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A Computer Model for the

Schillinger System of Musical


Matthew Rankin

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of

Bachelor of Science (Honours) at
The Department of Computer Science
Australian National University

August 2012

c Matthew Rankin
Except where otherwise indicated, this thesis is my own original work.

Matthew Rankin
28 August 2012

The author wishes to sincerely thank Dr. Henry Gardner for his extremely valuable
assistance, insight and encouragement; Dr. Ben Swift also for his continuous encour-
agement and academic mentorship; Jim Cotter for igniting what was a smouldering
interest in algorithmic composition and more recently providing participants for the
listening experiment; and Mia for her unyielding, belligerent optimism.


A system for the automated composition of music utilising the procedures of Joseph
Schillinger has been constructed. Schillinger was a well-known music theorist and
composition teacher in New York between the first and second World Wars who de-
veloped a formalism later published as The Schillinger System of Musical Composition
[Schillinger 1978]. In the past the theories contained in these volumes have generally
not been treated in a sufficiently rigorous fashion to enable the automatic genera-
tion of music, partly because they contain mathematical errors, notational inconsis-
tencies and elements of ‘pseudo-science’ [Backus 1960]. This thesis presents ways of
resolving these issues and a computer system which can generate compositions using
Schillinger’s formalism. By means of the analysis of data gathered from a rigorous
listening survey and the results from an automatic genre classifier, the output of the
system has been validated as possessing intrinsic musical merit and containing a rea-
sonable degree of stylistic diversity within the broad categories of Jazz and Western
Classical music. These results are encouraging, and warrant further development of
the software into a flexible tool for composers and content creators.


Acknowledgements v

Abstract vii

1 Background 1
1.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1.2 Introduction to the Schillinger System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
1.2.1 Schillinger in Computer-aided Composition Literature . . . . . . 3
1.2.2 Motivation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
1.2.3 Criticism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1.3 Summary of this Thesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

2 Overview of Computer-aided Composition 7

2.1 Dominant Paradigms in Computer-aided Composition . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.1.1 Style Imitation versus Genuine Composition . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
2.1.2 Push-button versus Interactive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
2.1.3 Data-driven versus Knowledge-engineered . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
2.1.4 Musical Domain Knowledge versus Emergent Behaviour . . . . . 12
2.2 Formal Computational Approaches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.2.1 Markov Models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
2.2.2 Artificial Neural Networks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.2.3 Generative Grammars and Finite State Automata . . . . . . . . . 16
2.2.4 Case-based Reasoning and Fuzzy Logic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
2.2.5 Evolutionary Algorithms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
2.2.6 Chaos and Fractals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
2.2.7 Cellular Automata . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
2.2.8 Swarm Algorithms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
2.3 The Automated Schillinger System in Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

3 Implementation of the Schillinger System 29

3.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
3.1.1 A Brief Refresher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
3.1.2 The Impromptu Environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
3.2 Theory of Rhythm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.2.1 Rhythms from Interference Patterns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
3.2.2 Synchronisation of Multiple Patterns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
3.2.3 Extending Rhythmic Material Using Permutations . . . . . . . . . 34

x Contents

3.2.4 Rhythms from Algebraic Expansion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

3.3 Theory of Pitch Scales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
3.3.1 Flat and Symmetric Scales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
3.3.2 Tonal Expansions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
3.3.3 Nearest-Tone voice-leading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
3.3.4 Deriving Simple Harmonic Progressions From Symmetric Scales 40
3.4 Variations of Music by Means of Geometrical Progression . . . . . . . . . 41
3.4.1 Geometric Inversion and Expansion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
3.4.2 Splicing Harmonies Using Inversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
3.5 Theory of Melody . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
3.5.1 The Axes of Melody . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
3.5.2 Superimposition of Rhythm and Pitch on Axes . . . . . . . . . . . 46
3.5.3 Types of Motion Around the Axes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
3.5.4 Building Melodic Compositions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
3.6 Structure of the Automated Schillinger System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
3.6.1 Rhythm Generators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
3.6.2 Harmonic and Melodic Modules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
3.6.3 Parameter Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
3.7 Parts of Schillinger’s Theories Not Utilised . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
3.8 Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

4 Results and Evaluation 67

4.1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
4.2 Common Methods of Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
4.3 Automated Schillinger System Output . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
4.4 Assessing Stylistic Diversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
4.4.1 Overview of Automated Genre Classification . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
4.4.2 Choice of Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
4.4.3 Classification Experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
4.4.4 Preparation of MIDI files . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
4.4.5 Classifier Configuration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
4.4.6 Classification Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
4.5 Assessing Musical Merit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
4.5.1 Listening Survey Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
4.5.2 Listening Experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
4.5.3 Quantitative Analysis and Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
4.5.4 Qualitative Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 Analysis and Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Genre and Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
4.6 Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92
Contents xi

5 Conclusion 95
5.1 Summary of Contribution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
5.2 Avenues for Future Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97

A Samples of Output 99
A.1 Harmony #1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
A.2 Harmony #2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
A.3 Harmony #3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
A.4 Melody #1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
A.5 Melody #2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
A.6 Melody #3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101

B Listening Survey 103

C Function List 113

C.1 Rhythmic Resultants — Book I: Ch. 2, 4, 5, 6, 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
C.2 Rhythmic Variations — Book I: Ch. 9, 10, 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
C.3 Rhythmic Grouping and Synchronisation — Book I: Ch. 3, 8 . . . . . . . 114
C.4 Rhythmic Generators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
C.5 Scale Generation — Book II: Ch. 2, 5, 7, 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
C.6 Scale Conversions — Book II: Ch. 5, 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
C.7 Harmony from Pitch Scales — Book II: Ch. 5, 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
C.8 Geometric Variations — Book III: Ch. 1, 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
C.9 Melodic Functions — Book IV: Ch. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

Bibliography 117
xii Contents
Chapter 1


1.1 Introduction

Almost since the inception of the discipline of computing, people have been using
computers to compose and generate music. This is perhaps unsurprising given the
importance of algorithmic principles in much compositional thinking throughout mu-
sical history. The use of computers for music has mostly been driven by the desires of
composers to generate interesting and unique new material.
Recognising the distinction between the composition of musical scores and other
forms of music and sound generation, [Anders and Miranda 2011] have proposed the
use of the term ‘computer-aided composition’ to refer to one area of what is more
broadly known as ‘computer music’, a discipline which also encompasses the arts of
sound synthesis and signal processing [Roads 1996]. This thesis is concerned with
computer-aided composition: in particular, the computer-realisation of the musical
formalism of Joseph Schillinger [Schillinger 1978]. Some authors prefer the term ‘al-
gorithmic composition’ to refer to computer-aided composition [Nierhaus 2009]. In
this thesis the two terms will be used interchangeably.
Joseph Schillinger was a Ukrainian-born composer, teacher and music theorist
who was active in New York from the 1920s until his death in 1943. Schillinger’s
lasting influence as a theorist and teacher exerted itself through famous students such
as George Gershwin, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller; and several distinguished
television and radio composers [Quist 2002]. The distillation of his life’s work is con-
tained in three large volumes. Two of these constitute The Schillinger System of Musical
Composition [Schillinger 1978]. The third volume, The Mathematical Basis of the Arts
[Schillinger 1976] was intended to be broader in scope and generalise much of his
prior work in music to visual art and design. The Schillinger System attempted to
differentiate itself from other accepted musical treatises by pursuing a more ‘scien-
tific’ approach to composition. It consequently eschewed restrictive systems of rules
created from the empirical analysis of Classical styles, as well as the notion of compo-
sition by ‘intuition’. Instead it promoted a range of quasi-mathematical methods for
the construction of musical material. The system was intended to be of practical use
by working composers — George Gershwin famously wrote the opera Porgy and Bess
while studying under Schillinger [Duke 1947].

2 Background

Schillinger’s work has frequently been mentioned in passing by researchers work-

ing in the field of computer-aided composition, but rarely addressed in any detail.
There are several examples of similar individual algorithms that have been incor-
porated into computer-aided composition systems, but most of these systems focus
on specific computational paradigms which are unrelated to the rest of Schillinger’s
work. To the best of the author’s knowledge, only one other system dedicated specifi-
cally to the automation of Schillinger’s procedures exists in the form of publicly avail-
able software, and no such system has been referred to in the academic literature. This
thesis will therefore provide the first formal presentation and evaluation of an ‘auto-
mated Schillinger System’. From here onwards, this term will be used to refer to the
computer implementation being presented, while the term ‘Schillinger System’ will
be used as a short form of The Schillinger System of Musical Composition.

1.2 Introduction to the Schillinger System

The two volumes of the Schillinger System [Schillinger 1978] consist of twelve books
presented as individual ‘theories’. Each of these theories is an exposition of
Schillinger’s musical philosophy combined with his technical discussions pertaining
to general principles and explicit procedures. They include numerous examples of
the procedures being carried out by hand, and lengthy annotations by the editors
who published the work after Schillinger’s death.
The collection of theories is listed below. The work in its entirety is a formidable
1640 pages. Consequently, the scope of this thesis has only allowed for the first four
theories to be considered in detail.

I Theory of Rhythm

II Theory of Pitch-scales

III Variations of Music by Means of Geometrical Projection

IV Theory of Melody

V Special Theory of Harmony

VI Correlation of Harmony and Melody

VII Theory of Counterpoint

VIII Instrumental Forms

IX General Theory of Harmony

X Evolution of Pitch Families

XI Theory of Composition

XII Theory of Orchestration

§1.2 Introduction to the Schillinger System 3

An existing software program known as StrataSynch by David Mc Clanahan1 is the

only other known automated system to make explicit use of Schillinger’s theories. It
implements the generation of four-part diatonic harmony using books V and VIII, and
a single chapter from book I. The system described in this thesis extends beyond the
scope of that system to a more versatile form of harmony generation utilising books I,
II and III; and to the generation of single-voice melodic compositions utilising books

1.2.1 Schillinger in Computer-aided Composition Literature

In an extended commentary on computer music from 1956–1986, Ames acknowl-
edged the algorithmic nature of Schillinger’s work without pointing the reader to
any known computer implementation, and noted that it had become ‘all but forgot-
ten’ [Ames 1987]. Schillinger’s work was discussed in greater detail by Degazio, who
again pointed out how much of it was presumably amenable to computer implemen-
tation, and highlighted how particular properties of the Theory of Rhythm would en-
able self-similar musical structures to be generated, thus relating it to the exploration
of fractals in computer music [Degazio 1988]. The ability of the system to generate
fractal structures was also identified by Miranda [Miranda 2001]. Miranda further
noted the interesting rhythmic possibilities of using algebraic expansions and sym-
metrical patterns of interference, both of which are also explored in the Theory of
Rhythm. More recently Nierhaus gave a cursory mention of Schillinger in the epilogue
of a survey of algorithmic composition, implicitly acknowledging that it is possible to
be adapted but also failing to cite any example of an implementation [Nierhaus 2009].
Although the discussion of a specific implementation is lacking, algorithms simi-
lar to those in Schillinger’s Theory of Melody were used with apparent success in early
work by Myhill (cited in [Ames 1987]) and later by Miranda as part of a musical data
structure used by agents in a swarm algorithm [Miranda 2003]. Furthermore, there
are numerous examples of algorithms which use permutation in a similar manner
to Schillinger’s Theory of Rhythm, and plenty of examples of systems which use in-
version and retrograde techniques in a manner similar to Schillinger’s ‘geometrical
projections’. There is no suggestion being made that these particular techniques orig-
inate from Schillinger’s system alone; indeed their use can be found throughout the
history of Western musical composition [Nierhaus 2009].

1.2.2 Motivation
If many of the procedures expounded by Schillinger are not unique (this is not to
suggest that none of them are), then the value of his treatise is that it collates them to-
gether, with each one presented in the context of the others and potentially useful in-
terrelationships drawn. One of the motivations for adapting the Schillinger system is
therefore the fact that it incorporates many algorithmic techniques which are demon-
strably useful in computer-aided composition on their own, but have not been ex-
4 Background

tensively tested together in the absence of other prevailing computational paradigms.

Another motivation is the fact that other oft-cited treatises on music theory in algorith-
mic composition contain rules which are derived from existing music, such as Piston’s
Harmony [Piston 1987]. Conversely, Schillinger’s work purports to have taken a more
universal approach that does not draw its rules from the analysis of any particular
musical corpus. For this reason it is ostensibly likely to be able to produce composi-
tions which do not fall into the category of ‘style imitation’, which Nierhaus identified
as being overwhelmingly dominant in the field [Nierhaus 2009]. Instead, it should al-
low for a measure of stylistic diversity. As will be discussed in chapters 3 and 4 of this
thesis, these notions are contentious and worthy of investigation.

1.2.3 Criticism

The very premise of Schillinger’s work is controversial by virtue of the fact that it
effectively condemns previous theories and methodologies as inadequate [Backus
1960]. As a result it has attracted rigorous scrutiny by various authors. A 1946 review
by Barbour [Barbour 1946] examined each of the ‘achievements’ of the Schillinger Sys-
tem listed in a preface by the editors, and concluded that none of them were substan-
tiated. Barbour also listed a number of errors and inconsistencies which highlighted
the work’s fundamental lack of a sound scientific or mathematical basis.
Schillinger’s work was derided extensively by Backus [Backus 1960]. Dubbing it
both ‘pseudo-science’ and ‘pseudo-mathematics’, he surveyed the first four volumes
in some detail, pointing out that many descriptions of procedures are unnecessar-
ily verbose and laced with undefined jargon; that the musical significance of them
is based on numerology rather than any appropriately cited research; that much of
the symbolic notation serves to obfuscate rather than clarify the expression of some-
times trivial mathematical ideas; and finally that several mathematical definitions are
simply incorrect. Backus thus raised many important issues concerning the formal
interpretation of Schillinger’s techniques which are tackled in chapter 3 of this thesis.
Neither Backus nor Barbour commented on whether Schillinger’s procedures were
of any use by contemporary composers for generating musical material. In light of
their resounding criticism, it is significant that other authors have considered many of
the theories to be demonstrably useful in practice, or cited testimony from successful
composers suggesting as much [Degazio 1988]. The composer Jeremy Arden pub-
lished a PhD thesis documenting the study and utilisation of the Schillinger System
from a compositional perspective [Arden 1996], concluding that the Theory of Rhythm
and Theory of Pitch Scales offered many useful techniques. Although he swiftly dis-
missed the Theory of Melody as ‘too cumbersome’ to be of practical use, similar prin-
ciples to those contained in that theory have been found useful in other contexts as
mentioned above in section 1.2.1. There is therefore no absolute consensus which
would wholly discourage computer implementations of the Schillinger System.
§1.3 Summary of this Thesis 5

1.3 Summary of this Thesis

In this thesis, the automated Schillinger System designed by the author will be pre-
sented and evaluated. To begin with, chapter 2 will survey both the dominant
paradigms and the specific computational approaches in the field of computer-aided
composition. This theoretical basis will serve to position the automated Schillinger
System within the academic literature.
The details of the software implementation of the four initial books of the
Schillinger System listed in section 1.2 will be presented in chapter 3. Alongside the
requisite technical discussion, chapter 3 will provide a comprehensive outline of the
bulk of the procedures contained in these books. Perhaps more importantly, it will
also identify the inherent difficulties in translating a formalism designed for com-
posers into a model able to be represented computationally, including the resolution
of Schillinger’s notational and practical inconsistencies and the necessity for a raft of
new procedures to sensibly link the theories together.
The evaluation of musical output is a perennial problem in this inter-disciplinary
field, and few authors tend to venture beyond subjective conclusions drawing on their
own musical backgrounds. However, one method of more rigorous evaluation con-
sists of the enlisting of a ‘team of experts’ to supply qualitative data for analysis. Such
an approach has been used to study the output of the system presented here. Addi-
tionally, the burgeoning field of automatic genre classification has been engaged as a
means of quantitatively assessing the statistical characteristics of the output. Together
these forms of analysis aim to establish both the intrinsic musical merit and stylistic
diversity of the automated Schillinger System. These experiments and their results
will be presented in chapter 4.
The recently released four-part harmony system by Mc Clanahan and the active
pursuit of new forms of representation for Schillinger’s ideas, embodied by the on-
line Schillinger CHI Project2 , suggest a resurgence of interest in automating parts of the
Schillinger System. The software presented in this thesis aims to contribute to this mo-
mentum, and is amenable to development beyond its current state as a ‘push-button’
music generator into a modular interface that could be used by composers and mul-
timedia content creators. Many potential avenues for future research are explored in
chapter 5.

