Posted: Jan 13, 2016 6:32 pm
by John Platko
And now I arrive at the last issue I need to resolve before moving on to the next phase of my project. I'm rather happy with how the entropy vector worked out in measuring the amount of information in a lick but now I need metrics that say something about what that information is, that is, not just how big the pile is, and not the details about what exactly is in the pile- I know that, but more like, what does the pile taste like. Dealing with the rhythm taste doesn't seem too hard to me so I'll deal with that in the next phase. But I want to tackle the harmony - both vertical and horizontal, taste now.

Blues is often said to be a mixture of sweet and sour- but what does that mean? I think it means that the blues mixes major and minor tonality, or perhaps more accurately," harmony" and "dissonance". But what exactly do these terms mean? As far as I can tell, there is no general agreement as to what they mean. There is no general agreement as to why major chords sound happy and minor chords sound sad, or even if such characterizations are true. However, people have demonstrated that brains "light up" differently to major and minor chords- with minor chords "lighting up" more of the brain. (e.g.) The exact physiological reasons for this are unknown. I'm going to proceed with my- mmmmm, well let's just call it, my fantasy, that:

1) Minor chords are more dissonant than major chords because the components that make up minor chords don't fit together as well as the components that make up major chords.

2) When the components of a chord fit together well enough, there is not much puzzle to be solved, we can sit back and enjoy the sound and not fret over "what is wrong with this picture."

3) When the components of a chord don't fit together well enough, there is a mystery afoot, a puzzle to be solved, and our limbic system arouses us to experience, in varying degrees, sour instead of sweet.

4) All of this is fundamentally due to the actual components present in the air, and as such, can be measured and quantified.

5) However, one persons sour milk is another persons gravy for mashed potatoes - so individual judgments on these matters vary, i.e. we all don't have exactly the same tastes.

That said, I'm hoping to come up with a "sweet - sour" metric based on how compatible the harmonic content of each note is with the other notes in the chord. Perhaps someone(s) has already done this but I haven't found anything to my liking. (note: this is different than the chord pattern matching that I presented earlier in the thread where a lick could be compared to known chords to see which one(s) it was most like and a weighting given to how much like that chord it is. This is attempting to come up with an absolute sweet-sour scale for groups of notes played together.

I'm going to start with work I did in a thread in the music section of the forum where someone asked a question about why minor chords sound sad and major chords sound 'bright'. That question made me curious.

Here I posted a chart I created that tries to organize all the relevant data for this in one place. The chart shows the harmonic series associated with each note being played (a given note is composed of many frequencies, each an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency. I plan to show exactly how these harmonics shape the sound of an acoustic guitar shortly in my guitar build thread.) So, if you look at the A note in any of the three chords shown, you see, from left to right a line with marks where a harmonic may be for that note. For example, after the fundamental for the A note, at 2 * the frequency (an octave up) the harmonic is at also at the pitch of a musical A. The next harmonic up is 3 * the fundamental - which happens to be at the frequency of an E note - a P5 up from A. 4 * A is the next octave. 5 * A gives a frequency that happens to be at the frequency of C# - a M3 up from A. 6 * A is another P5, 7 * A is about a m7, 8 * A is another octave up.

And as you keep adding harmonics more of the entire musical scale (more or less) is added to the note. And all this would probably sound terrible if it wasn't for the fact that the higher harmonics have a much lower presence than the lower ones in real musical instruments. But they are there and important to the sound - which I'll demonstrate in the other thread.

Ok, so 1) the chart shows how the harmonics of a note line up with other musical notes.

The chart also vertically shows the notes of three chords grouped together. From bottom to top, A min7, A Maj7, and A 7. And the harmonics for all of the notes in every chord are also marked. ( I use some special symbols so you can easily see if any harmonic falls on a frequency that is root, P5, or M3 of the root note of the chord.

Finally, the chart draws lines between harmonics that are close in frequency to each other. Different colors are used for m2, M2, or m3 distances. My hypothesis is that the more of these close frequency components, especially in lower harmonics, the more dissonance, or the more sour the chord, and the more P5s and M3s or the root in the lower harmonics the more sweet the chord. There are other ways to say this.

This is the path I'm heading down for now to develop my sweet-sour music scale. There is another approach just using the notes that make up the chord but I like this method that uses the underlying harmonic structure in a direct way.

Any questions or comments?