to determine its Limit and Colimit before he or she
continues reading.
The diagram M3 has only one node, hence its Limit is a filter of
the TwelveToneChord-Form. It passes exactly those TwelveToneChords
which are invariant under the Minor-Third-Transposition t3. Such trans-
position invariant chords are known as MessiaenChords.

TwelveToneChord Messiaen3Chord

Concrete examples of Messiaen3Chord-Denotators are written as:
”Example 1.1” : Messiaen3Chord(τ0, τ3, τ6, τ9)
”Example 1.2” : Messiaen3Chord(τ0, τ1, τ3, τ4, τ6, τ7, τ9, τ10)
The Colimit of M3 classifies those TwelveToneChord-Denotators as equiv-
alent which can be transformed into one another through recursive minor-
third-transposition. The resulting Form can be named ”Trans3ChordClass”.

TwelveToneChord Trans3ChordClass

Concrete examples of Trans3ChordClass-Denotators are written as:
”Example 2.1” : Trans3ChordClass(τ0, τ4, τ7)
”Example 2.2” : Trans3ChordClass(τ0, τ4, τ7, τ10)
Note that any representative of a Trans3ChordClass provides suitable
coordinates of the Trans3ChordClass-Denotator, i.e., one may alterna-
tively write:
”Example 2.1” : Trans3ChordClass(τ3, τ7, τ10)
”Example 2.2” : Trans3ChordClass(τ1, τ3, τ7, τ10)
Usually one classifies TwelveToneChords with respect to the Fifth-Trans-
position t7, because by recursion one reaches all twelve transpositions.
The Colimit of the corresponding M7-Diagram yields a coarser classifica-
tion than the M3-Diagram:


In order to obtain a full chord classification with respect to the 48-
elemented symmetry group of the TwelveToneSystem, one has to add
two suitable arrows to the M7-Diagram, loaded with the inversion m11
(multiplication of the Cofactor indices by -1 mod 12) and fifth circle trans-
formation m7 (multiplication of the of the Cofactor indices by 7 mod 12):


At this point we stop working within the pointing ontology, in order
to compare it with Mazzola’s one. Readers who are not familiar with
category theory may skip the rest of this section and may continue with
section 4, such as if
1. the Forms and Denotators would still have the prefix
2. the Form PiMod12 would still be the Form TwelveTone
While we have been dealing with the category Sets (having sets as its ob-
jects and set-maps as its morphisms), there is another category of major
importance for Mathematical Music Theory, representing musical param-
eters and their transformations. The category of modules Mod, which
suits for this purposes, shows a different behaviour with respect to the
universal constructions Limit and Colimit. The Power-construction does
not work at all in this category. A natural way out of this problem is
the consideration of functors F : Mod → Sets yielding structure pre-
serving ”models” of the category Mod. Mazzola is concerned with the
contravariant functor-category
:= Sets
having contravariant functors as its objects and natural transformations
as its morphisms. We explain how these functors are related to Forms.
We revisit the pointing ontology by saying that it is concerned with the
contravariant functor-category

:= Sets

= Sets.
The Pointer Category consits of one object · and no arrows besides its
identity arrow (which we identify with ·). The evaluation of the corre-
sponding representable functor @ ∈ Sets

at this one and only object
yields ·@· = {·} = . Recall that Simple Forms are coordinated by · and
have as their FrameSet. The key to Mazzola’s ontology is to consider @·
as a variable FrameFunctor instead of its only value and to replace Am-
bientSets by their corresponding functors with repect to the isomorpy of
categories Sets