6 Background
Chapter 2

Overview of Computer-aided

This chapter will give a broad overview of the field of computer-aided composition, in
order to place the automated Schillinger System in context, and to position this thesis
as an addition to the computer music literature.
As remarked upon by Supper [Supper 2001], the distinctions between compo-
sitional ideas, realisation in the musical score, and auditory perception are clearly
bounded in a computing context. As this thesis is focusing on computer-aided com-
position rather than attempting to encompass the entire field of computer music, this
overview does not include algorithms which take music generation beyond the level
of symbolic representation into digital audio. Instead, it is presumed that the symbolic
data generated by composition algorithms can be further mapped to musical notation,
MIDI data1 or audio data depending on the application.
[Supper 2001] made a further taxonomic observation which is relevant to this
chapter. He distinguished between:
1. the modelling of musically-oriented algorithmic procedures to produce encod-
ings of established music theories;

2. procedures individual to a ‘composer-programmer’ where the code produces a

unique class of pieces based upon the composer’s individual expertise; and

3. experiments with algorithms from extra-musical fields such as dynamic systems

or machine learning.
In fact, there are many instances where individual implementations bear relevance
to two or three of Supper’s categories, and his is only one of a number of possible tax-
onomies for describing computer-aided composition — section 2.1 lists a variety of
other significant distinctions within the algorithmic composition literature. However,
it is safe to observe that much recent academic research in computer-aided composi-
tion is based primarily on the application of pre-existing extra-musical algorithms to
music, thus falling into Supper’s third category. Section 2.2 describes this literature.
1 MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is the dominant protocol for handling sym-
bolic musical information in computer systems and hardware synthesizers.

8 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

Figure 2.1 provides a visualisation of the array of computational approaches used

in the field, as discussed in section 2.2. These are connected by dashed lines which rep-
resent their algorithmic or mathematical similarity, and roughly partitioned in terms
of their use within the various paradigms discussed in section 2.1.

Musical domain Non-musical

knowledge Data Streams
Not data-driven

Schillinger IGAs Chaos

Genetic Genetic
Algorithms Programming

"Expert Systems" Generative
Sometimes data-driven

Constraint Cellular
Programming Automata

Logic ATNs

Case-based Artificial
Reasoning Neural Nets

Figure 2.1: Approaches to Computer-aided Composition

§2.1 Dominant Paradigms in Computer-aided Composition 9

As this chapter will be limited to the discussion of systems designed with the ul-
timate goal of composing music, other research areas such as computer auralisation,
computational creativity and automated musicological analysis, despite being closely
related to the success of particular algorithmic composition approaches, will not be
explored per se. Discussions of computer style recognition, expressive musical per-
formance and output evaluation are relevant to the experiments presented in chapter
4 and will be included there in the appropriate places.

2.1 Dominant Paradigms in Computer-aided Composition

Before commencing a description of the common algorithm families used in this field,
it will be useful to outline several overarching (and often competing) paradigms.
These are partly representative of differing philosophical approaches to automatic
music generation, and partly to do with historical shifts in emphasis on computational
approaches, which are in turn the result of past developments in artificial intelligence
and the modelling of natural phenomena.

2.1.1 Style Imitation versus Genuine Composition

The reproduction of specific musical styles (‘style imitation’) constitutes the major-
ity of algorithmic composition literature. Its dominance was testified to by Nierhaus
in the epilogue of his comprehensive survey of algorithmic composition [Nierhaus
2009]. The styles in question are either those of particular individual composers, or
those exemplified by the music of a particular culture or historical period. Style imi-
tation is not limited to any particular group of computer algorithms, but is frequently
the paradigm used by most of the the approaches in figure 2.1 that encode musical
domain knowledge.
The reason for the dominance of style imitation is somewhat evident when one
considers the large quantity of work dedicated specifically to four-voice chorale har-
monisation [Pachet and Roy 2001]. This form of composition is perhaps the most
thoroughly studied in the musicological literature due to the enormous quantity of
‘exemplar’ works courtesy of European Baroque and Classical composers. Conse-
quently, a well-established set of rules of varying levels of strictness has been empiri-
cally derived from this corpus over the course of several centuries, and this theoretical
framework lends itself to being expressed as an optimisation problem in the context
of ‘correct’ four-part harmony writing. Since optimisation problems sit comfortably
within the realm of computer science, this style of composition is the most readily
approachable by computer scientists. It has been pointed out by Allan that chorale
harmonisation is “the closest thing we have to a precisely defined problem” [Allan
2002]. Any music generated within formal, recognisable stylistic boundaries is able to
be evaluated either objectively or with a degree of authority by human listeners.
Conversely, the concept of ‘genuine composition’ [Nierhaus 2009] is problematic
in computer music for the reason that genuinely new and different results are virtu-
ally impossible to validate using quantitative methods, and very much at the mercy
10 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

of individual musical taste when it comes to human scrutiny. Nevertheless, while aca-
demic work in this area is traditionally less common it is still pursued in earnest, espe-
cially by researchers utilising chaos theory or algorithms with emergent behaviours.

2.1.2 Push-button versus Interactive

An algorithmic composition system which delivers a self-contained musical fragment,

complete composition or an endless stream of musical material with real-time play-
back requiring no human intervention after the setting of initial parameters may be
referred to as a ‘push-button’ or ‘black-box’ system. Examples of well-documented
push-button systems range from Hiller and Isaacson’s early experiments forming
the Illiac Suite [Hiller and Isaacson 1959] to Cope’s Experiments in Musical Intelligence
[Cope 2005]. Most four-part harmonisation systems also fall into this category.
Systems which generate music using continual human feedback are perhaps more
frequently cited as being successful. This paradigm has been referred to in terms of a
human-computer ‘feedback loop’ [Harley 1995] and features in a variety of composi-
tion algorithms which are designed to either incorporate real-time human behaviour
into their generative process or perform a gradual optimisation tailored to a user’s
musical preference. Examples include interactive genetic algorithms using ‘human
fitness functions’ [Biles and Eign 1995]; systems which allow a user to generate raw
material and then modify a set of parameters to develop it further [Zicarelli 1987];
systems which allow the user to influence the generation of material from a more
abstracted perspective [Beyls 1990]; systems which learn iteratively by ‘listening’ to a
user’s live performance [Thom 2000]; and systems which map a user’s physical move-
ment [Gartland-Jones 2002] or brain-wave activity [Miranda 2001] to a subset of the
algorithm’s parameter space in real-time. Many authors have argued that these ar-
eas of research hold greater promise than push-button systems, based on the notion
that the acts of composition (and improvisation) are fundamentally human activities
dependent on human interaction.
There also exists a body of software which functions as a kind of ‘blank slate’
for composers. These programs are usually modular in the sense that individual
pre-existing algorithms can be interfaced arbitrarily, and there is often the scope for
‘composer-programmers’ to extend their functionality. Examples range from the early
MUSICOMP by Robert Baker [Hiller and Baker 1964] to the more advanced Max by
David Zicarelli [Zicarelli 2002]. Such environments are interactive by their very defi-
nition, however once the template for a composition is completed by the composer, in
many cases they arguably function as push-button systems. More recently, the advent
of ‘live coding’ has been made possible by environments like Impromptu [Sorensen
and Gardner 2010]. These environments are specifically designed to facilitate the cod-
ing of musical procedures during performance or improvisation.
§2.1 Dominant Paradigms in Computer-aided Composition 11

2.1.3 Data-driven versus Knowledge-engineered

In computer-aided composition a ‘data-driven’ solution relies on a database of exist-

ing musical works on which to perform pattern extraction, statistical machine learn-
ing or case-based reasoning to derive musical knowledge. By contrast, a ‘knowledge-
engineered’ system requires the coding of musical knowledge in the form of proce-
dures or the manual population of a knowledge base. In figure 2.1, these alternative
paradigms have been used to categorise various computational approaches on the left
of the diagram.

An expert system combines a knowledge base of facts or predicates, ‘if-then-else’

rules and heuristics, with some kind of inference engine to perform logical problem
solving in a particular problem domain [Coats 1988; Connell and Powell 1990]. Such
a system requires the acquisition of knowledge either automatically or through a hu-
man ‘domain expert’ [Mingers 1986]. The front end may be interactive (the user inputs
queries or data) or non-interactive (fully automated). There is generally also the pre-
requisite that an expert system is capable of both objectively judging its output using
the same knowledge base, and tracing the decision path that led to the output for the
user to analyse [Coats 1988].

The inherent flaws of expert systems are well-known. One problem is that as a sys-
tem’s parameter space becomes more ambitious, the knowledge base of rules tends to
expand exponentially. In algorithmic composition this has lead to optimisation prob-
lems in four-part harmonisation which become computationally intractable above a
certain polyphonic density or beyond a certain length, as found by Ebcioǧlu [Ebcioǧlu
1988]. Beyls also cited the ‘complexity barrier’ inherent in musical expert systems, and
further noted the lack of graceful degradation in situations with incomplete or absent
knowledge [Beyls 1991]. Phon-Amnuaisuk mentioned the common problem of ar-
bitrating between contradictory voice-leading rules [Phon-Amnuaisuk 2004]. One of
Mingers’ main criticisms of expert systems in general was that a rule base must always
be incomplete when built from only a sample of all possible data [Mingers 1986].

In knowledge-engineered musical expert systems, the most significant obstacle is

the time-consuming encoding of a sufficient quantity of expert knowledge to allow
the system to compose anything non-trivial. For style imitation, a further problem is
that many rules inherent to a particular style may not be obvious even to experts, or
may not be possible to adequately express in the required format. Sabater et al. ar-
ticulated an underlying issue of rule-based style imitation: “the rules dont make the
music, it is the music which makes the rules” [Sabater et al. 1998]. For these reasons,
the data-driven approach has become favoured by many researchers. Some of these
authors have advocated for alternative ‘connectionist’ approaches to uncover the im-
plicit knowledge of a musical corpus rather than attempt to find explicit rules — their
solutions typically perform supervised learning of the corpus using artificial neural
12 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

2.1.4 Musical Domain Knowledge versus Emergent Behaviour

In figure 2.1 the two paradigms of musical domain knowledge and emergent be-
haviour have been split vertically. The application of musical domain knowledge in
computer-aided composition generally leads to a set of either implicit or explicit mu-
sical rules being enforced, something practically unavoidable except in cases where
completely random behaviour is sought for aesthetic reasons. The approach is often,
but not always, aligned with style imitation. Such examples found in the literature
are usually broadly referred as ‘musical expert systems’, but not all such approaches
necessarily fall into this category if the accepted meaning of the term ‘expert system’
in computer science literature is enforced [Mingers 1986].
Miranda has suggested that rule-based composition systems lack ‘expression’ due
to their inability to break rules, citing a famous quote by Frederico Richter: “In music,
rules are made to be broken. Good composers are those who manage to break them
well” [Miranda 2001]. This perceived fundamental flaw with the knowledge-based
approach has provided inspiration for many researchers to look instead to paradigms
which focus on dynamic or emergent behaviour, such as chaos, cellular automata
and agent interaction in virtual swarms. Evolutionary algorithms have also been ex-
plored extensively, because although they are usually designed to operate in a musical
knowledge domain, they do so in a fundamentally stochastic manner rather than by
applying generative rules [Biles 2007].
The dichotomy between knowledge-based music and ‘emergent’ music was iden-
tified by Blackwell and Bentley, who separated the algorithmic composition field into
’A-type’ and ’I-type’ systems [Blackwell and Bentley 2002]. These labels respectively
refer to systems that rely on encoded musical knowledge, and those that map the
data streams from swarms, dynamic systems, chaotic attractors, natural phenom-
ena or human activity to musical output. Beyls posited an equivalent delineation
of ‘symbolic’ versus ‘sub-symbolic’ algorithms [Beyls 1991]. The emergent or sub-
symbolic paradigm seeks to “interpret rather than generate” [Blackwell and Bentley
2002], and is therefore usually associated with Nierhaus’s notion of genuine compo-
sition [Nierhaus 2009]. However, a caveat which authors choosing this path have en-
countered was pointed out by Miranda: the biggest difficulty when using non-musical
processes for algorithmic composition is deciding how to translate the data stream
into a representation which is musically meaningful [Miranda 2001].

2.2 Formal Computational Approaches

This section will explain the specific algorithmic approaches that have been applied
to computer-aided composition. It will be seen that many of these approaches have
strong mathematical similarities (as shown in figure 2.1), and may produce statisti-
cally equivalent results depending on how they are implemented. As such, the organ-
isation of this section does not strictly separate the algorithms based purely on their
mathematical or purported musical properties. It does however indicate the range of
distinct approaches to be found in the algorithmic composition literature.
§2.2 Formal Computational Approaches 13

The topics covered are grouped roughly into those that compose music using a
statistical or probabilistic model of a style or corpus (Markov models and artificial
neural networks); those which are most frequently associated with the ‘expert system’
paradigm in terms of being driven by systems of generative rules and constraints
(formal grammars, finite state automata, case-based reasoning and fuzzy logic); and
those which map the data from an extra-musical process onto a musical parameter
space (chaos, fractals, cellular automata and swarm algorithms). For the most part
the first two categories may be thought of as encoding ‘implicit’ and ‘explicit’ musical
knowledge respectively. Evolutionary algorithms do not fall neatly into this particular
taxonomy because although they encode musical knowledge, they navigate the space
of musical possibilities stochastically.

2.2.1 Markov Models

Markov models were the earliest established extra-musical approach to computer-
aided composition to be widely adopted. In a survey of the first three decades of
algorithmic composition, Ames cited several examples of their use from the 1950s on-
wards by composers such as Lejarin Hiller and Iannis Xenakis [Ames 1987]. Cohen
described a number of early applications of the probabilistic replication of musical
styles, treating what are essentially Markov chains as a musical application of Infor-
mation Theory. Cohen’s notion of composition being regarded as simply “selecting
acceptable sequences from a random source” is a potential motivation for using the
technique for style imitation, suggesting that “the degree of selectivity of the works of
composers is . . . a parameter of their style” [Cohen 1962]. Their relative ease of imple-
mentation has perhaps also contributed to their popularity in computer music [Ames
A simple Markov model consists of a collection of states and a collection of tran-
sition probabilities for moving between states in discrete time steps [Ames 1989]. The
probabilities of states leading to one another may be represented by a ‘transition ma-
trix’. The state space is discrete, and in musical applications, finite. A Markov chain
is obtained by selecting an initial state and then generating a sequence of states using
the transition matrix.
How this model is utilised in algorithmic composition differs between implemen-
tations. States can be used, for example, to represent individual pitches, chords or
durations; or they may be used to represent individual Markov chains of length n,
which is equivalent to enforcing a dependency on events n time steps into the past.
A Markov model in which all transitions depend on the previous n transitions is an
nth -order Markov model; these are commonly used to instil a measure of context-
sensitivity and thus encode musical objects at the phrase or cadence level. States may
also represent entire vectors of potentially interdependent musical parameters, some-
thing utilised by Xenakis in the form of ‘screens’ [Xenakis 1992].
The transition matrix may be either constructed by hand, or derived empirically by
performing an automated analysis on a database of existing musical works. The latter
amounts to encoding each work as a sequence of states, and determining the transition
14 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

probabilities by the relative tallies of each transition (analogous to the experiments

carried out by A. A. Markov himself using Russian texts [Ames 1989]). These options
correspond with Cohen’s labels of ‘synthetic’ and ‘analytic-synthetic’ [Cohen 1962].
Both approaches are present in the literature, and the choice has depended principally
on whether the user is attempting to generate a particular aesthetic for an individual
composition [Ames 1989] or performing style imitation, where the purpose is for the
randomly generated output to inherit the generalised musical rules implicit in the
corpus [Cohen 1962].

Examples of the use of Markov chains for algorithmic composition are numerous.
Ames documented his use of the technique to develop works for monophonic solo
instruments [Ames 1989]. In his program, the transition matrix is hand-crafted, and
the entries define the probabilities of melodic intervals, note durations, articulations
and registers. Hiller and Isaacson’s Experiment 4 from the Illiac Suite operated in much
the same manner [Hiller and Isaacson 1959]. Cambouopoulos applied Markov chains
to the construction of 16th century motet melodies in the style of the composer Palest-
rina [Cambouropoulos 1994]. His approach also used hand-crafted transition matri-
ces for melodic intervals and note durations; these were developed through manual
statistical analysis of Palestrina’s melodies. Other authors have used a data-driven
approach: Biyikoglu ‘trained’ a Markov model using the statistical analysis of a cor-
pus of Bach’s chorales to generate four-part harmonisations [Biyikoglu 2003], while
Allan solved the same chorale harmonisation problem using Hidden Markov Mod-
els [Allan 2002]. Allan’s solution uses one Hidden Markov Model to generate chord
‘skeletons’ (the notes of the melody are treated as observations ‘emitted’ by hidden
harmonic states), and two more to fill in the chords and provide ornamentation. It
then uses constraint satisfaction procedures to prevent invalid chorales, and cross-
entropy measured against unseen examples from the chorale set as a quantitative val-
idation method.

