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Characteristics of Musical Modes in WolframTones: A Visualization

Timothy Walker

Wolfram Technology Conference 2013
Conference location

Champaign, Illinois, USA

Music is typically drawn from a chromatic, equal-tempered set of 12 notes per octave, and a subset of those notes can be chosen for a specific piece in order to define its musical key. For example, the 7 white keys on a piano keyboard constitute a C-Major scale. However, the same 7 white keys could instead imply an A-minor scale by starting at a different note; the two scales are simply different modes of the same underlying pattern. WolframTones provides an excellent platform for observing the relative use of different scalar patterns, since it allows users to define a customized scale. This visualization surveys several years of web log data from WolframTones for the purpose of exploring the relative use of different scalar patterns, and also the relationship between modal variations of scales (i.e., "families" of equivalent modes drawn from the same set of notes). Scalar patterns are visualized on a circular chart to show the frequency of each position being used as a root. A map of the space of all possible scales is overlaid with the web log data in order to see the correspondence with various possible predictions of scale usage, such as number of available modes, musical heuristics for well-formed scales, or familiarity with an existing named set of scales.

*Wolfram Technology


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