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Sections from Dr. Jonathan Miller’s Partial Translation of

The Practical Truth-Engine Book of Musical Composition


Music book title

This book is a step-by-step guide to the composition of music for a “single-note-each” e-ensemble.


[This is a guide to composing for e-instruments, the notes of whose keyboards are labeled using letters of the Atlanian alphabet (letters which I’ve translated here to a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l) across each octave. For purposes of explanation, I’ve arbitrarily correlated the Atlanian middle d with our middle C.I have translated only parts of this work—enough to demonstrate the Atlanian system of step-by-step instruction. Because the translation is only partial, it contains references without referents—J. Miller.]

Definitions


A key is one of ninety levers in a keyboard. You press a key to play a note.


A tonality [antek] is a set of letter-named notes that sound good together. Example: d bright (= the tonality of C major). [Although another word, in English, for “tonality” is “key,” I’ll use “key” to refer to the levers you press on a keyboard instrument.]


A tonality’s root note [ettes aan] is the note that sounds final when other notes of the tonality have been played.

Options


If you wish to begin by composing a short melody on the keyboard—that is, without first deliberately selecting a tonality or a pulse pattern (see N1)—go to Step (1).


If you wish to select a tonality (such as the tonality of a-bright; or the tonality of d-dark; etc.) before you start to compose your melody, go to Step (12).


If you wish to select both a tonality and a pulse pattern before starting to compose your melody, go to Step (31).


(1) OPTION 1—starting with a melody: Begin composing by creating a very short melody on the keyboard.


(2) So that you don’t forget your melody, on a piece of paper, write out your melody, using horizontal spacing to roughly approximate the notes’ lengths. Add “[a]” to the left of the line to show that the line represents middle a.


For instance what you write on your piece of paper could look like this:

music composition step

(3) On a second piece of paper, write out your melody’s rhythmic notation in a precise way, and make marks where the notes are sounded—use N1. Let us suppose that this notation ends up looking like this:

music composition step

(4) Use a clean sheet of paper for your score. On this sheet, starting at top left, combine what you wrote in Step (2) and what you wrote in Step (3). Use a curved line to show how long each note is sounded. In this example we get:

music composition step

(5) Using N2, indicate the tempo of your melody by choosing a tempo expression for your piece, and write it above and to the left—for example:

music composition step

(6) Using N5, determine the tonality of your melody. Write its name in the lower left:

music composition step

(7) Set up the wheel to represent your melody’s prevailing tonality this way:


(a) If you found in Step (6) that the tonality is in the bright [alash] mode [the major mode], then on the music wheel, align 1 with Bt (“bright”); on the other hand, if you found in Step (6) that the tonality is in the dark [tuur] mode [the minor mode], then, on the music wheel, align 1 with Dk (“dark”).


(b) Then, keeping fixed the wheel alignment you just made, align 1 with the letter-note name of your melody’s tonality. In the example, the tonality, d bright [C major], is represented on the wheel by this alignment: d/Bt/1.


(c) Note that, on the wheel, 1 will always be aligned with either Bt or with Dk, while Bt and Dk can be aligned with any letter-note name.


[I include here a photo of a wheel I made, using Roman letters and modern numerals—J. Miller]

music wheel

(8) Write the notation for the wheel-alignment you have set, in the example “d/Bt/1” under the prevailing key name, so you can quickly realign the wheel if it becomes unaligned. In the example, the score looks like this:

music composition step

(9) Using the wheel as a guide, play the notes of the prevailing tonality (in the example, d-bright). That is, play the letter-named notes that are aligned with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Get used to playing within the prevailing tonality. In this example, you would get used to playing the notes of the d-bright [C major] scale—that is, the letter-named notes that are aligned with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 on the wheel. In the example these letter-named notes are d, f, h, i, k, a, and c [in our modern system: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B].

(10) Using N7, b, choose—at least provisionally—a model of a Small Form for your piece. Eventually you can choose a Large Form (N7, c) and perhaps an Extended Form (N7, d).


(11) Go to Step (47).


(12) OPTION 2—selecting a tonality before starting to compose your melody: On a piece of paper, draw a horizontal line, leaving a lot of space above it. Then choose and notate a prevailing tonality in the following way. First choose a prevailing mode:


[I have not translated steps (13) through (46). Because of the omissions, the reader may find that steps 47-52 make little sense—but I hope he or she will be able to get a vague impression of their meaning—J. Miller]


(47) Keep creating your melody at the keyboard. Either stay fundamentally within the prevailing tonality—stay with the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 notes of the prevailing tonality (which the outer three rings of your wheel should be set up to represent)—or modulate in a deliberate way to a new prevailing tonality (see 56 below).


(48) Number your measures (defined by the pulse pattern—the measure starts with the “1” (one) and ends with, but does not include, the next “1”) as you compose your piece. Put the measure number near the end of the measure.