The reported success of Markov models is varied. Allan concluded that coherent
harmonisation can indeed be achieved via statistical examination of a corpus [Allan
2002], while in Ames’ assessment this often leads to “a garbled sense of the original
style” [Ames 1989]. Biyikoglu suggested that Markov chains are not appropriate for
modelling hierarchical relationships, but are capable of providing smooth harmonic
changes [Biyikoglu 2003]. Cambouopoulos highlighted the potential for higher order
chains to simulate a measure of musical context [Cambouropoulos 1994], however
Baffioni et al. observed that chains of too high an order simply end up reproducing
entire sections of the original corpus, and instead proposed a hierarchical organisation
of separate Markov chains accounting for form, phrase and chord levels [Baffioni et al.
1981]. As Ames suggested, the fundamental problem with many of these models is
that they provide an aural realisation of the probability distributions within a data set
but cannot discern the methods behind its construction, and therefore serve as little
more than “partial descriptions of non-random behaviour” [Ames 1989].
§2.2 Formal Computational Approaches 15

2.2.2 Artificial Neural Networks

Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are often used to investigate the notion of musi-
cal style, and have been successfully used to perform style and genre classification
(see section 4.4.1). ANNs are well-suited to these tasks because they are particularly
good at finding generalised statistical representations of their input data [Russell and
Norvig 2003]. In algorithmic composition, they tend to be aimed squarely at style
imitation for this reason. The original motivations for pursuing this ‘connectionist’
approach as an alternative to expert systems were summarised by Todd, who champi-
oned ANNs as a way to gracefully handle complex hidden associations within a data
set, as well as numerous ‘exceptions’ to the established musical rules which would
normally inflate the knowledge-base of an expert system [Todd 1989]. Hörnel and
Menzel commented on neural networks’ abilities to circumvent the problem of rule
explosion inherent in building sophisticated expert systems for style imitation [Hörnel
and Menzel 1998].
ANNs are loosely modelled on the architecture of the brain [Russell and Norvig
2003]. Networks are built of simple computational units known as ‘perceptrons’,
which are analogous to the function of individual biological neurons. A perceptron
calculates a weighted aggregate of its inputs, subtracts a ‘threshold’ value and ‘fires’
by passing the result through a differentiable activation function such as a sigmoid
or hyper-tangent. The most common practical implementation of a neural network is
known as a ‘multi-layer perceptron’ (MLP). This normally consists of a layer of ‘hid-
den’ neurons connected to both a set of inputs representing the input dimensions of
the training set, and a set of output neurons which represent the output dimensions.
The basic function of a neural network is to learn associations between input vectors
and target output vectors by adjusting randomly initialised weights along network
connections. A popular method for doing this is ‘gradient descent back propagation’,
in which the input vectors are fed forward through the network and the mean-squared
error between the output and target vectors is gradually reduced (subject to a scalar
‘learning rate’) over some number of epochs using the derivative of the error func-
tion. In this way the weights come to form a statistical generalisation of the training
set through repeated exposure to input vectors. In musical applications, the outputs
are normally fed back into the inputs to form a ‘recurrent neural network’ (RNN),
and a technique such as back propagation through time (BPTT) can then be used to
model temporal relationships in the corpus [Mozer 1994]. Neurons which feed back
into themselves may also be used to implement short term neural ‘memory’. To com-
pose new music using an RNN, a trained network is simply seeded with a new input
vector and the outputs are recorded for some number of iterations.
Todd’s original system restricted the domain to monophonic melodies represented
using the dimensions of pitch and duration [Todd 1989]. He combined two differ-
ent network types — a three-layer RNN with individual neural feedback loops to
model temporal melodic behaviour at the note level, and a standard MLP which,
when trained, acted as a static mapping function from fixed input sequences to out-
put sequences [Todd 1989]. Mozer implemented an RNN that learned and composed
16 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

single-voice melodies with accompaniment, called CONCERT [Mozer 1994]. It im-

proved on Todd’s work in various ways, such as using a probabilistic interpretation
of the network outputs, and more sophisticated data structures for musical repre-
sentation. Mozer’s network inputs represented 49 pitches over four octaves. Hörnel
and Menzel described a neural network system called HARMONET with the ability
to harmonise chorale melodies, and a counterpart system MELONET for composing
melodies [Hörnel and Menzel 1998]. Both of their approaches used a combination of
ANNs for the ‘creative’ work and constraint-based evaluation for the ‘book-keeping’.
ANNs have also been used as fitness evaluators in evolutionary algorithms as one
way of alleviating both the inadequacy of objective musical fitness functions and the
‘fitness bottleneck’ caused by human intervention (see section 2.2.5). For instance,
Spector and Alpern used a three-layer MLP trained on the repertoire of jazz saxo-
phonist Charlie Parker which was used to classify members of a population as either
‘good’ or ‘bad’ [Spector and Alpern 1995].
The aesthetic products from ANNs are also reported as being mixed. Mozer’s
results when attempting to compose in the style of Bach were reported to be ‘rea-
sonable’, but his experiments on European folk-tunes were less successful [Mozer
1994]. Hörnel and Menzel’s compositions using HARMONET and MELONET, on
the other hand, were evaluated as ‘very competent’, and showed that ANNs could
be used to imitate characteristics strongly associated with a composer’s style [Hörnel
and Menzel 1998]. Todd avoided a judgement of merit regarding his ANN-composed
melodies, stating only that they were “more or less unpredictable and therefore mu-
sically interesting” [Todd 1989]. A common criticism of most ANN approaches is that
they essentially learn the statistical equivalent of a set of complex Markov transition
matrices, and are therefore only slightly more capable than Markov chains of mod-
elling higher order musical structure [Mozer 1994]. Phon-Amnuaisuk points out that
they learn only ‘unstructured knowledge’ [Phon-Amnuaisuk 2004]. Eck and Schmid-
huber have offered a potential remedy to this problem by using ‘long short term mem-
ory’ (LSTM) to allow for some association of temporally distant events manifesting as
medium-scale musical structure. Their method resulted in the ‘successful’ production
of improvisations over fixed Bebop chord sequences [Eck and Schmidhuber 2002].

2.2.3 Generative Grammars and Finite State Automata

Algorithmic composition systems incorporating generative grammars are what are
most commonly referred to as musical ‘expert systems’, because they presuppose
an encoding of explicit domain-specific rules, irrespective of whether those rules are
encoded by hand or extracted automatically from a corpus. The attraction of this
method is that it is capable of encoding the established musical knowledge of musi-
cological texts, and it also provides a way to generate coherent musical structure at
multiple hierarchical levels, while at the same time allowing for a large space of com-
plex sequences [Steedman 1984]. Many of the the generative grammar systems are
informed by the work of Chomsky regarding linguistic syntax [Chomsky 1957], and
later work by Lerdahl and Jackendoff [Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983] which builds
§2.2 Formal Computational Approaches 17

upon the musicological analysis theories of Schenker [Schenker 1954]. The generative
grammar approach bears strong similarities to the implementation of finite state au-
tomata (FSA), and both grammars and FSA have been shown to function identically
to Markov chains in certain circumstances [Roads and Wieneke 1979; Pachet and Roy
2001]. Material obtained by applying the production rules of a generative grammar
is most often filtered using a knowledge-base of constraints which define the legal
musical properties of the system [Anders and Miranda 2011].
A generative grammar can be described as consisting of an alphabet of non-
terminal tokens N, an alphabet of terminal tokens T, an initial root token Σ and a
set of production or rewrite rules P of the form A → B, where A and B are token
strings [Roads and Wieneke 1979]. A grammar G is represented formally by the tuple
G = ( N, T, Σ, P), and music is generated by establishing a set of musical tokens such
as pitches, rhythms or chord types, and designing a set of production rules that imple-
ment legal musical progressions. Chomsky’s taxonomy of type 0, 1, 2 and 3 grammars
(‘free’, ‘context-free’, ‘context-sensitive’ and ‘finite state’) [Chomsky 1957] is relevant
to music production. For instance, Roads and Weineke observed that grammar types
0 and 3 are inadequate for achieving structural coherence [Roads and Wieneke 1979].
Rader utilised stochastic grammars in an early implementation of a Classical style
imitator [Rader 1974]. The system he devised was a ‘round’ generator, wherein each
incarnation of the melody is constrained to consonantly harmonise with itself at regu-
lar temporal displacements. It used an extensive set of production rules with assigned
probabilities, and a set of constraints. Domain knowledge was derived from tradi-
tional harmonic theory, in this case Walter Piston’s treatise Harmony [Piston 1987].
Holtzman described a system in which the production rules of multiple grammar
types were implemented along with ‘meta-production’ rules [Holtzman 1981], thus
constituting the knowledge and meta-knowledge of an expert system [Mingers 1986].
These were accompanied by common transformational operations such as inversion,
retrograde and transposition, and used to reproduce a work by the composer Arnold
Schoenberg [Holtzman 1981]. Steedman modelled jazz 12-bar blues chord sequences
with context-free grammars [Steedman 1984], using an approach informed directly
by the musicological work of Lerdahl and Jackendoff [Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983].
Ebcioǧlu produced what was, according to Pachet and Roy [Pachet and Roy 2001], the
first real solution to the four-part chorale harmonisation problem [Ebcioǧlu 1988]. His
system implemented an exhaustive optimisation process using multiple automata and
sets of constraints based on traditional harmonic rules for generating chord skeletons,
pitches and rhythms from an initial melody. Storino et al. used a manually encoded
generative grammar to compose pieces in the style of the Italian composer Legrenzi
[Storino et al. 2007]. Both Zimmerman [Zimmermann 2001] and Hedelin [Hedelin
2008] have used grammars to generate large compositional structures which are then
filled with chord skeletons using Riemann chord notation [Mickselsen 1977], before
finally being fleshed out with note-level information — the aim being to bring form
and construction closer to one another instead of relying on a single set of production
rules to generate ‘incidental’ musical structure [Hedelin 2008].
Cope’s system Experiments in Musical Intelligence (EMI) uses a type of FSA called
18 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

an augmented transition network (ATN), which is combined with a ‘reflexive pattern

matcher’ to form a data-driven expert system [Cope 1992]. The analysis of a manually
encoded and annotated corpus of works is performed using a method purportedly in-
formed by the work of Schenker [da Silva 2003]. This method is referred to by Cope as
SPEAC, which is an acronym for the possible chord classifications ‘statement’, ‘prepa-
ration’, ‘extension’, ‘antecedent’ and ‘consequent’ depending on a chord’s makeup
and context. A ‘signature dictionary’ of statistically significant recurring musical frag-
ments of between 1 and 8 intervals is built using the pattern matcher [da Silva 2003].
To produce new works, the ATN implements a set of production rules designed to
stochastically generate a new SPEAC sequence, and constraint systems are applied to
determine the final pitch, duration and note velocity information. EMI has been used
to compose thousands of works which closely mimic the styles of famous composers
including Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Bartok, and Cope himself. More recently, an ‘oeu-
vre’ of around one-thousand selected works in a wide range of styles produced by the
system has been established as a style database itself, which Cope has used to interac-
tively feed back into an updated system based on the same ‘recombination’ principles
known as Emily Howell [Cope 2005]. Cope associates the notion of a prolonged style
imitation feedback loop with his proposed definition of creativity, arguing that such
a process is difficult to formally distinguish from the human creative process [Cope
In general, systems incorporating some form of generative grammar imbued with
explicit musical knowledge have been found to give more convincing musical results
for style imitation than the statistically oriented approaches of Markov chains and
ANNs. Pachet and Roy concluded that the chorale harmonisation problem had es-
sentially been ‘solved’ by expert systems [Pachet and Roy 2001]. The compositions
produced by Cope’s programs have achieved notoriety for their quality [da Silva
2003]. Storino et al. found that grammar-based systems were frequently capable of
successfully fooling audiences of musicians into believing that computer-composed
works were in fact human-composed [Storino et al. 2007]. However, many of these
approaches still suffer from problems common to expert systems generally, including
the encoding of large enough knowledge bases [Coats 1988] and the potential for in-
tractability due to combinatorial explosion [Pachet and Roy 2001]. Steedman noted
that simple grammars will always produce correct musical syntax, but have a natural
propensity to generate music with no semantic: the encoding of musical meaning is
an extremely difficult problem [Steedman 1984]. Miranda has claimed that the biggest
weakness of these systems, in the context of composing genuinely new music, is their
innate inability to break rules [Miranda 2001].

2.2.4 Case-based Reasoning and Fuzzy Logic

Case-based reasoning (CBR) and fuzzy logic also fall within the expert system
paradigm because they implement architectures that couple a knowledge-base with
an inference engine to generate musical sequences [Sabater et al. 1998]. CBR systems
rely on a database of previous valid musical ‘cases’ from which to infer new knowl-
§2.2 Formal Computational Approaches 19

edge, and are therefore inherently data-driven, even though they may further incor-
porate a set of immutable knowledge-engineered rules or constraints [Pereira et al.
1997]. A CBR system uses past experience to solve new problems by storing previous
observations in a ‘case base’ and adapting them for use in new solutions when similar
or identical problems are presented [Ribeiro et al. 2001].
Sabater et al. used case-based reasoning, supported by a set of musical rules, to
generate melody harmonisation [Sabater et al. 1998]. The rules represent ‘general’
knowledge derived from traditional harmonic theory, while the cases in the database
represent the ‘concrete’ knowledge of a musical corpus. Their system consists of a
CBR engine with a case base, and a rule module which only suggests a solution when
the CBR fails to find an example of a past solution for a particular scenario using a
‘naı̈ve’ search (in this case a note to be harmonised). Successful solutions to problems
are added to the case base for future use. The system conforms to the traditional no-
tion of an expert system which encodes domain knowledge, problem solving knowl-
edge and meta-level knowledge [Connell and Powell 1990].
Ribeiro et al. implemented an interactive program called MuzaCazUza which uses
a CBR system to generate melodic compositions [Ribeiro et al. 2001]. The case base
is populated with works by Bach. In this system, case retrieval is done by using a
metric based on Schoenberg’s ‘chart of regions’ [Schoenberg 1969] and an indexing
system to compare a present case with a stored case. The case with the closest match
is considered. After each retrieval phase, a musical transformation such as repeti-
tion, inversion, retrograde, transposition, or random mutation is applied by the user,
and an ‘adaptation’ phase simply drags non-diatonic notes into their closest diatonic
positions. The authors suggest continually feeding the results of a CBR system back
into the case base, thus creating a model not unlike the one proposed by Cope [Cope
2005]. Pereira et al. used a similar system to Ribeiro et al., this time with a case base
consisting of the works of the composer Seixas [Pereira et al. 1997]. Their CBR engine
is modelled on cognitive aspects of creativity — ‘preparation’; that is, the loading of
the problem and case base; ‘incubation’, which consists of CBR retrieval and rank-
ing based on similarity metric; ‘illumination’, which is the adaptation of the retrieved
case to the current composition; and ‘verification’, which in this case is the analysis
by human experts. During the incubation stage, the standard ‘musically meaningful’
transformations of inversion, retrograde and transposition are employed to expand
the system’s ability to generate new music.
According to Sabater et al. the combination of rule and case-based reasoning meth-
ods is especially useful in situations where it is both difficult to find a large enough
corpus, and inappropriate to work only with general rules [Sabater et al. 1998]. Pereira
et al. believe that CBR systems contain a lot more scope for producing music that is
different from the originals than musical grammars inferred from a corpus [Pereira
et al. 1997].
At least one musical expert system based on fuzzy logic has been described in
the literature. The system by Elsea [Elsea 1995] was implemented in Zicarelli’s Max
environment [Zicarelli 2002]. The term ‘fuzzy logic’ is a potential misnomer, as the
word ‘fuzzy’ refers not to the logic itself, but to the nature of the knowledge being
20 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

represented [Zadeh 1965]. The knowledge base in a fuzzy system distinguishes it-
self by being made up of ‘linguistic’ rules with meanings that cannot be expressed by
‘crisp’ boolean logic. For instance, the fuzzy rule “If there have been too many firsts
in a row, then root or second” [Elsea 1995] is a linguistic expression guiding the in-
ference system to avoid prolonged sequences of first inversion chords. Calculations
based on this rule are made possible by assigning fractional ‘membership values’ to
the quantities of successive first inversion chords that could to some degree be con-
sidered ‘too many’. The final decision of whether to transition to a root or second
inversion chord is made using a translation from fuzzy membership values to corre-
sponding fuzzy values in the decision space, which are then ‘defuzzified’ to a single
value using an algorithm such as Mamdani or Sugeno [Hopgood 2011]. This process is
deterministic and constitutes a precise mapping. Sophisticated fuzzy expert systems
may suffer the same problems of knowledge-engineering, ‘rule explosion’ and com-
putational complexity as crisp expert systems, but they are a lot more graceful when
handling missing, inconsistent or incomplete knowledge [Zeng and Keane 2005] and
are therefore potentially more effective at making musically meaningful inferences
using small corpora.