= Sets

. A new phenomenon in Mazzola’s ontology is the
possibility of Adress variation. Modules play a double role: Each Module
A ∈ Mod provides a different viewpoint into a variable ”Form”-Functor
Fun(F) ∈ Mod
and gives access to a local AmbientSet A@Fun(F) of a
Form F. Mazzola calls these functors FrameSpaces and AmbientSpaces
highlighting the geometrical nature of his approach. Simple Forms are co-
ordinated by Modules M and have the corresponding representable func-
tors @M as their FrameSpaces. Identifiers are supposed to be natural
functor monomorphsims. Limits, Colimits and Power - constructions are
defined with respect to the functor-category Mod
. The Coordinates of
an A-adressed Denotator of a Form F are defined as an element of the Set
A@Fun(F). The category Mod
is a Topos, i.e., it has good properties
that allow to built Logics on it. On a metalevel of Metalanguage-Modeling
we may consider the only functor ! : Mod → sending all modules to the
pointer ·. It induces a natural transformation !
→ Mod
which is
an faithfull embedding of the pointer ontology into Mazzola’s one. Am-
bientSets in the pointer ontology correspond to constant AmbientSpaces,
i.e., to constant functors in Mazzola’s ontology. The FrameSet for Simple
@-Forms corresponds to the constant functor sending each module M to
, it is isomorphic to the representable functor of the Zero Module. Hence
all regular, i.e., non-circular, -Forms correspond to Forms having only
one simple coordinator in their recursive construction: the Zero-Module.
Now recall the Form TwelveTone. With regard to some problems in
the context of ”American Set Theory” one might want to work with this
Form. But note that the Minor-Third-Transposition t3 is qualitatively not
distingiushed from any other permutation of the 12 Cofactors. Hence,
specific arithmetic operations on denotators are not supported by the
pointer ontology.
Instead of the compound TwelveTone-Form one can build denotators
on the basis of a Simple Form PiMod12 in Mazzola’s ontology (= ”Pitch
modulo 12” cf. [9], section 6.4):
”PiMod12” −→ Simple(Z12)
4 A Music-theoretical Example
In his monograph on late romanic harmony Daniel Harrison presents the
following table of dual correspondences (cf. [4], p. 27), which he calles a
”dual network” of harmonic concepts:
Major Minor
7-8 6-5
Dominant Subdominant
Authentic cadence Plagal cadence
Ascending 5th semicadence Descending 5th semicadence
Sharp Flat

4 7 6 2
We discuss this table as example for a rich structure of inheritance in a
”network” of denotators, starting from a natural endomorphism of Simple
Form PiMod12 and demonstrate how Limit- and Colimit constructions
can suitably explain the correspondences described by Harrison. After a
technical preparation we will revisit them in detail.
We consider the affine symmetry e
11 : Z12 → Z12, e
11(z) := −z +7.
It induces a natural transformation @e
11 : @Z12 → @Z12 of the corre-
sponding functor, which is the AmbientSpace of the Form PiMod12.
Now consider the following diagram DTone having two nodes loaded
with the Form PiMod12 and one arrow between them loaded with @e
PiMod12 PiMod12

