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Happy New Year, dear list!
May you all have a joyous, prosperous, and healthy new year. I’m feeling playful this morning and have a couple of fun musical games for you to enjoy.
- Math Motifs
Math Motifs is a unique way to create music based on individual numbers. You’ll need to know a little bit of music theory to play. But don’t worry, I’ll guide you through it.
Write out a major scale one octave ascending in any key and leave a space between the 4th and the 5th notes. Here I’ve written out a C major scale.
Now write the numbers from 1 to 8 under each note. Like so: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8. Add the next note in the scale at the top and write a 9 under it. In my example I’ve added a D on the fourth line. We have created a relationship between each note in the scale and each digit from one to nine.
But what about zero? Glad you asked. Zero: it represents nothing, yet its circular shape looks as if it could contain everything. All and Nothing. Ah, magical! For that reason, let’s assign it to a magical pitch.
That space you left in the scale is for the pitch that falls exactly in the middle of the scale. Music theorists call it the Tritone. Blues musicians call it the Blue Note. Mathematicians call it the mid-point. Whatever you call it, it’s special.
For now, add to your scale the pitch that is between notes 4 and 5 and write a zero under it. In the C scale I wrote out, I’ve added F#. I could have also written Gb since that is just a different name for the same sound. Kind of like a homonym – two words that sound alike but have different meanings. … Alright, maybe not.
You should now have a set of pitches with corresponding numbers that looks something like this:
Let’s write some music!
Now that we have our decoder ring, we can make some music from any set of numbers like the date or the time. Here is a random birthdate and time of birth: 6-4-1963, 15:42. Using my set of pitches and corresponding numbers, this date and time sounds like this.
Birthdate and time music
Wow! Kind of like a musical astrology, eh? Try this with your phone number, locker combination, or social security number. What other sets of numbers can you use to create a musical motif?
For AlphaMusic, let’s use a scale of one octave, i.e. C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Write out your scale and underneath it write out the letters of the alphabet in four rows. Here’s my C scale written out with the alphabet below it.
Translate the name MARY into musical notes by finding the letters M-A-R-Y in the alphabet rows and the corresponding pitches.
Putting my name to music, I get this musical phrase.
Try different scales on the alphabet like the major or minor pentatonic, or a blues scale. Or extend a scale to the 13th. Each of these different scales shift the pitch-letter relationship.
My name, Mary Ellen Grace, sounds quite different depending upon which translator I use. Here are three different translators and the corresponding musical phrases generated by each. Be sure and listen to each clip.
- Using a complete one octave scale
one octave name
- Using a scale only up to the 7th
Name using scale up to 7th
- Using a major pentatonic scale
Pentatonic scale music
They all sound so different, don’t they? Which one is your favorite? Add your comment below.
Play your name, your dog’s name, a short quote, or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, the Gettysburg Address! Whatever you do, remember to have fun!
I’d love to hear about your adventures with these two games; Math Motifs and AlphaMusic. Please add your comments below. I’m looking forward to hearing your compositions and the different instruments you play them on. My audio clips are of a piano playing the music. However, I played all my melodies on my alto sax.