2.2.5 Evolutionary Algorithms

The term ‘evolutionary algorithms’ refers to a collection of techniques inspired pri-
marily by Darwinian natural selection [Husbands et al. 2007]. Two of these techniques
which have been investigated in the field of algorithmic composition are genetic al-
gorithms, and to a lesser extent genetic programming. These algorithms implement
sophisticated heuristics for converging on local optimal solutions in very large search
spaces. The reason for their popularity in algorithmic composition is their ability to
traverse diverse regions of a space of musical solutions stochastically. This is advan-
tageous for musical optimisation problems like four-part harmonisation, because it
renders them no longer computationally intractable compared to expert system solu-
tions like Ebcioǧlu’s [Ebcioǧlu 1988]. Furthermore, with a stochastic approach comes
the apparent implication that new music unhindered by generative rules is possible
[Gartland-Jones and Copley 2003]. Thus, while in non-artistic fields genetic algo-
rithms and genetic programming are usually used to solve optimisation problems,
in music they are also commonly exploited for their ‘exploration’ abilities, and are
sometimes claimed to be analogous to elements of the human composition process
[Gartland-Jones 2002].
Genetic algorithms (GA) are a heuristic search technique in which candidate solu-
tions are represented as a population of strings or ‘chromosomes’
[Burton and Vladimirova 1999]. Each ‘gene’ of the chromosome represents a dimen-
sion of the solution space. A stochastic search process is controlled by a selection
procedure based on individual ‘fitness’ and ‘reproductive’ operators to obtain suc-
cessive generations of a population, and ‘mutation’ operators to randomly introduce
new genetic material into an existing population. The search runs for a fixed num-
ber of generations, or until the fittest individual is somehow deemed fit enough to
§2.2 Formal Computational Approaches 21

be the final solution. Reproductive operators typically implement ‘genetic crossover’

to merge a number of parents into an offspring, and mutation operators are used to
modify individual genes or small sections of an offspring’s chromosome. In the sim-
plest ‘traditional’ GA, individuals are represented by binary strings and genetic op-
erators operate at the binary level, with crossover occurring at arbitrary points along
the string and mutation operators causing random ‘bit flips’ [Engelbrecht 2007]. How-
ever, for algorithmic composition most authors have found it necessary to instill the
evolutionary process with a measure of musical domain knowledge to radically en-
hance the process. In particular, chromosomes are used to represent musical infor-
mation at a higher level of abstraction, and ‘musically meaningful’ mutation opera-
tors are chosen, including the transformational procedures of inversion, reversal and
transposition [Burton and Vladimirova 1999]. Fitness evaluation is usually cited as
the most problematic aspect of GAs. Gartland-Jones and Copely classified genetic al-
gorithms by their use of either ‘automatic’ (using an objective function or an ANN
trained on a corpus) or ‘interactive’ (requiring human inspection/listening) fitness
functions [Gartland-Jones and Copley 2003]. The latter are often referred to as inter-
active genetic algorithms (IGAs) [Biles 2001].
Phon-Amnuaisuk et al. used a GA to create traditional four-part harmonies [Phon-
Amnuaisuk et al. 1999]. They relied on an objective knowledge-based fitness function
for the evaluation of chromosomes. The chromosomes encoded short thematic pas-
sages, the mutation operators included ‘perturbation’, which nudges a note in a single
voice up or down a semitone; ‘swapping’, where chords are altered by swapping two
random voices; ‘re-chord’ which randomly modifies the chord type; ‘phrase-start’,
which mutates a phrase to begin on a root chord; and ‘phrase-end’, which mutates a
phrase to end on a root chord. The main reproductive procedure involved splicing
the chromosome strings at a random crossover point. The fitness function was a cast
of rules commonly listed in traditional voice-leading theories.
Biles presented a genetic algorithm called GenJam for generating monophonic jazz
solos [Biles 1994]. GenJam initialises individuals within a population of melodic pas-
sages. It performs musically meaningful mutations such as inversion, reversal, rota-
tion and transposition. The fitness of each individual in a generation is determined
by a human operator, and the best individuals are used as the parents of the follow-
ing generation. According to Biles, this feedback process converges on solos which
match the taste of the human operator [Biles 1994]. The main disadvantage of this
method is that the reliance on human feedback for evaluating fitness manifests as a
bottleneck which makes the convergence process orders of magnitude slower than
using objective fitness functions. Biles has addressed this problem by using entire
audiences instead of individual users [Biles and Eign 1995], using ANNs for fitness
functions [Biles et al. 1996], and removing fitness evaluation altogether by drawing
the initial population from an established database of superior specimens [Biles 2001].
Genetic programming (GP) is an extension to the GA paradigm in which the indi-
viduals in the population are not vectors representing points in a solution space, but
hierarchical expressions representing mathematical functions or the code for entire al-
gorithms [Burton and Vladimirova 1999]. GP individuals are normally represented
22 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

as expression tree structures; consequently the selection, reproduction and mutation

mechanisms are designed specifically to operate on these structures [Engelbrecht 2007].
GP fitness functions are more commonly realised as error or ‘cost’ functions because
they are very popular for solving symbolic regression problems, but aside from these
differences GP and GA implementations are fundamentally the same. Laine and
Kuuskankare [Laine and Kuuskankare 1994], for instance, generated an initial pop-
ulation of melodies using simple mathematical operators and trigonometric func-
tions, then evolved the population by performing crossover and mutation on subtrees.
Longer and more complex musical phrases result from the increasing complexity of
the population generations. Puente et al. used a GP technique to evolve context-free
grammars for producing melodies in the style of a corpus of works by several fa-
mous composers [Puente et al. 2002]. In this instance the fitness function was simply
a statistical comparison between the population members and the melodies from the
Burton and Vladimirova suggested that genetic techniques allow a greater scope
of musical possibilities and often subjective ‘realism’ than other approaches such as
ANNs, which are restricted by training data; expert systems, which are often re-
stricted by computational complexity and knowledge-engineering issues; and purely
stochastic generators which exhibit good unpredictability but ‘questionable musical-
ity’ [Burton and Vladimirova 1999]. However, they and many other authors have ac-
knowledged the perennial problem of designing effective fitness-evaluation methods
that reduce the counter-productive dependence on human interaction — the ‘fitness
bottleneck’ [Biles et al. 1996]. Additionally, many conundrums are ever-present in
the tuning of genetic algorithm parameters, such as whether to implement ‘elitist’ se-
lection policies that may converge too quickly to local optima, or policies that retain
a high level of diversity and allow low-quality individuals to continue reproducing
[Burton and Vladimirova 1999]. Phon-Amnuaisuk et al. discovered that despite the
supposed advantages of using GAs for four-part harmonisation, a simple rule-based
system was capable of achieving consistently better results as far as the GA’s fitness
function was concerned [Phon-Amnuaisuk et al. 1999]. They attributed this to the
GA’s lack of sufficient ‘meta-knowledge’, a natural trait for an expert system by virtue
of the fact that the structure of the search process can be easily encoded in the pro-
gram. They also noted the GA’s inability to guarantee globally optimal solutions (a
caveat of stochastic search), and declared the GA model ill-suited to musical optimisa-
tion problems. Despite all this, both interactive and non-interactive GAs continue to
be used successfully for tasks like jazz improvisation [Biles 2007] and the composition
of thematic bridging sections between user-supplied ‘source’ and ‘target’ passages
[Gartland-Jones 2002].

2.2.6 Chaos and Fractals

Approaches to algorithmic composition in the tightly related fields of chaos and frac-
tals have been popular as alternatives to the expert-system paradigm because of their
tendency to exhibit recurrent patterns or multi-layered self-similarity, while at the
§2.2 Formal Computational Approaches 23

same time being fundamentally unpredictable or complex [Harley 1995]. Both are
linked to mathematical resultants of the behaviour of iterated function systems (IFS)
and dynamical systems, and were introduced as an alternative explanations for com-
plex natural phenomena such as weather systems and the shape of coastlines [Man-
delbrot 1983]. According to Harley [Harley 1995], their applicability to music has
been influenced by the work of Lerdahl and Jackendoff, who provided convincing
models for analysing musical self-similarity [Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983]; and Voss
and Clarke, who demonstrated that some music contains patterns which can be de-
scribed using 1/ f noise [Voss and Clarke 1978]. The non-musical, numerical data
streams created by applying such algorithms are not usually termed ‘emergent be-
haviour’ because they are not generated by the interaction of a virtual environment
of simple interacting units. However, they share the property of being able to gen-
erate complexity at the ‘macroscopic’ level from simplicity at the ‘microscopic level’
[Beyls 1991]. Furthermore, their successful conversion into musical information is at
the mercy of the mapping problem noted by Miranda [Miranda 2001], a problem also
faced by systems of emergent behaviour such as cellular automata and swarms.
Chaotic systems were explored by Bidlack as a means of using simple algorithms
for endowing computer generated music with ‘natural’ qualities — for instance, those
which can be found relating to either organic processes or divergent mathematical
phenomena [Bidlack 1992]. Bidlack noted that the resultant complexity had more po-
tential in computer synthesis, but suggested that the technique could be useful for
perturbing musical structure at various levels of hierarchy, in order to instill a sys-
tem with a measure of unpredictability. Dodge described a ‘musical fractal’ algorithm
utilising 1/ f noise, arguing along the lines of Voss and Clarke that 1/ f noise rep-
resents a close fit to many dynamic phenomena found in nature [Dodge 1988]. He
drew the analogy between his recursively ‘time-filling’ process and Mandelbrot’s re-
cursively ‘space-filling’ curves. The time-filling fractal form is seeded by an initial
pitch sequence, which is then filled in by 1/ f noise and mapped to musical pitch,
rhythm and amplitude. Harley produced an interactive algorithm that centres on a
‘generator’ which provides the output of a recursive logistic differential equation; a
‘mapping’ module which scales the output to a range specified by the user; a third
module which provides statistical data on the generator’s output over specified time-
frames to provide knowledge of high-level structures to the user; and a fourth module
which the user controls to reorder the generator output in the process of translating
it to musical parameters [Harley 1995]. These modules can be networked together in
order to act as raw input or as input ‘biases’ for one another.
There are several examples in the algorithmic composition literature of the use
of Lindenmayer Systems (L-Systems) for generating fractal-like structures. L-Systems
were originally introduced to model the cellular growth of plants [Lindenmayer 1968],
and first explored for musical applications by Prusinkiewicz [Prusinkiewicz 1986].
L-Systems are deterministic and expressed almost identically to Chomsky’s gram-
mars, with the crucial difference being that instead of production rules applying se-
quentially, they are applied concurrently; this is what allows self-similar substructures
to quickly propagate through what are exponentially expanding strings. The work by
24 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

DuBois is a recent example of the use of L-systems for musical composition [DuBois
2003]. The author separated the process into string production and string parsing,
and noted that choosing the mapping scheme to use for the latter stage was criti-
cal to the aesthetic qualities of the result. He described various mapping schemes,
such as ‘event mapping’, where a pre-compositional process assigns the tokens in the
resulting one-dimensional string to events like notes, rests and chords; and ‘spatial
mapping’, where tokens represent distances in pitch from the preceding note, and can
be used to create block chords or combined with event mapping to create melodies.
An additional scheme involves ‘parametric mapping’ where tokens are not assigned
to musical parameters directly, but to controllers affecting the mapping of subsequent
tokens to musical events. Dubois used the intermediate output of musical notation
which was then interpreted by professional performers [DuBois 2003].
These approaches have allowed for alternatives to the reliance on both implicit
and explicit musical domain knowledge, while allowing for the successful generation
of coherent self-similar structures; and many authors have espoused their use in algo-
rithmic composition in a general sense because of their scope for creating genuinely
new musical material. However, they all ultimately put the user in charge of complet-
ing the act of composition by inventing a meaningful mapping from the data stream
to musical parameters, which from a musical standpoint is hardly any different to
the ‘auralisation’ of actual natural phenomena such as seismic activity [Boyd 2011] or
tree-ring patterns.2

2.2.7 Cellular Automata

Cellular automata (CA) provide a means for the generation of complex emergent
structures from the local interaction of simple, usually orthogonally-interconnected
units. They have become a popular paradigm for exploring the analogies between
mathematical models and biological phenomena. The motivation for the use of CA
in computer-aided composition is cited by Miranda as being an expert system’s hard-
wired inability to compose new musical styles [Miranda 2003]. Some types of CA bear
a strong relationship to chaotic dynamic systems because they exhibit unpredictable
behaviour at the macroscopic level despite being deterministic. This was formally
identified by Wolfram, who devised a widely-referenced taxonomy for describing CA
types [Wolfram 2002]. CA can also been described mathematically in terms of finite
state automata [Neumann and Burks 1966], and ‘static’ L-Systems [DuBois 2003].
A CA consists of grid of cells which begin in an arbitrary initial configuration and
update their states at every time-step during execution. At a given time-step, t, the
new state of a cell is determined by the state of its orthogonal neighbours at time
t − 1 using a set of evolution rules specified before run-time. Cell states are usually
binary or ternary, and cell types are often classified using a ‘KxRy’ notation, where x
refers to the number of immediate neighbours and y refers to the radius of influence.
CA are also classified according to their number of possible evolution rules, which
is a function of the number of possible cell states, the radius of cell influence and
§2.2 Formal Computational Approaches 25

the number of immediate neighbours. Wolfram’s taxonomy identified four different

classes of CA behaviour [Wolfram 2002]:

Type 1 ‘convergent’, in which a static uniform grid state is quickly reached;

Type 2 ‘steady cycle’, in which stable repeating patterns quickly emerge;

Type 3 ‘chaotic’, in which no stable patterns emerge and any apparent structures are

Type 4 ‘complex’, in which interesting patterns are perceivable but no stability occurs
until after a large number of time steps.

The mapping of a CA to a musical parameter space is non-trivial, and as important

to the act of composition as choosing the rule set. Frequently the resulting patterns
are mapped to pitches restricted to a certain scale, such as chromatic, pentatonic or
diatonic [Millen 2004]. Miranda distinguished between simplistic mappings of grid
cells to MIDI note numbers and the more sophisticated method of mapping structural
changes in groups of cells to higher-level musical structures [Miranda 2003]. Bilotta et
al. identified analogous mapping categories of ‘local’ and ‘global’ [Bilotta et al. 2001].
They also use ‘indirect’ methods of manipulating the structure of the information con-
tained in the CA before translating it into music [Bilotta and Pantano 2002]. Resultant
structures characterised by researchers as ’gliders’, ’beetles’, ’solitons’, ’spiders’ and
’beehives’ contain varying degrees of recognisable musical harmonies when mapped
directly from cell states [Bilotta and Pantano 2002].
Miranda presented a CA system for algorithmic composition called CAMUS for
mapping Conway’s Game of Life to a harmonic musical output using each cell’s coor-
dinates [Miranda 2003]. Bilotta et al. described a series of musical works produced
using a genetic algorithm to further evolve the musical information resulting from a
mapping of a binary CA’s output to musical parameters [Bilotta et al. 2000]. They con-
cluded that type 1 CA are good for rhythmic generation, types 2 and 4 are good for
harmonic generation, and type 3 are less useful except with very simple initial con-
ditions. CA also feature in several interactive compositional or improvisational tools.
Millen presented such a system wherein the musical parameters that the cells map to
can be altered by the user during performance in reaction to visual observation of the
grid state [Millen 2004].
Dorin used boolean networks (BNs) instead of CA to produce complex
polyrhythms [Dorin 2000]. BNs are one-dimensional configurations of binary state
machines — that is, each unit performs a boolean operation using the inputs from its
two neighbours. An autonomous, synchronous boolean network is a special case of
a CA [Dorin 2000]. Dorin observed that it is rare for a BN’s stable pattern to be bro-
ken even when significantly perturbed in real-time, and that this makes them ideal
for generating rhythmic material for live applications. Dorin also produced a CA
mounted on the faces of a virtual cube called LIQUIPRISM, distinguishing it from the
more common form of CA environment which models the surface of a torus [Dorin
2002]. A stochastic element is introduced by occasionally activating cells which have
26 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

been in ‘off’ states after substantial periods of inactivity. The mapping from the CA to
music in any given time-step is done through a process of eliminating cells which are
not moving from off to on and then selecting a maximum of two cells from each face.
Each face maps to a MIDI channel being fed into a synthesiser.
Miranda believes that CAs are appropriate tools for generating new material, but
concedes that they seem better suited to synthesis than composition. In his estimation
the musical results “tend to lack the cultural references that we normally rely on when
appreciating music” [Miranda 2003]. Bilotta et al. noted that as a general rule, only a
very small subset of the available rule sets give ‘appreciable’ musical results, but that
certain configurations can generate ‘pleasant’ harmony [Bilotta et al. 2001]. Dorin has
demonstrated that the combination of musical and visual output of CAs can manifest
as effective multimedia art [Dorin 2002].

