Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Code your name

Now that Kyle Gann has had his name encoded, perhaps I can provide a system to allow anyone to set their name in music:

A - G as is, except B is really Bb (blame the Germans).
H = B natural (again, those Krauts)
I = tonic triad (let's assume a generic C major)
J = Gb, if Jee is normal, Jay is flat.
K = B4 (1000 Hz approximately)
L = the Leading Tone Exchange of the previous chord, assuming a triad in the key of C if it was just a note (if it was a major triad drop the root of the chord by a step; if it was a minor triad raise the fifth by a step. So the C major triad would become an E minor triad, an A minor triad would become an F major triad).
N = Neapolitan chord (Db major in our chosen key)
P = the Parallel mode of the previous chord.
R = the Relative major/minor of the previous chord.
S = Eb (German Es) or the Subdominant chord (F major)
T = B natural ("Ti")
U = C ("Ut")
V = Dominant chord (G major)
W = C sharp (close to U)
Y = E major triad (Greek E, let's make it different)

I'm drawing a blank on the others. I think O could be from some European or Russian theory symbols, but not sure. Help me out, people.

Spiegelberg = F major (IV), F minor, C major, E, G, E (minor), C major, Bb, E (minor) G major, G
Starts ambivalently, but the chromatic line from A to Ab to G lends strength to the tonic chord, which is embellished with arpeggiation. A little neighbor motion in the bass (C - B - C) follows. Adding the Bb to the previous C major triad sounds like a V7/IV, but resolves like a German Augmented Sixth to the E minor triad (second inversion, natch), suggesting that the previous E minor triad was a foreshadowing of a modulation. However, the supposed cadential 6/4 in E minor is pulled back to the dominant of C, for an inconclusive ending.


Anonymous said...

Less fun but more practical than the above, John Hollenbeck uses a straightforward chromatic system that allows you to render any word as a set of pitches:


A = A
B = Bb
C = B
D = C
E = Db
F = D
G = Eb
H = E
I = F
J = F#
K = G
L = Ab
M = A
N = Bb


Pretty sure this isn't original to Hollenbeck, but I've got no idea who first used it.

Anyway, his piece "Abstinence" is constructed around the word "Abstinence," which gives you (among other things) a nice little bass line:

A - Bb - Eb - E - F - Bb - Db - Bb - B - C#
(A-B-S-T-I-N-E-N-C-E )

Scott said...

Too abstract. That's kind of like using Morse code as rhythms.

Anonymous said...

How would one accomodate last names beginning with an L or an R in your system?

Scott said...

A beginning L could stand for 50 Hz, or G0. R at the start of a name could be D (Re).

Scott said...

Thinking more about it, the Hollenbeck system could be modified to allow just intonation systems:

A = Ebb
B = Bbb
C = Fb
D = Cb
E = Gb
F = Db
G = Ab
H = Eb
I = Bb
J = F
K = C
L = G
M = D
N = A
O = E
P = B
Q = F#
R = C#
S = G#
T = D#
U = A#
V = E#
W = B#
X = Fx
Y = Cx
Z = Gx

But the problem still arises that you have to know the abstract code to get it. The point of coding names into music is to allow people to figure them out. I suppose the obvious use of just intonation would be a clue, just as the use of quarter tones could as well. But it is nice to have some other association of each pitch with each letter.

Anonymous said...

But the problem still arises that you have to know the abstract code to get it.

And, uh, this isn't a problem with the encoding system suggested in your original post? [grin]

Scott said...


Anonymous said...

X = double sharp; raises the pitch of the previous letter by a tone. Prelude and Fugue on the name of BAX anyone? Not sure what to do if it's the first letter....