(49) Keeping the Form Model (N7) that you chose above in front of you always, keep constant track of where you are in your melody-creation process by comparing the number of the measure you’re working on with the measure numbers in the model.


For instance, let us say that you are trying to come up with a figure (a small passage of perhaps two, three, or four notes) that is to fall within measure marks “9” and “10” on your score—i.e., you are working on measure number 10.


music composition step

(50) At this point the first things to look at are the symbols at the bottom of the model: HC, PCw, etc. (consult N7,a for the meanings of these). These show whether this or that kind of cadence ought to end this or that measure. If the model you chose calls for a cadence here, write on your score the notes of the required chord (see N4,A—your wheel already should be set for the prevailing tonality). When there are options for different cadences in the model, try one of them, keeping in mind that it can be changed.


(51) Then look at the letter symbols just below the circles on the model (a, a’, b, c, etc.). These show whether this or that set of measures is to be a repeat (or quite like, or unlike) some previous set of measures. The melody you create at this point should conform to this configuration. (If you feel you simply want to create a melody that is not in conformance to this model, choose another model. Note that, as you become more proficient, you can break the rules).


For instance, if you are working on composing the tenth measure, and you have chosen (N7) Form III, type a, your tenth measure will be unlike your second. But if you have chosen Form III, your tenth measure will be similar (but not identical) to your second.


(52) Especially in cases in which you are composing new material—i.e., when the measure you are about to create is not a mere repetition of something that has gone before—it may be wise to do the following (in accordance with the theory of moderationalism):


Looking at the Primary Form Model that you have chosen (and keeping in mind where the measure you are working on is located in the model), find the correlate—if there is one—(N6,4a) and the analogs (N6,4c-d) of the measure you are working on.


For instance, suppose you are trying to come up with something for the fourteenth measure, and you have chosen (N7) Form II, type a: the correlate of the fourteenth measure is the thirteenth measure, and the analogs of the fourteenth measure are the tenth and the sixth. Keep in mind the correlate and analogs of the measure you are working on.


Now, as you compose your measure, (keeping in mind the various kinds of relations involved here—see N6,9-12) keep asking yourself (in accord with the speculative theory of moderationalism, see N6,14-18), “Is what I am writing either too similar or too dissimilar to—that is, is it moderational [kashtartek] to—the correlate and analogs (considered as an aggregate) of the measure I’m working on?” If your measure is too similar, try to increase the amount of dissimilarity between the measure and its correlate and analogs; if your measure is too dissimilar, try to increase the amount of similarity between the measure and analogs (see N6,18).

. . .


N6—MEREOLOGY, RELATIONS, AESTHETICS—MUSICAL MEREOLOGY


The Study of Parts and Wholes in Music


1. Conceptual Groups


Any two or more notes, however widely separated, can be thought of as constituting a group; for instance I can arbitrarily “think” these encircled notes as a group:

music composition step

There is potentially an enormous number of such conceptual groups (every two—even widely separated—notes, every three notes, etc.).


2. Perceptual Groups


In any musical passage, we can find features that tend to create perceptual groups. Unlike conceptual groups, perceptual groups can actually be said to be in a piece of music.


The following are perceptual-group-making features of a musical passage.


a. Dissimilarity of Similarities (schematically):


music composition step

Example:


music composition step

b. Similarity of Dissimilarities (schematically):


music composition step

Example:

music composition step

c. Cadences, such as IV-V or V-I, can segment long sections into groups.


Example:


music composition step

3. Pair-Wise Creation of Perceptual Groups


The composer should try to create groups (and groups of groups, etc.) in pairs, both members of a pair being, in general, of equal length (the same number of measures, generally speaking). Thus the first figure will be followed by a second, of similar length, with the two forming a group; this group is followed by a correlative group that also contains two figures, etc.


4. Correlates, Analogs, and Shells


a. Definition of Correlate:


Each member of a pair of groups is the correlate of the other member of that pair.


Examples:


music composition step


b. Definition of Shell:


The encircling lines that here represent groups will be called “shells.” They are named in terms of what they encircle in the following way:

music composition step

c. Definition of Analog:


Suppose that note or group, g1, occupies a certain position within group G1. And suppose that groups G1 and G2 are correlative groups (members of a perceptual pair). Then the note or group g2 that occupies the same position in G2 as g1 occupies in G1 is an analog of g1.

music composition step

music composition step

d. How to Find the Analogs of a Fragment, f:

i. Find the correlate of f’s first shell; f’s analog within that correlate is f’s first analog.

ii. Find the correlate of f’s second shell; f’s analog within that correlate is f’s second analog.

iii. Find the correlate of f’s third shell; f’s analog within that correlate is f’s third analog.

iv. Etc.

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