2.2.8 Swarm Algorithms

Some researchers have pursued music generation by modelling the interaction be-
tween simple agents in artificial swarms. This model is often promoted as a remedy to
the ‘lack of expression’ inherent in knowledge-based systems [Blackwell and Bentley
2002]. The approach relies on the self-organisation of agents to form complex emer-
gent spatial and temporal structures. Beyls’ view in the context of music generation
was that “behaviour may be thought of as an alternative to knowledge” [Beyls 1990].
Although this principle is also fundamental to the use of cellular automata, swarm al-
gorithms can instead be traced back to the work of Reynolds, who proposed the first
algorithms for modelling the emergent geometrical organisation of birds and other
animals [Reynolds 1987]. Swarm agents are therefore generally much more sophisti-
cated than the cells in a CA, being instilled with mobility in 2D or 3D space, sets of
goals, many possible ‘social’ interactions [Miranda 2003] or ‘personality traits’ [Bisig
et al. 2011], and sometimes finite energy sources which must be replenished by the
swarm environment [Beyls 1990]. However, the resulting data streams are generally
still at the mercy of the mapping problem; that is, finding a meaningful translation
from an extra-musical data stream to a musical parameter space [Miranda 2001].
Blackwell and Bentley’s composition system based on swarm behaviour is per-
haps the most widely referenced [Blackwell 2007]. In a system called SWARMUSIC
[Blackwell and Bentley 2002] the agents or ‘particles’ implement the simple behaviours
of swarm attraction and repulsion within the environment of a 3D ‘box’. The au-
thors argue that this style of behaviour constitutes a form of ‘swarm improvisation’,
conceding that compositional structure generally cannot be achieved by such sim-
ple behaviour. A linear mapping occurs in three dimensions corresponding to the
particles’ positions in the box from the perspective of a hypothetical viewer. These
dimensions, which correspond to particles’ x, y and z coordinates, are MIDI duration,
MIDI pitch and MIDI velocity. The default ranges of these parameters are constrained
for the purpose of Blackwell and Bentley’s implementation. According to the authors,
the purported success of the free improvisation system is due to its focus on swarm
‘collaboration’ and ‘expression’ – it develops its own ‘musical language’ rather than
§2.3 The Automated Schillinger System in Context 27

attempting to assume a pre-existing one [Blackwell and Bentley 2002].

Miranda described a system for producing music using a community of simple
agents with ‘auditory, motor and cognitive skills’ who collectively ‘evolve’ a set of
melodies, but without the use of a genetic algorithm [Miranda 2003]. This system is an
example of a swarm approach that does not require the mapping from emergent struc-
ture to musical information. Miranda’s approach encodes melody using an abstract
representation of pitch trajectories forming an overall contour. The contour elements
dictate relative magnitudes of pitch changes, rather than the actual intervals. Agents
are instilled with the goal of imitating what they ‘hear’, and so develop individual sets
of (initially random) tunes by gauging the tunes’ success through reinforcement from
other agents. Elements of tunes which are also exhibited by other members of the
community are strengthened, and those elements which aren’t are eventually purged.
In this way a communal musical ‘repertoire’ is established [Miranda 2003].
Bisig et al. [Bisig et al. 2011] discussed another example of a swarm approach to
algorithmic composition, but this time they confronted what they term the ‘mapping
challenge’ by proposing to shift the focus of musical creation from the mapping itself
to the types of underlying structures created by the flocking simulation. Similar to
Blackwell and Bentley’s system [Blackwell and Bentley 2002], in this simulation the
neighbourhood forces of attraction and repulsion are implemented which determine
the swarm’s behaviour. Agents are also endowed with ‘adaptive traits’ which change
over time and affect their interaction with the rest of the swarm. The system’s ar-
chitecture is split into three stages: the swarm itself, a module which interprets and
codifies the behaviour of the swarm, and a musical engine which integrates elements
of sample playback and granular synthesis. Different pieces are composed by chang-
ing the properties of the agents and their environment. Each composition is based on
a ‘core idea’, such as the triggering of piano notes via swarm collisions, or the chang-
ing spatial distribution of agents to generate rhythms. The authors point out that the
success of a swarm algorithm for generating music relies on the continual injection of
human creativity in regard to the design of the mapping schemes and the design of
the simple rules governing agent behaviour [Bisig et al. 2011].

2.3 The Automated Schillinger System in Context

The automated Schillinger System presented in chapter 3 of this thesis uses a set of
generative and transformational procedures, each invoked sequentially and seeded
with random numbers. It is not interactive and does not rely on a corpus of existing
musical works. Although the generative procedures are necessarily rule-based, inas-
much as they are computable, the rules dictate the space of numerical patterns avail-
able at each stage of the composition process, rather than the space of legal musical
combinations. Therefore, although the system clearly employs a form of implicit mu-
sical knowledge, whether or not it falls under the umbrella of style imitation is initially
unclear. This question will be examined in detail in chapter 4. Furthermore, despite
the fact that the system’s musical knowledge is essentially ‘engineered’, it may not be
28 Overview of Computer-aided Composition

entirely correct to label it an expert system in the manner of Ebcioǧlu [Ebcioǧlu 1988]
or Cope [Cope 1987], due to the fact that it does not use a knowledge-base/inference
engine architecture [Mingers 1986]. In figure 2.1 a dashed line has been placed around
the automated Schillinger System, which tentatively includes it in the realm of musi-
cal expert systems.
Schillinger’s system as a whole does not lend itself to the adaptation of any par-
ticular extra-musical computational approach listed in section 2.2, unlike other mu-
sic theory treatises such as those by Piston [Piston 1987] and Hindemith [Hindemith
1945] which have been partially implemented using Markov chains [Rohrmeier 2011;
Sorensen and Brown 2008]; or standard harmony texts which can be partially ex-
pressed as grammar-based optimisation problems [Ebcioǧlu 1988] or GA fitness func-
tions [Phon-Amnuaisuk 2004]. Its automation therefore falls into Supper’s first cat-
egory (algorithms which encode musical theory without the use of an established
extra-musical approach), and partly into Supper’s second category (algorithms used
as a direct manifestation of a composer’s expertise) [Supper 2001], due to the neces-
sity for the programmer to define many aspects of the formal interfacing between
Schillinger’s various theories. In the academic literature, the category into which
the automated Schillinger System most readily falls is Ames’ definition of ‘bottom-
up processing’, which refers to the piecing together of ‘kernels’ of primary material
into larger compositions using transformation procedures [Ames 1987].
The system presented in this thesis positions itself as a particular collection of al-
gorithms for music generation which have not been previously considered as a single
entity for implementation, despite the fact that many of them are commonly used
individually, and are thus familiar to computer music researchers in a variety of con-
texts. As can be seen in figure 2.1, the automated Schillinger System sits within a class
of algorithms that process some form of musical domain knowledge, but do not rely
on a data-driven or interactive approach to derive that knowledge. This causes it to
fall outside of the most common approaches used by computer-aided composition re-
searchers, but nevertheless into categories acknowledged by both Ames [Ames 1987]
and Supper [Supper 2001].
Chapter 3

Implementation of the Schillinger


3.1 Introduction

This chapter details the construction of an ‘automated Schillinger System’ based solely
on The Schillinger System of Musical Composition. The books of the Schillinger System
which have been considered in the scope of this work are Theory of Rhythm, Theory of
Pitch-scales, Variations of Music by Means of Geometrical Projection, and Theory of Melody.
Together these theories have been adapted to produce a pair of separate modules, one
for composing harmonic passages and another for composing melodic pieces. Both
modules operate using the ‘push-button’ paradigm and thus require no interaction
with the user during the composition process.
Sections 3.2 to 3.5 of this chapter constitute a condensed summary of the first four
books of Schillinger’s original text to the extent necessary to explain the fundamen-
tals behind the current automated system. It will be seen that much of this content
is problematic to realise as a computer implementation and requires the resolution
of inconsistencies or inadequate definitions. Despite this, it is not the purpose of
this chapter to critically evaluate the practical merit of Schillinger’s formalism, nor
the mathematical or scientific correctness of any of Schillinger’s generalisations, all of
which are matters of contention as noted in section 1.2.3.
Section 3.6 documents the software architecture of the automated Schillinger Sys-
tem and describes how Schillinger’s separate theories have been linked together to
form the harmonic and melodic modules. It also describes various additional algo-
rithms which have been necessary to complete this task. The final section (3.7) lists
the parts of books I–IV which have been omitted from the current system for various
reasons as discussed there.
The discussions of Schillinger’s procedures will not be accompanied by explicit
references to his original text, however a listing of the most important functions con-
stituting the automated Schillinger System can be found in appendix C, and this list
may be used to refer directly back to Schillinger’s volumes if desired.

30 Implementation of the Schillinger System

3.1.1 A Brief Refresher

There are many musical terms used throughout this chapter that readers may not be
familiar with, or that have different definitions in other disciplines. This section ex-
plains some terminology which should facilitate the discussion while minimising po-
tential confusion. Many of these definitions are not rigorous in terms of their broader
implications, but are nevertheless adequate in the current context.

Pitch/Tone The fundamental frequency of a sound with respect to a discrete system

of musical tuning, in this case the 12-tone equally-tempered system featured on
a standard piano keyboard.

Identity The name assigned to a pitch within a system of tuning.

Semitone The smallest distance between any two pitches in the aforementioned tun-
√ system, produced by raising or lowering a pitch’s frequency by a factor of

Interval The distance between two pitches measured in semitones.

Octave 12 semitones; the interval at which two pitches share the same identity as a
result of their frequencies differing by a factor of 2.

Register A localised region of the pitch space, applied either as a general notion (for
example ‘high’/‘middle’/‘low’) or as a specific range of pitches.

Scale A group of pitches or intervals which serve as a basis for generating musical
pitch material.

Diatonic Relating to only the pitches belonging to a class of Western scales made up
of seven tones.

Chromatic The property of pitches of a musical passage or scale being separated by

semitones, or containing alterations to diatonic pitches.

Tonic The starting pitch in a scale, and/or the pitch that acts as the most important
musical reference point for a given composition or passage.

Root The starting pitch in a scale.

Duration The length of time between the onset and conclusion of a sounding pitch,
usually relative to some reference value or measurement. In this chapter the
term ‘relative duration’ will be used specifically to refer to that which is relative
to a minimum time-span of 1.

Note Usually interchangeable with pitch and identity, but also used to mean a dis-
crete unit of musical information possessing duration.
§3.1 Introduction 31

Rhythm A sequence of durations.1

Voice A sequence of single notes related in succession.

Voice-leading The rules or procedures which apply when determining the move-
ment of individual voices within the larger wholes of harmony and counter-

Polyrhythm Multiple differing rhythms occurring simultaneously.

Texture A term encompassing various aspects of music such as its density in the tem-
poral and spectral domains or its aesthetic ‘surface quality’.

Attack The temporal point of onset of a sounding pitch.

Dynamics Variations in loudness or intensity.

Modulation The change or period of change from one tonic to another.

MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface; the dominant protocol for passing symbolic
musical information between both hardware and software synthesisers.

In addition to these terms, this chapter uses a standard known as ‘Scientific Pitch
Notation’2 , where a pitch’s label consists of its identity followed by its octave number.
Pitches C4 –B4 lie in the octave above and including middle-C on a piano keyboard. It
should also be noted that MIDI note values range from 0–127, with the value 60 being
equivalent to C4 .3
The use of Schillinger’s terminology will be kept to a minimum, because not all
of it is especially helpful in simplifying the expression of ideas. Many problems
with Schillinger’s heavy use of jargon were quite vocally drawn attention to by Bar-
bour [Barbour 1946] and Backus [Backus 1960]. Despite this, several of the terms are
still useful because they serve as short-hand for certain data structures which will be
referred to frequently. All instances of Schillinger’s terminology will be defined as

3.1.2 The Impromptu Environment

The system is written in a programming environment called Impromptu, an inter-
preter with the advantage of built-in interfaces to MIDI and audio drivers. It also has
the feature of being able to execute selected portions of the text buffer at the user’s
behest, known as ‘live coding’ [Sorensen and Gardner 2010]; however, as the pur-
pose of this program is to compose musical passages autonomously rather than facil-
itate real-time performances, this feature is not being exploited at present. The reason
1 This is an extremely simplistic notion of rhythm which only applies to the current version of the

automated Schillinger System.

2 This standard has been in use since its adoption by the Acoustical Society of America in 1939.
3 MIDI notes 0 and 127 correspond to C and G respectively. These pitches exist well beyond the
-1 9
usable musical range.
32 Implementation of the Schillinger System

Impromptu has been used is that it allows for rapid development in the LISP-based
language Scheme, which has been found by many authors in the field of algorith-
mic composition to be appropriate for representing musical information. The built-in
MIDI interface also allows for instant musical feedback and hence much faster debug-
ging of functions operating in the musical domain. Other algorithmic composition
environments such as SuperCollider4 or Max [Zicarelli 2002] would have been equally
appropriate for developing the automated Schillinger System.
The system outlined in this chapter manipulates two dimensions of musical infor-
mation at the symbolic level (pitch and duration), which are able to be conveniently
mapped to both MIDI data streams and musical notation. In the Impromptu environ-
ment, the LISP-style list format is used for coding. Many instances of list notation will
accordingly be used throughout this chapter for illustrative purposes. Pitch is rep-
resented as MIDI note numbers. Duration is represented as both ‘relative durations’
during the composition process (defined in section 3.1.1), and at the output stage by
durations numerically equivalent to those displayed in standard musical notation.

3.2 Theory of Rhythm

Schillinger’s Theory of Rhythm provides procedures which are mostly used to generate
and manipulate sequences of relative durations. In this chapter Schillinger’s term
‘rhythmic resultant’ will be used to refer to a sequence of relative durations produced
by a rhythmic procedure. Depending on the context, a rhythmic resultant will be
treated as either a rhythm to be assigned to a pitch sequence, or a pattern with which
to apply change at any structural level.

3.2.1 Rhythms from Interference Patterns

The ‘interference’ between any number of lists of integers is generated by treating
the integers as temporal durations, superimposing the lists and forming a single new
list out of the onsets of every duration. A small example is included in figure 3.1 to
accompany this explanation.

3 3

2 2 2

2 1 1 2

Figure 3.1: The interference pattern generated from two lists. The top two lists (3 3) and (2
2 2) produce the resultant pattern (2 1 1 2).

The situation in the figure is expressed as follows:

interference-pattern((3 3) (2 2 2)) = (2 1 1 2)
§3.2 Theory of Rhythm 33

A particular space of symmetrical rhythmic resultants called ‘primary resultants’

is formed by the interference between two integers, where each integer’s duration
repeats until the point where they both synchronise. The aforementioned figure 3.1 is
the generation of a primary resultant using arguments 2 and 3.

primary-resultant(2 3) = (2 1 1 2)

A ‘secondary resultant’ is generated by recursively calculating the interference

pattern between a primary resultant and the same resultant offset by the larger of
its two initial parameters, until it has a total duration of the square of the larger pa-
rameter. This is visualised in figure 3.2.

(3) 2 1 1 2

2 1 1 2

2 1 1 1 1 1 2

Figure 3.2: Secondary resultant of integers 2 and 3

secondary-resultant(2 3) = (2 1 1 1 1 1 2)

The term ‘tertiary resultant’ will be used to refer to either one of a pair of rhythmic
resultants which form a polyrhythm – one rhythm existing as the ‘lead’ and one as
the ‘accompaniment’. In the current system the lead and accompaniment resultants
are treated as separate entities (see section 3.7). This function accepts three integers
instead of two, but otherwise uses the same interference method as for a primary
resultant. The ‘lead’ resultant is the pattern formed by all three integers, while the ‘ac-
companiment’ is formed by the interference of their respective complementary factors
with respect to a lowest common multiple. In line with Schillinger’s suggestion, the
three-integer parameter lists for the tertiary resultant generator are limited to integers
which belong to the same summation (Fibonacci) series.

tertiary-resultant-lead(2 3 5)
= (2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2)

tertiary-resultant-accompaniment(2 3 5) = (6 4 2 3 3 2 4 6)

Three trivial ways of combining primary and secondary resultants to form modest
self-contained rhythmic patterns are mentioned, each of which utilises a single pair of
parameters. They are listed using Schillinger’s terms below:

Balance: a concatenation of the secondary resultant, the primary resultant, and the
relative duration equivalent to the larger of the two parameters;

Expand: a concatenation of the primary resultant and the secondary resultant;

34 Implementation of the Schillinger System

Contract: a concatenation of the secondary resultant and the primary resultant.

res-combo-balance(2 3) = (2 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 3)

res-combo-expand(2 3) = (2 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 2)

res-combo-contract(2 3) = (2 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 2)

3.2.2 Synchronisation of Multiple Patterns

Material may be obtained by the synchronisation of a rhythmic resultant with a se-
quence of arbitrary elements, the latter of which may represent pitch values or higher-
level structural elements. There are two procedures used in this implementation
which fall under this umbrella. The first procedure combines elements from the cyclic
repetitions of each sequence until both sequences end simultaneously. The result of
this is a pair of sequences each containing a number of elements equal to the low-
est common multiple of the lengths of the two inputs. Figure 3.3 contains a musical
example to illustrate the concept in visual terms.