In addition, we consider the following Forms:
”PiMod12Step” −→ Limit(PiMod12, PiMod12)
”PiMod12Set” −→ Power(PiMod12)
”PiMod12SetStep” −→ Limit(PiMod12Set, PiMod12Set)
The affine symmetry e
11 induces natural transformations of all three
11Step, @e
11Set, @e
In the case of the Power type Form PiMod12Set one has two natural
choices to define @e
11Set - namely to choose either the image or the pre-
image of a set under @e
11, but in this case both coincide because e
11 is
self-inverse. The same graph with two nodes and one arrow can be loaded
in three other ways, namely each time with one of the three compound
Forms at both nodes and the corresponding natural transformation at its
arrow. The resulting diagrams are called:
DStep, DSet, DSetStep
Defining the following Limit-Forms - having these Diagrams as their Co-
ordinators - enables us to discuss Harrison’s dual network of harmonic
concepts and express it in terms of suitable Denotators.
”PiMod12DualTones” −→ Limit(DTone)
”PiMod12DualSteps” −→ Limit(DStep)
”PiMod12DualSets” −→ Limit(DSet)
”PiMod12DualSetSteps” −→ Limit(DSetStep)
1. Modal Duality: Major / Minor. The initial inversion e
11 has
been chosen in such a way that the underlying diatonic scales of
C-Major and C-Minor are exchanged. This is expressed in terms of
the PiMod12DualSets-Denotator ”DualScales”:
”DualScales” : PiMod12DualSets(
{0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11}, {0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10})
2. Agents Discharge: 7 - 8 / 6 - 5: The typical leading tone-
motion 7 - 8 is characterized in Harrison’s system as a discharge
of the Dominant agent into the Tonic base. Dually he considers
the discharge 6 - 5 of the Subdominant agent into the Tonic asso-
ciate. Both discharges are highly significant for key determination.
The ”DualDischarge”-Denotator of the Form PiMod12DualSteps
expresses this duality:
”DualDischarge” : PiMod12DualSteps(((11, 0), (8, 7))
3. Function: Dominant - Subdominant. The initial inversion e
maps the G-Major-Triad onto the F-Minor-Triad and vice versa
(see DualFunction1), and it maps the G-Minor-Triad onto the F-
Major-Triad and vice versa (see DualFunction3). Furthermore it
exchanges the G-Dominant-Seventh-Chord and the F-Minor-Chord
with added Sixth (see DualFunction2).
”DualFunction1” : PiMod12DualSets({7, 11, 2}, {5, 8, 0})
”DualFunction2” : PiMod12DualSets({7, 11, 2, 5}, {5, 8, 0, 2})
”DualFunction3” : PiMod12DualSets({7, 10, 2}, {5, 9, 0})
4. Cadence: Authentic / Plagal. With respect to the functional du-
alism between Dominant and Subdominant and the modal dualism
between the two Tonic variants as well as the two dominants there
results a dualism between certain authentic and plagal cadences,
namely those which differ modally in both chords:
”DualCadence1” : PiMod12DualSetSteps(
({7, 11, 2}, {0, 4, 7}), ({5, 8, 0}, {0, 3, 7}))
”DualCadence2” : PiMod12DualSetSteps(
({7, 11, 2, 5}, {0, 4, 7}), ({5, 8, 0, 2}, {0, 3, 7}))
”DualCadence3” : PiMod12DualSetSteps(
({11, 2}, {0, 4, 7}), ({5, 8}, {0, 3, 7}))
”DualCadence4” : PiMod12DualSetSteps(
({7, 10, 2}, {0, 3, 7}), ({1, 5, 9}, {0, 4, 7}))
5. Semicadences: These are obtained as retrograde versions of the
cadence steps. It is clear that the resulting denotators fit into the
PiMod12DualSetSteps-Form. We omit the details. The inner sym-
metry of all four Dual-Forms makes clear, that it is not possible to
formally decide upon what is left and what is right in Harrison’s
6. Alteration: Sharpen / Flatten. Harrison lists two corresponding
pairs of alterations:
• the flattening of the 7th scale degree in C-Major B B
gether with the sharpening of the 6th scale degree A
A in
C-Minor. In modulations these alterations produce, for exam-
ple, a 4th scale degree in F-Major and a 2nd scale degree in
G-Minor, respectively. The alteration-pair as well as both re-
sulting Scales are explained by suitable denotators Alteration1
and DualAlteredScales1.
• the sharpening of the 4th scale degree F F
in C-Major
together with the flattening of the 2nd scale degree D D
in C-Minor. In modulations these alterations produce, for ex-
ample, a 7th scale degree in G-Major and a 6th scale degree in
F-Minor, respectively. Again, the alteration-pair as well as both
resulting scales are explained by suitable denotators Alteration2
and DualAlteredScales2.
”Alteration1” : PiMod12DualSteps((8, 9), (11, 10))
”Alteration2” : PiMod12DualSteps((5, 6), (2, 1))
”DualAlteredScales1” : PiMod12DualSets(
{0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10}, {0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10})
”DualAlteredScales2” : PiMod12DualSets(
{0, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11}, {0, 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10})
Finally, we inspect two mutually dual sequences discussed in Harrison’s
Sequence 1 (Bach)
Figure 2: Sequence from Bach’s G-Minor Fantasy, BWV 542 mm. 31-34 as
simplified to Harrison ([4], p. 33
We consider four Denotators of the Form PiMod12Set denoting the
3rd and the 2nd chord of this sequence (a minor tonic third t and a Major
Dominant D with respect to C-Tonality), as well as the union of 3rd and
4rd chord (the ”sharpening” set #) and the union of the 2nd and 3rd
chord (the authentic cadence set A)
”t” : PiMod12Set({0, 3})
”D” : PiMod12Set({7, 2, 11})
”#” : PiMod12Set({0, 3, 4, 7})
”A” : PiMod12Set({7, 2, 11, 0, 3})
The entire sequence can be modeled as a global composition by gluing
several copies of these four charts. In fact, it is the Colimit of the following
diagram of Denotators(!):
# A # A # A # A
D t D t D t D








Sequence 2 (Schubert)
Figure 3: Sequence from Schuberts D-Minor String Quartet, D. 810, 4th movt.
mm. 16 - 25 as simplified by Harrison ([4], p. 33)
Again we consider four Denotators of the Form PiMod12Set denoting
the 3rd and the 2nd chord of this sequence (a Major tonic triad t and a
Subdominant s with respect to C-Tonality), as well as the union
of 3rd and 4th chord (the ”flattening” set b) and the union of the 2nd and
3rd chord (the plagal cadence set A)
”T” : PiMod12Set({0, 4, 7})
”s” : PiMod12Set({5, 8})
”b” : PiMod12Set({0, 3, 4, 7})
”P” : PiMod12Set({5, 8, 0, 4, 7})
(b) P b P b P b P
(s) T








The duality of these two sequences is expressed trough two facts:
1. The sequences are isomorphic as local as well as global compositions
if suitably extended to the sides or glued to a circle of 24 overlap-
ping maps (12 copys of # and 12 copys of A). Note that they are
retrogrades of one another.
2. The pairings of # and b as well as A and P are dual:
”#/b” : PiMod12DualSets({0, 3, 4, 7}, {7, 4, 3, 0})
”A/P” : PiMod12DualSets({7, 2, 11, 0, 3}, {0, 5, 8, 7, 4})
According to the entire logic of this sequence we dogmatically assume the note A
in the
2nd chord instead of A, see also [4] Footnote 21.
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