5 5 555 5 5 5 5 E5 5
5 5 5 5 5 5
G 5 5E5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

Figure 3.3: The synchronisation of a duration pattern with a pitch sequence. Each pitch is
paired with a duration, in a cyclic fashion, until both sequences end simultaneously.

The second procedure interprets the rhythmic resultant as a sequence of coeffi-

cients C of length m, and synchronises it with an arbitrary sequence of elements E of
length n such that element ei mod n is appended to the result ci mod n times. This contin-
ues until the last elements in both C and E are processed simultaneously. The results
of this procedure are often used as parameter vectors for input to other procedures.
In the following example, the element ‘0’ is repeated three times, ‘1’ is repeated twice,
and so on.

coefficient-sync((3 2 1) (0 1)) = (0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 1)

3.2.3 Extending Rhythmic Material Using Permutations

Schillinger provides a small set of methods for building longer and more complex
rhythmic patterns from the variations of short and simple ones. The predominant
method of achieving variation throughout Schillinger’s system is by permutation. The
‘circular permutations’ of a sequence are a subset the complete permutations of that
sequence, formed by iteratively moving the last element of a sequence to the head or
vice versa; for example:
§3.3 Theory of Pitch Scales 35

circular-permutations(2 1 1) = ((2 1 1) (1 2 1) (1 1 2))

For most purposes the circular permutations are recommended by Schillinger be-
cause they retain substructures present in the original material. An example below
shows the use of circular permutations to build a longer duration sequence — a ‘con-
tinuity’ to use Schillinger’s term — from a shorter one.

general-continuity(2 1 1) = (2 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2)

Three further methods of deriving new patterns through circular permutations

can apply to sequences which are already the required total duration. In the first two
instances, the sequences are assumed to be primary, secondary or tertiary resultants.

• Split the sequence into into a set, S, of n groups of equal total duration, such that
n > 1 and is the smallest factor among the integers used to generate the original
sequence. Select from the circular permutations of S.

• Split the sequence into a set of groups, S, where each group is of total duration n
and n is the larger of the integers used to generate the original sequence. Select
from the circular permutations of S.

• Select from the circular permutations of the original sequence.

3.2.4 Rhythms from Algebraic Expansion

A space of non-symmetrical rhythmic resultants can be obtained by a method of al-
gebraic expansion. A relative duration sequence D of length n and total duration d
is raised to a power x using a brute-force method with no intermediate summations.
The resultant is a sequence of n x terms with a total duration d x . For example:

(2 1 1)2 = (4 2 2 2 1 1 2 1 1)

An additional important part of this procedure, as far as Schillinger is concerned,

is overlaying the resultants of all powers 0 . . . x to form a texturally rich polyrhythm.
This is done by multiplying the elements of each resultant Di (for i < x) by a scalar
n x−i to make each resultant the same total duration. As mentioned in section 3.7,
polyrhythms are not within the scope of this work; instead the resultants are treated

3.3 Theory of Pitch Scales

Schillinger’s Theory of Pitch-scales contains both scale generation techniques and har-
mony generation techniques. Schillinger’s long and detailed theories of harmony
have not been considered in the current scope of the work due to time constraints; in-
stead, the harmony generator that is discussed in section 3.6.2 derives its initial chord
progressions from the procedures in section 3.3.4.
36 Implementation of the Schillinger System

In this section, and throughout the rest of the chapter, the term ‘scale’ will be
used to refer to a sequence of intervals, while ‘pitch-scale’ will refer to a sequence
of pitches instantiated from a scale using a tonic pitch. Algorithmic composition re-
searchers tend to prefer one representation over the other depending on the nature
of the problem being attempted; the automated Schillinger System uses both of these
representations, each depending on the requirements of the procedure at hand. A
scale is variously converted into a ‘local’ pitch-scale for some purposes and a ‘full’
pitch-scale for others: the local pitch-scale will contain one more pitch than the num-
ber of intervals in the scale, while the full pitch-scale is the enumeration of a scale over
the entire span of the valid pitch range (in this case, MIDI note values 0–127).

3.3.1 Flat and Symmetric Scales

The first group of scales will be known as ‘flat’ scales. A flat scale is a list of intervals
with no sub-lists. Such a scale is defined by Schillinger as having a range of less than
one octave – that is, a maximum range of 11 semitones – and a number of intervals
between 1 and 6. Aside from these two constraints, randomly generated flat scales are
uniformly distributed over the space within the octave.
So-called ‘Western’ scales are a subset of the six-interval scales which, Schillinger
argues, can be shown to be built from ‘tetrads’ — four-note combinations implying
three-interval scales. The three-interval scales from which Western scales may be
built are (2 2 1), (2 1 2), (1 2 2) and (1 3 1). An arbitrary Western scale
is built by joining two of these sub-scales with a centre interval of 2, and subsequently
removing the last interval (the last interval produces a repetition of the tonic at the
octave which is not necessary for its completeness). For example, the scale known as
harmonic minor is formed like so:

(2 1 2) (2) (1 3 1) −→ (2 1 2 2 1 3)

In this implementation, a bit passed to the flat scale generator specifies whether
to restrict six-interval scales to Western scales or not (see the parameter settings in
section 3.6.3).
A ‘symmetric’ scale consists of a group of identical sub-scales spaced at equal in-
tervals over a specified number of roots which are relative to an arbitrary tonic. These
scales may span one or more octaves. They are represented by a three element set con-
sisting of a flat scale, the number of roots and the interval between the roots. Though
it is not the place to go into detail about the implications of twelve-tone equal tem-
perament, it is enough to state that a number of roots equal to a factor of twelve is
required for the scale to be both mappable onto the tuning system in question and
repeat at some number of octaves while remaining ‘symmetric’. The possible forms
of symmetric scale are listed in table 3.1.
In all nine cases the maximum range of the sub-scales is one semitone less than the
root interval, and the range is allowed to be zero. A symmetric scale is generated by
randomly selecting one of the nine types, and then selecting a random flat scale of the
appropriate maximum range to be the sub-scale associated with each root. In many
§3.3 Theory of Pitch Scales 37

Table 3.1: Symmetric Scale Properties

Roots Total Range Root Interval Total Range Root Interval
2 12 (1 8ve) 6 - -
3 12 (1 8ve) 4 24 (2 8ves) 8
4 12 (1 8ve) 3 36 (3 8ves) 9
6 12 (1 8ve) 2 60 (5 8ves) 10
12 12 (1 8ve) 1 132 (11 8ves) 11

cases a symmetric scale must be ‘flattened’ by concatenating a number of sub-scales

equal to the number of roots, each appended with an appropriate interval to fill in the
space between each sub-scale and its following root. Symmetric scales contain much
more information than flat scales. How this information is used by the harmonic and
melodic modules is discussed in sections 3.3.4 and 3.5.2 respectively.

3.3.2 Tonal Expansions

The tonal expansion of a pitch-scale increases the total interval range of the pitch se-
quence while retaining the pitch identities (that is, the same notes in potentially dif-
ferent registers). The expansion of order zero is defined as the original setting of a
pitch-scale; or more precisely, one in which its total interval content could not be re-
duced while retaining all the pitch identities. The first-order expansion of a pitch-scale
is generated by cycling through the pitches and selecting every second pitch from the
tonic (pitches 1, 3, 5 and so on), skipping over repeated pitches. The pitches in the
new sequence are register-adjusted so that the sequence increases in pitch. An exam-
ple tonal expansion is given below and is visualised in figure 3.4.

0th order: (c d e f g a)

1st order: (c e g d f a)

  
Order 0 expansion (original) Order 1 expansion

    
     
Figure 3.4: The tonal expansion of a pitch-scale.

The ith -order tonal expansion is therefore attained by selecting every (i + 1)th pitch
in the 0th -order pitch-scale and transposing them into order of increasing pitch in the
same manner as above.
To perform the tonal expansion of an arbitrary melodic sequence, the original
pitch-scale S of the melodic pitches must be known. After performing an ith -order
tonal expansion on S to obtain S0 , a scale ‘translation’ function maps the pitches in
38 Implementation of the Schillinger System

the sequence from S to their corresponding positions in S0 . Pitches in the original

sequence that are not in S are left unmodified.
The tonal expansion of a scale, as opposed to a pitch-scale, is necessary in many
instances. In this case an arbitrary tonic is set, the scale is converted into a local pitch-
scale, the above expansion procedure is performed, and the resulting pitch-scale is
converted back into a flat scale.

3.3.3 Nearest-Tone voice-leading

Nearest-tone voice-leading aims to minimise the total interval movement between
each voice from one chord to the next in a harmonic passage. This procedure is sug-
gested by Schillinger in lieu of the specific voice-leading techniques he introduces in
later theories of harmony. It is applied in many places in his text, but only informally,
such that many of the demonstrations do not represent ‘optimal’ solutions. For this
implementation, it will be assumed that the aim of nearest-tone voice-leading is in fact
to produce chord progressions with optimised minimum voice movement.
An example is given here of optimal nearest-tone voice-leading between two four-
voice chords A and B. Chord A consists of fixed pitches, while the pitches in chord B
can be octave-transposed (that is, moved ±12x semitones, x > 0) and reordered.

A = (72 67 64 45)

B = (72 56 55 51)

The total interval movement between voices of the unmodified pair of chords is 12
— this is the result that must be minimised. The interval resulting from aligning a note
bi with a j is found by transposing bi to a register such that |bi 0 − a j | ≤ 6. The algorithm
implemented in this system first generates an interval matrix M representing the ideal
alignments between all possible pairs of pitches in A and B, where both chords consist
of n voices.
   0 4 5 3

|b0 0 − a0 | . . . |bn 0 − a0 |
.. ..   5 1 0 4 
M( A, B) =  =

. .

 4 4 3 1 
|b0 0 − an | . . . |bn 0 − an | 3 1 2 6
The optimal voice-leading combination can be found by converting the matrix M
into a graph with adjacent rows and columns fully interconnected, in which nodes
represent costs; and tracing a shortest path between either pair of opposite sides with
the constraint that no row or column can be visited twice (this would imply re-using
a pitch from B). This is shown in figure 3.5. Unfortunately, for the general case the
greedy solution for this problem is usually sub-optimal, so the algorithm uses a re-
cursive depth-first search with back-tracking and pruning to guarantee an optimal
The optimal nodes visited during the search correspond to the voice-leading inter-
vals created from the best alignment of the two chords: thus, tracing the resulting path
§3.3 Theory of Pitch Scales 39

0 4 5 3

5 1 0 4

4 4 3 1

3 1 2 6

Figure 3.5: Nearest-tone voice-leading search graph. The dotted line represents the sub-
optimal greedy solution; the solid line is the optimal solution found by back-tracking.

through the graph from one side to the other gives the pairs of pitches from A and B
that should be aligned to each other using octave transposition. In this example, the
optimal voice movement is found by substituting B, through subsequent reordering
and octave-transposition of its original elements, with the chord (72 67 63 44).
This gives a total interval movement of 2. The result is visualised in figure 3.6.

 

 


 

  

Figure 3.6: The result of performing nearest-tone voice-leading with a fixed chord A and ad-
justable chord B

The computational complexity of nearest-tone voice-leading for a sequence of m

chords with n voices is O(mn!). However, in practice it runs significantly faster than
the worst case scenario which would be equivalent to a brute-force approach. The po-
tential for troublesome execution times for lengthy harmonic passages is offset by the
fact that n is usually small. n ≤ 7 is used in the current system, and this encompasses
a large range of potential harmonic textures and densities.
40 Implementation of the Schillinger System

3.3.4 Deriving Simple Harmonic Progressions From Symmetric Scales

The Schillinger System provides two ways of deriving harmonic progressions from
pitch-scales. This section will outline both procedures as they have been implemented
and discuss the problem of choosing between them automatically.
The first procedure converts a pitch-scale into a progression of chords which are
n-note aggregates of the pitch-scale units, where m is the number of notes in the pitch-
scale and 2 ≤ n ≤ m. The number of chords in the series will always be equal to m.
Chords with roots towards the top of the pitch-scale must inherit pitches beyond the
pitch-scale’s range, octave-transposed from below. An example is given in figure 3.7
for the symmetric scale ((5) 3 8) with C4 as the tonic and n = 3. The Ti brackets
denote the roots and their sub-scales.
T1 T2
' '
' ' ' '
' '
' '
G ' ' = ' 
'' E' E'
' ' ' ' E'

Figure 3.7: Procedure 1: Extraction of n = 3 triadic harmony from a symmetric scale

Using this chord progression a ’hybrid harmony’ consisting of n + 1 voices is

formed by adding a bass line centred an octave below the tonic. The bass line con-
sists of the notes of the pitch-scale with their total interval range contracted through
octave transpositions. The upper parts of the hybrid harmony are then processed
using nearest-tone voice-leading (see figure 3.9).

' ' '

T0 T1 T2 T3

' E' E' ' E' '

G ' ' ' '
' ' '

' )
G ' ' EE'
' ''
' '
' ' E'' '

Figure 3.8: Procedure 2: Extraction of sub-scale tonal expansions from symmetric scale

The second procedure for deriving harmony from a symmetric pitch-scale is to

take the 1st -order tonal expansions of each sub-scale, and to treat the resulting pitch
sequences as chords. When the second procedure is used, the number of voices n is
necessarily equal to the number of roots in the symmetric scale. An example is given
in figure 3.8 for the symmetric scale ((2 3 2) 4 9) with C4 as the tonic. The Ti
brackets denote the roots and their sub-scales. As tonal expansions near the top of the
scale often get quite high above the musical staves, they have been transposed to the
same register for the figure 3.8 example; this does not occur in the system.
§3.4 Variations of Music by Means of Geometrical Progression 41

No bass line is added in the second procedure to form a hybrid harmony. The
harmonic progression is processed using nearest-tone voice-leading as before. After

this processing the harmonies from each procedure appear as in figure 3.9.

 
Procedure 1 ('hybrid harmony'): Procedure 2:

  
 
 
 
    
  
   
  
 
 
 
    
  
Figure 3.9: Results of initial harmonic procedures after nearest-tone voice leading

Deciding between the two procedures is not clear-cut. Schillinger states that when
the original setting of symmetrical pitch-scale is ‘acoustically acceptable’, it is appro-
priate to use procedure 1; while a lack of acoustic acceptability should invoke proce-
dure 2. This term is not defined by Schillinger, so in order to automate the decision
the terminology is interpreted to mean “containing sufficiently large intervals, on av-
erage, to avoid resulting cluster chords”. This implementation defines an acoustically
acceptable symmetric scale to be one possessing both mean and mode intervals of
≥ 3 semitones when converted to a flat scale. The tendency is then for sub-scales with
many close intervals to be expanded.
Whether a scale is ‘acoustically acceptable’ or not has little bearing on how much
consonance or dissonance a harmonic passage will contain after it has been processed
further using the method in section 3.4.2. Moreover, it is generally not the nature of
Schillinger’s system to discriminate between consonant and dissonant harmonies, be-
cause this undermines his holistic approach to musical style. Determining this prop-
erty automatically without any the use of any kind of musical sensibility inserts a
seemingly haphazard constraint.

3.4 Variations of Music by Means of Geometrical Progression

Schillinger’s geometrical variations correspond partially with aspects of other musical
theories, such as Schoenberg’s ‘serial’ technique [Rufer 1965]. They are also similar to
the operators employed in a variety of algorithmic composition approaches in the
academic literature, such as mutation operators in genetic algorithms [Biles 1994].

3.4.1 Geometric Inversion and Expansion

The inversion I of a single pitch x occurs with respect to a pivot note p. The inversion
of an entire chord simply maps each chord pitch in this way. The pivot in the example
in figure 3.10 is C5 .

I ( x, p) = p − ( x − p)
42 Implementation of the Schillinger System

' '
Original: Inversion:

G '
' =

Figure 3.10: Pitch inversion

The value of the pivot in almost all cases in Schillinger’s text is either chosen arbi-
trarily or fixed as the tonic pitch of the passage being inverted. This implementation
always uses the tonic as the pivot. In the case of a sequence of pitches or chords
constituting a melodic or harmonic sequence, the pitches can either be inverted in-
place with the above formula, or in the temporal domain by reversing both the pitch
sequence and its associated duration sequence. The taxonomy of Schillinger’s ‘geo-
metrical inversions’ follows in table 3.2. The common names for equivalents used in
other musical theories are added for reference.

Type Description Common terminology

1 No modification —
Reversal of both pitch sequence and rhythm
2 Retrograde (R)
Inversion of individual pitches followed by
3 Retrograde Inversion (RI)
a type 2 reversal
4 Inversion of pitches only Inversion (I)

Table 3.2: Schillinger’s inversion taxonomy

The expansion of material can occur in either the durational dimension or the pitch
dimension, as is the case with geometrical inversions. The nth order expansion E of a
single note x with respect to a pivot p is given by the formula below, and the expansion
of a single chord is mapped in the same way as shown by the example in figure 3.11,
where p = C4 and n = 2.

E( x, n, p) = p + n( x − p)


G '
' = '
' '
Figure 3.11: Pitch expansion

As with inversion, the pivot value is sometimes chosen arbitrarily by Schillinger

but is usually the tonic pitch. This implementation always uses the tonic pitch as the
pivot. Note that the 1st order expansion maps to the original chord, while the 0th order
expansion projects every pitch onto the pivot. The same formula is used to expand
the pitches of harmonic or melodic material. Expansion in the temporal domain is
performed by simply multiplying a sequence of durations by a scalar.
§3.4 Variations of Music by Means of Geometrical Progression 43

3.4.2 Splicing Harmonies Using Inversion

Schillinger provides what will be referred to henceforth as a ‘splicing’ procedure. It
first generates a vector of inversion types by synchronising a rhythmic resultant with
a list of possible inversion types (see the second procedure in section 3.2.2), then uses
the vector to select and concatenate the inversions of chords from an initial chord
sequence. Counters keep track of the points in the initial chord sequence that the
procedure is up to. Type 1 and 4 inversions cause a counter to move forwards, while
type 2 and 3 inversions cause a counter to move backwards. This process continues
until the resulting sequence is the same length as the original. Once this splicing
procedure is complete, the voices in the starting chord are shuffled, and an application
of the nearest-tone voice-leading algorithm produces the final harmonic passage. The
shuffling rearranges the vertical structure of the chord without changing the chord’s
identity or the identities of any of the individual pitches. It has the effect of increasing
the potential for different harmonic textures and densities.
Figures 3.12–3.14 show an example of this process, using an initial chord sequence
C and a vector V, generated from the rhythmic resultant R and type sequence T. The
pivot used for the inversion is C4 , which is the tonic pitch closest to the center of the
first chord of C.

R = (2 1 1 2)

T = (3 4)

V = coefficient-sync(R, T) = (3 3 4 3 4 4)

    
    
   
 
 
 
 
 
 

       
  
  
  

        
Chord: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Figure 3.12: Original chord sequence C


   
type: 3 4 3 4 3 4 3 4 3

      
   
    
 
       
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
  
   
Chord: 13 12 13 12 13 1 12 11 4 9 6 7 6

Figure 3.13: Spliced chord sequence using C and V

Inversions of harmonic sequences can be musically analysed in terms of their re-

lationship to the tonic: in simple tonal music, for instance, the inverted tonic chord
44 Implementation of the Schillinger System

  
    

 
   
 
 
  
 
    
    
       
           

Figure 3.14: Nearest-tone voice leading applied to sequence in figure 3.13

is equivalent to the subdominant with the opposite major/minor identity; and the in-
verted tonic-relative chord is equivalent to either the counter-tonic or the secondary
dominant depending on whether the tonality is major or minor. No further musical
detail will be entered into, but it is appropriate to point out that inverting segments
of a chord progression usually adds complexity in a way that can be considered mu-
sically meaningful – it does not simply jumble the base material; nor is it a technique
limited in practicality to 20th Century atonal music [Rufer 1965].

3.5 Theory of Melody

Melodic theories are far scarcer in musicological literature than harmonic theories, as
observed by Hörnel and Menzel [Hörnel and Menzel 1998]. At around the same time
that Schillinger was teaching his method in New York, the composer Paul Hindemith
commented on the ‘astounding’ fact that “. . . instruction in composition has never de-
veloped a theory of melody” [Hindemith 1945]. Schillinger’s attempt to formalise
melody was therefore quite unusual. In a nutshell, his method for melodic genera-
tion is to develop an abstract melodic contour, superimpose a rhythmic pattern and
pitch-scale on the contour to obtain a melodic fragment, and then concatenate various
manipulations of the fragment into a larger melodic composition with characteristics
of musical form. As will be seen, his theory contains many uncertainties and compli-
cations for implementation.

3.5.1 The Axes of Melody

Schillinger’s concept of musical contours refers to combinations of linear segments,
each with a specified pitch range and total duration. There is evidence presented in
[Kohonen 1989] that the use of this idea dates back to at least 1719 with the composer
Vogt. There is also a reference to the far more recent work of Myhill in [Ames 1987]
which used a similar technique in the context of computer-aided composition.
Schillinger describes melodies as sequences of pitch with duration in relation to
a ‘primary axis’. This primary axis is, in fact, related to an extant statistical mode of
a particular passage or section (that is, the most commonly occurring pitch identity)
and, for the most part, reduces to the tonic. As this thesis is concerned with gener-
ating music, rather than analysing it, this definition is not especially relevant here.
However, Schillinger’s Theory of Melody also uses the term more generally to mean an
arbitrary ‘zero crossing’ pitch in a melodic contour; that is, the point of equilibrium
§3.5 Theory of Melody 45

that all melodic movements occur in relation to.

The term ‘secondary axis’ is used to refer to an individual segment of a melodic
contour. The type of a secondary axis dictates the general direction of its melodic
trajectory in terms of its change in pitch relative to the primary axis. Henceforth the
term secondary axis will be referred to as simply ‘axis’, and a contour formed by
multiple axes will be referred to as a ‘system of axes’.
Axes which move away from the primary axis are referred to by Schillinger as
‘unbalancing’, while those which move towards it are known as ‘balancing’. The un-
balancing axes are thought of as implementing musical ‘tension’; the balancing axes
musical ‘release’. Schillinger’s axis types are most easily represented using the tax-
onomy outlined in figure 3.15. The variable p shown in the diagram is known as the
‘pitch basis’, which is the default height of an axis in semitones.

Unbalancing Balancing Stationary

6 7
p 5

1 2
primary axis 0

4 3
-p 10

9 8

Figure 3.15: Taxonomy of axis types

Combination axis types are possible, as demonstrated in figure 3.16. These can be
expressed using any of the axis types in figure 3.15 with the proviso, inferred from
Schillinger’s examples, that a combination does not contain both an unbalancing and
a balancing axis. The melodic contour can then ‘oscillate’ between the axes using some
pattern of alternation, allowing for more elaborate contours.
Exactly how to oscillate between the axes in an axis combination is a concept that is
expressed only informally by Schillinger. As with his other ‘forms of motion’, which
will be discussed in section 3.5.3, they are presented using hand-drawn continuous
trajectories which the composer is expected to convert to a discrete representation
using their own judgement. In this implementation, the pattern of alternation is in-
cluded in the representation of the axes: for example, when mapping a discrete pitch-
scale to the axis (1 4 (2 1)), two pitches map to axis type 1, followed by one pitch
on axis type 4, and continuing cyclically. The treatment of these axis type combina-
tions is otherwise the same as for the individual axis types, as described in sections
3.5.2 and 3.5.3.
Finally, each axis is accompanied by a ‘pitch ratio’ P and a ‘time ratio’ T, which
46 Implementation of the Schillinger System


primary axis
(0 6)
(1 4) (2 0 3)

Figure 3.16: Examples of axis combinations, which the contour alternates between.

act as coefficients for the pitch basis p and a time basis t. These parameters affect the
speed of changes in pitch, and the total interval range over which they occur. Figure
3.17 illustrates this. The variable t is a relative duration that can be thought of as
analogous to the numerator of the music’s time-signature.

t t t
Type = 1
p P=2

primary axis
Type = (4 9)
-p P = -1


Figure 3.17: Time and pitch ratios, T and P, applied to axes, which alter their default rate and
total range of change in pitch.

3.5.2 Superimposition of Rhythm and Pitch on Axes

The process for converting a melodic axis into a pitch sequence is split into two proce-
dures. First, the points of intersection between the axis and the rhythmic attack points
are established by multiplying the aggregate duration from the start of the axis by the
axis gradient for each point. The gradient of an axis is the ratio between the product of
the pitch coefficient and pitch basis, and the product of the time coefficient and time
basis. The vertical components of the resulting intersection points can be interpreted
as frequencies belonging to an arbitrary tuning system. An example using a system of
three axes is shown in figure 3.18, in which the time basis is t = 4 and the pitch basis is
p = 5. Schillinger gives no particular indication of how to arrive at these values, but it
§3.5 Theory of Melody 47

can be inferred from his examples that p should be half the total interval range of the
chosen scale (rounded upwards) and t can be chosen at random from an appropriate
range (see section 3.6.3).

2t t t

2 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 3


Primary Axis

Figure 3.18: Superimposing rhythmic resultants onto an axis system. The duration attacks are
projected onto the axis to produce a set of intersection points.

The second procedure maps the vertical components of the intersection points
onto discrete pitches within the standard Western tuning system, which is equivalent
to the MIDI pitch space (twelve-tone equal temperament). In the case of flat scales,
this requires the selected local scale to be instantiated as a full pitch-scale across the
range of MIDI pitches using the tonic as the primary axis. The diagram in figure 3.19
shows an example of the intersection points from figure 3.18 in relation to the intervals
of the flat scale (2 1 2 2 1 2).
For symmetric scales the superimposition method is similar, except that each sub-
scale root is taken into account. First, the sub-scales are rearranged through octave-
transposition, such that original distance r between roots is reduced to 12 − r and the
sub-scale whose root is the tonic is positioned in the middle of the other sub-scales.
The melodic axes are then partitioned and shifted vertically, if required, so that seg-
ments within distance p above the primary axis are assigned the primary axis, seg-
ments within distance 2p above the primary axis are assigned the root 12 − r above,
and so on. Segments within distance p below the primary axis are assigned the root
12 − r below, and so on. Separate pitch-scales for each root are then superimposed
on their respective axes; from thereon the rest of the process for melodic generation is
It can be seen in figure 3.19 that most of the intersection points do not fall neatly in
48 Implementation of the Schillinger System

1 a6

Local Scale

Full Scale


1 a2

a1 Primary Axis


Figure 3.19: Superimposition of the flat scale (2 1 2 2 1 2) on the system from figure 3.18.
Vertical components of the intersection points must be adjusted to align with the pitches in the
given scale on the left.

line with the discrete pitches of the scale. Schillinger stops short of providing rules for
resolving each situation, focussing instead on the notions of ‘ascribed’ motion (mov-
ing to the ‘outside’ of the axes), ‘inscribed’ motion (moving to the ‘inside’ of the axes)
and various forms of discrete oscillatory motion; and leaving it the composer to exer-
cise musical judgement. Consequently, the examples in Schillinger’s text do not fol-
low any ostensible rules consistently enough to be extended to general cases. This is
understandable from the outset, given his philosophy of reducing the presence of po-
tential stylistic constraints in his system, but it does mean that automatically resolving
the intersection points to scale pitches manifests as a significant obstacle in adapting
the framework to computer implementation. This problem will be addressed in detail
in section 3.5.3.

3.5.3 Types of Motion Around the Axes

This section outlines one possible algorithm for mapping the vertical components
of the intersection points, found using the procedure shown in figure 3.18, onto the
pitches of a discrete pitch-scale.
The most difficult part of the Theory of Melody to formally adapt is Schillinger’s no-
tion of fine-grained oscillatory melodic motion relative to the axes. This is primarily
because the different types of motion tend to be defined using hand-drawn continu-
ous curves, which are generally intended to be converted to a discrete representation
§3.5 Theory of Melody 49

using a composer’s musical judgement. To complicate matters further, Schillinger in-

correctly defines the motions of sine and cosine, as Backus also noted [Backus 1960].
Despite this, it is possible to derive a concrete framework that implements the types
of oscillation Schillinger intended to represent. They can be reduced to ‘inscribed’
motion, ‘ascribed’ motion, ‘alternating’ motion and ‘revolving’ motion.
Inscribed and ascribed motion require intersection points to be dragged to scale
pitches that are on the side of the axis closest to and furthest from the primary axis,
respectively. Alternating motion requires a continuous crossing of the axis, as shown
in figure 3.20(a), while revolving motion is supposed to follow a more ‘sine-like’ cross-
ing of the axis as shown in figure 3.20(b).

1 1
0 0
-1 -1
(a) (b)

Figure 3.20: Alternating and revolving motion types about an axis, represented here as zero

Although Schillinger’s definitions for these four motion types appear to be pre-
sented in clear terms, the precise rules for applying them to axes with non-zero gra-
dients can only be inferred through demonstration, and unfortunately the definitions
often contradict his use of them in the provided examples. Therefore it has been neces-
sary for this author to devise an appropriate algorithm from scratch in order to allow
the system to function (see algorithm 3.1 below). Two principles were adhered to in
an attempt to avoid imparting too much of the author’s aesthetic influence on the
system. Firstly, the algorithm is tuned to reproduce Schillinger’s examples as closely
as possible on average; and secondly, it is designed to tend away from sequences of
repeated notes. The latter decision is based on a general compositional principle that
was judged not to be inherently style-specific.
For implementation, the types of motion can be sufficiently encoded using the
following parameters.

• bias := inscribed (-1) | ascribed (1)

• alternating := true | false

• revolve := down (-1) | none (0) | up (1)

A ‘motion type’ is assigned to every axis as a (bias alternating revolving)

tuple. The bias switches polarity at every intersection point if the alternating bit
is set to true. Revolving motion is applied in a constant fashion regardless of the
current bias setting — if the revolve field is set to −1, the melody moves down in
pitch, while if set to 1 the melody moves up in pitch. Only when the revolve field
is zero is bias applied. If the revolve field is initialised to zero, no revolving motion
occurs at all; whereas initialising it to non-zero causes different results depending on
50 Implementation of the Schillinger System

Algorithm 3.1 Resolve a sequence of intersection points X to pitches P, using pitch-

scale S, motion parameters bias, alternating and revolve, and the axis gradient.
for all xi in X do
if revolve = 1 then
pi = above( S, pi−1 )
nextrev = −1
revolve = 0
else if revolve = −1 then
pi = below( S, pi−1 )
nextrev = 1
revolve = 0
if bias and gradient are same polarity then
xi = xi +1
end if
if xi falls exactly on a pitch-scale note then
pi = xi
if xi is equidistant from below( S, xi ) and above( S, xi ) then
if bias = 1 then
pi = above( S, xi )
w = below( S, xi )
pi = below( S, xi )
w = above( S, xi )
end if
else if above( S, xi ) is closer to xi than below( S, xi ) then
pi = above( S, xi )
w = below( S, xi )
pi = below( S, xi )
w = above( S, xi )
end if
if pi = pi−1 then
pi = w
end if
end if
revolve = nextrev
end if
if alternating then
bias = −bias
end if
end for

N.B. when pi−1 or xi+1 exceed the range of i, the pitches corresponding exactly to
the start and end-points of the axis are assigned instead.
§3.5 Theory of Melody 51

its initial polarity. This means that, in total, the parameters allow for twelve different
forms of motion.
In algorithm 3.1, the functions below(S, a) and above(S, a) are assumed to return
the closest pitch from S which is below or above the point a. To illustrate how this
algorithm applies to the scenario shown previously in figure 3.19, all twelve motion
combinations are documented in table 3.3 and figure 3.21 as they pertain to the first
axis in that scenario, with the primary axis instantiated as C4 .

Bias -1 1
Alternating T F T F
Revolve Type -1 0 1 -1 0 1 -1 0 1 -1 0 1
Label Cross-point
a1 60.00 60 60 60 60 60 60 62 62 62 62 62 62
a2 62.50 63 63 63 62 62 62 63 63 63 63 63 63
a3 63.75 65 65 62 63 63 60 65 65 62 65 65 62
a4 65.00 67 67 67 65 65 65 65 65 65 67 67 67
a5 66.25 65 65 68 63 67 67 63 67 67 65 68 68
a6 67.50 70 70 70 67 68 68 67 68 68 70 70 70
Figure 3.21 references A B C D E F G H I J K L

Table 3.3: Resolution of points in figure 3.19 using the possible motion combinations, with C4
as the primary axis

A:        B:        C:       
D:        E:        F:       
G:        H:        I:       
J:        K:        L:       

Figure 3.21: Musical representation of the results in table 3.3

Figure 3.22 shows the result of applying the motion type (-1 false 0) to every
axis in the figure 3.19 scenario.

           

Figure 3.22: Resolution of figure 3.19 using motion type (-1 false 0)

As a final case in point, Schillinger’s retrofitting of the opening of a composition

by J.S. Bach to a pair of axes to demonstrate the theory’s efficacy is compared with the
same pair of axes processed using the automated Schillinger System. This serves to
52 Implementation of the Schillinger System

illustrate some of the issues that have been mentioned. The comparison can be found
in table 3.4 and figure 3.23.

Table 3.4: Modelling Bach: Schillinger’s representation and this system’s equivalent
Axis Parameter Schillinger’s text This system
Axis type ‘ 0a ’ (1 0 (1))
1 Rhythm (-2 2 2 2 2 2) (-2 2 2 2 2 2)
Motion ‘sine with increasing amplitude’ (-1 false 0)
Axis type ‘b’ 2
2 Rhythm (2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1) (2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1)
Motion ‘sine+cos with constant amplitude’ (1 false -1)
Scale (2 2 1 2 2 2) (2 2 1 2 2 2)

Figure 3.23: Modelling Bach: comparison between Schillinger (left) and the this system (right)

The fact that the automated Schillinger System comes close to replicating the pas-
sage from Bach is not intended to be a measure of its success. In fact, it raises the
question of whether Schillinger’s system (and, by extension, the automated system)
is really capable of generating music independent of style, or if it has simply been
modelled off existing music using a different methodology to the treatises which
Schillinger hoped to supersede. In order to examine this question properly, it is neces-
sary to collect data on the stylistic properties of the system’s output. The experiments
designed to do this can be found in chapter 4 of this thesis. In any case, the param-
eters and the algorithm presented in this section provide a concrete specification of
axis-relative motion which this author believes successfully encapsulates the ideas
Schillinger expressed informally.

3.5.4 Building Melodic Compositions

A system of axes which has been converted to a sequence of pitches with an asso-
ciated sequence of relative durations forms a melody. Depending on the stochastic
parameters which have been used to generate it, the melody may be reasonably mu-
sically self-contained, or it may constitute a short melodic fragment. In both cases this
melody is used as the basic material for building a complete melodic composition.
This is done by appending the initial melody with a series of modifications of either
§3.5 Theory of Melody 53

the melody or its individual axes. Schillinger suggests that these modifications can be
any combination of the following:

• Tonal expansion

• Circular permutation

• Geometrical inversion (types 1–4)

• Geometrical expansion

The procedure which builds the melody takes a vector representing the sequences
of axes to use, and four vectors representing the respective sequences of modifications.
As usual, Schillinger provides no formal guidelines for generating these vectors other
than implying that the original melody should feature unmodified at the beginning
and with minimal modification at the end of the composition. This basic constraint
has been implemented, as well as some other constraints which have been informed
by Schillinger’s examples. In all instances below, L is the nominal length of the final

• The axis vector A is defined as { a0 , a1 , . . . , a L }; 0 ≤ ai ≤ n, where n is the number

of axes constituting the initial melody, and zero is used to denote the full initial
melody comprising all the axes in their initial order. The axis terms a1 . . . a L−1
are selected randomly with 10 percent weighting given to a value of zero and
90 percent distributed evenly among rest, while the term a0 is restricted to zero
and a L is restricted evenly to either zero or the last axis in the system. These
simple constraints tend to generate melodic ‘expositions’ followed by sequences
of ‘developments’, and also tend to enforce similarity between the opening and
closing sections of compositions.

• The permutation vector P is defined as { p0 , p1 , . . . , p L }; 0 ≤ pi < length( ai ).

As per Schillinger’s recommendation, the permutations are restricted to circular
permutations in order to maintain the basic interval structure of the sequence.
Terms p0 and p L are restricted to zero, while terms p1 . . . p L−1 are uniformly
random. The permutation of an axis applies to its pitches but not its durations.

• The tonal expansion vector S is defined as {s0 , s1 , . . . , s L }; si ∈ {0, 1}. The terms
refer to orders of tonal expansion as explained in section 3.3.2, and their proba-
bilities are weighted equally. Higher orders are avoided because their intervals
quickly become enormous, and ‘collapsing’ the pitches (as used for geometrical
expansions — see below) loses the original shape of the melody, which is not
intended by Schillinger in this case. s0 and s L are restricted to zero.

• The inversion vector I is defined as { j0 , j1 , . . . , j L }; 1 ≤ ji ≤ 4; that is, a selec-

tion from the taxonomy of inversions presented in section 3.4, with 20 percent
weighting given to type 1 (no inversion) and 80 percent distributed uniformly
among the rest. The term j0 is restricted to zero, while j L is restricted evenly to
type 1 or 4.
54 Implementation of the Schillinger System

• The expansion vector E is defined as {e0 , e1 , . . . , e L }; ei ∈ {1, 2, 3, 5, 7}. The terms

refer to the orders of expansion as in section 3.4. Orders 4 and 6 are omitted
(upon Schillinger’s recommendation) because they do nothing more than re-
duce the space of pitches to a subset of order 2. These expansions frequently
extend far beyond the range of the piano, so they are routinely ‘collapsed’ back
to the register of the starting note of the sequence through octave transpositions.
Geometric expansions are used sparingly because they modify the original ma-
terial to the greatest extent. Thus a weighting of 60 percent is assigned to order
1 (no expansion), with 40 percent distributed uniformly among the rest. e0 and
e L are restricted to order 1.

A melodic composition can then be expressed as the sequence { M0 , M1 , . . . , ML },

where Mi is built using the formula below. The order of operations has been inferred
from the examination of Schillinger’s examples.

expgeometric (permute (invert (exptonal (ai ), si ), ji ), pi ), ei )

3.6 Structure of the Automated Schillinger System

All of the procedures described up to this point exist independently as a set of compo-
sitional ‘building blocks’, and as such they cannot be used to compose music without
being interfaced in some way. Although Schillinger’s theories regularly reference one
another, in the first four books there are no formalised higher level procedures for
creating compositions from scratch. This section outlines the software solution that
has been devised by this author to encompass all four theories in a fully automated
system which can compose self-contained, single-voice melodic compositions, and
multi-voice harmonic passages. To orient the reader, a basic overview of the system’s
architecture is contained in figure 3.24.
On the following page the reader will find a more comprehensive call graph of the
automated Schillinger System. This graph refers to all of the individual procedures
necessary to summarise system’s architecture. The points in the system that the user
interfaces with can be found in the bottom left and top right corners (‘compose har-
mony’ and ‘compose melody’). Red boxes surround the groups of procedures that are
either associated with or directly implement Schillinger’s theories in books I–IV.
Automated Schillinger System: Call Graph THEORY OF MELODY

Build Melody Compose

Random Axis

Random Build Params.
Random Scale
Flat Scale

Superimpose Generate
Pitch/Rhythm Secondary Axes
Random Scale
Symm. Scale Tonal Expansion

Group Attacks Generate

Acoustically Rhythm
Adjust Register
Invert Voice Expand Voice
Convert Basis

Group Durations
Primary Res.
Invert Harmony
Starting Chord Random Res.
Scale Translator Hybrid Harmony
Secondary Res. From Basis

Splice Contract Pitch Tertiary Res.

Harmony Range
Nearest-tone Scale to
Voice Leading Basic Harmony Interference Resultant

Generate Symm. Symmetric to Self-contained

Harmony Sub-scales Rhythm
Rhy. Continuity

Coeff. / Group Algebraic Permutation

Compose Synchronisation Exp. Generator

56 Implementation of the Schillinger System

Automated Schillinger System

Theory of Rhythm
Theory of Pitch

Theory of Melody


Figure 3.24: Basic overview of the structure of the automated Schillinger System

The following sections describe the higher level procedures that were necessary to
complete the automated system. As far as Schillinger’s system itself is concerned, they
are entirely arbitrary manifestations of this author’s interpretation of the formalism
as a whole. This is somewhat problematic, and even though every effort has been
made to impart as little aesthetic influence as possible through these procedures, such
influence is difficult to perceive in the system’s output and the lack of it cannot be

3.6.1 Rhythm Generators

Despite the abilities of the rhythmic procedures in section 3.2 to generate a vast space
of content, one lingering aspect of the Theory of Rhythm that remains largely undefined
by Schillinger is how to select from it; this is left entirely to the composer’s musical
taste. In lieu of any formal procedures, the current section describes this author’s
necessary solution for providing rhythmic resultants to the harmonic and melodic
modules. As mentioned above, this solution is quite arbitrary — it has been designed
to incorporate as much of the content produced by his procedures as possible.
The schematic in figure 3.25 shows how the automatic Schillinger System’s two
rhythm generators are structured. Calling functions make one of the following re-
quests, in which t is the time basis and T is the time ratio.

• Rhythm generator 1: generate-rhythm(t, T)

• Rhythm generator 2: random-resultant(t)

The functionality of each part is listed below.

• The primary, secondary and tertiary resultants are produced using pairs or trios
of integers as described in section 3.2.1.
§3.6 Structure of the Automated Schillinger System 57

1. Generate
Group Durations

Resultant 2. Random
Interference Resultant

Permutation Resultant

Rhythmic Resultant
Continuity Resultant
Group by Pairs

Algebraic Self-contained
Expansion Rhythm

Figure 3.25: Call graph showing the structure of the rhythm generators

• Rhythm generator 2 (‘random resultant’) selects between the three kinds of re-
sultants with equal probability. In line with Schillinger’s suggestion the inputs
for the tertiary resultant function are confined to trios of integers ≤ 9 drawn
from the same Fibonacci sequence. Primary and secondary resultant inputs are
also confined to an enumerated set of possible pairs at Schillinger’s behest, with
all integers i such that i ≤ 9. In all cases one of these integers is fixed as t.

• The function which generates random resultant combos in the manner shown
in 3.2.1 does so by randomly generating both a primary and secondary resultant
using t, with the same constraints as rhythm generator 2.

• The permutation generator returns a random circular permutation of its input.

• The ‘Self-contained rhythm’ function first extracts a random sub-group G of du-

ration t from a resultant R provided by rhythm generator 2. It then collects a
random resultant combo using t, algebraic expansions of G using powers 2 and
3, and continuity patterns of all variation types listed in section 3.2.3 generated
from both R and G. Finally, it randomly selects a resultant from the subset of the
collection possessing total durations less than T × t.

• Rhythm generator 1 randomly selects from a ‘self-contained’ rhythm, a random

(t × T )-duration sub-group of a resultant R provided by rhythm generator 2,
and a random t-duration sub-group of R concatenated to a recursive call to
rhythm generator 1 with arguments t and T − 1.

Rhythm generator 1 is used by the melodic module to randomly generate rhythmic re-
sultants of specific total durations that are then superimposed onto axes as described
58 Implementation of the Schillinger System

in section 3.5. Rhythm generator 2 supplies only randomly selected symmetrical re-
sultants of arbitrary total duration. These are used by the harmonic module to splice
harmonic inversions together as shown in section 3.4, by the melodic module to de-
termine the pattern of alternation between the individual axes in a combination axis,
and also by rhythm generator 1.
The rhythmic generators do not attempt to assess the inherent quality of a resul-
tant or its applicability to the context it is required in. Instead, they make the as-
sumption that all rhythms which satisfy the constraints t and T imposed by the caller
are equally viable (and by implication, that Schillinger’s rhythmic procedures are do-
ing something musically meaningful). Thus, in effect the rhythmic generator does
nothing more than impose a probability distribution across the space of all possible
resultants of a given total duration, as a side-effect of the generative procedures it has
at its disposal. To illustrate the point, figure 3.26 shows the relative frequency of all
possible resultants that are encompassed by the time basis t = 4, with T = 1.

Probability of occurence



















Rhythmic resultants

Figure 3.26: The probability distribution imposed by rhythm generator 1 across the space of
rhythmic resultants for t = 4 and T = 1.

Degazio pointed out that Schillinger’s method of treating rhythmic cells as multi-
level structural generators could be used to produce fractal structures [Degazio 1988].
This possibility has not been pursued in the current scope of work because the har-
monic and melodic modules contain only very limited opportunities to incorporate
such structures. Additionally, given that the current thesis is concerned with adapting
Schillinger’s system as a music-generating entity in itself, the application of Degazio’s
ideas would likely fall outside of this goal.

3.6.2 Harmonic and Melodic Modules

The harmonic module uses rhythm generator 2 , the procedures pertaining to symmet-
ric pitch-scales and the geometric variation procedures to build a harmonic passage.
§3.6 Structure of the Automated Schillinger System 59

Virtually all of the required functionality for this process has already been discussed
in sections 3.3 and 3.4; the module merely controls the data flow during the compo-
sition process. Figure 3.27 contains a visual representation of the module’s operation.
The constraints applied during composition can be found in section 3.6.3.

Symmetric Scale

Acoustically acceptable? 3.3.4

Symm. Scale to


Tonal Symm. Scale Contract Pitch

Expansions to Chords Range

3.3.2 3.3.4 3.3.4

Hybrid Harmony


Rhythmic Harmony Geometric

Generator 2 Splicer Inversions

3.6.1 3.4.2 3.4.1

Voice Leading



Figure 3.27: Harmonic module data flow, including relevant section numbers pertaining to
this chapter.

The melodic module incorporates all four of Schillinger’s theories that have been
examined in previous sections. The composition process is visualised in figure 3.28.
As with the harmonic module, the melodic module controls the data flow during this
process, thereby acting as an interface between Schillinger’s theories. However, so far
the process for generating a melody is only well defined if the axis system is already
known (as was the case in for examples in section 3.5). Unfortunately Schillinger
provides no explicit method for generating axis systems, so this author has provided
two further procedures to accomplish this task.
60 Implementation of the Schillinger System

Generate Axis
System 3.5.1

Rhythm Generate Random Flat or

Generator 1 Secondary Axes Symmetric Scale

3.6.1 3.6.2 3.3.1


Rhythm and Pitch
onto Axes
Tonal Expansions
(Scale Translator)


Build Melody
Build Parameters

3.5.4 3.5.4



Figure 3.28: Melodic module data flow, including relevant section numbers pertaining to this

The first produces a set of axis parameters: a sequence of axis types, a sequence
of time ratios, a sequence of pitch ratios, a time basis t and a ‘degree of motion’. Cur-
rently, the axis types are influenced by the user in the form of ‘stimulus’ list such as
the following:

(u b u b)

A value of u indicates an ‘unbalanced’ axis, while b indicates a ‘balanced’ axis.

These values are used to choose axis types (or combinations of axis types) at random
from the taxonomy in figure 3.15. The time basis, time ratio and pitch ratio associated
with each axis are chosen at random from the ranges documented in section 3.6.3.
The degree of motion is a concept included by the author to ensure that rather than
§3.6 Structure of the Automated Schillinger System 61

the oscillatory motion types of each axis being selected at randomly from the twelve
possible types (see section 3.5.3), a relatively consistent amount of either angular or
smooth step-wise movement is applied from axis to axis. A degree of motion is se-
lected at random from the range [1, 5]. The meaning of these options is described
The second procedure in the chain, as observed in figure 3.28, is necessary to pro-
vide a system of axes which can then undergo the superimposition process. Each axis
output by this procedure consists of the corresponding axis type and pitch ratio P
generated by the first procedure; a rhythmic resultant provided by rhythm genera-
tor 1 of total duration t × T; and a motion type of the form (bias, alternating,
revolve). Table 3.5 shows how the motion type is influenced using the degree of
motion by applying different probabilities to the individual parameters of the motion
type tuple. The u and b options in the bias column apply when the axis type is re-
spectively unbalancing or balancing. Informally, the degrees range from guaranteed
smooth motion to guaranteed oscillatory motion with frequent melodic leaps.

Table 3.5: Probabilities of motion type parameters for different degrees of motion
Bias Alternating Revolve
-1 1 T F -1 0 1
1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
b: 1 b: 0
2 0 1 0 1 0
u: 0 u: 1
b: 1 b: 0
3 0.2 0.8 0.25 0.5 0.25
u: 0 u: 1
b: 0.7 b: 0.3
4 0.5 0.5 0.25 0.5 0.25
u: 0.3 u: 0.7
5 0.5 0.5 1 0 0.5 0 0.5

Once a melodic composition is generated, the module converts the resulting se-
quence of relative durations (accompanying the pitch sequence) into a standard form
appropriate to be mapped to musical notation, by dividing each relative duration by
the power of 2 closest to the time basis.

3.6.3 Parameter Settings

The table in this section (table 3.6) contains the parameter ranges that are wired into
the ‘push-button’ version of the automated Schillinger System. Within the specified
ranges, the actual values chosen are uniformly random for each execution of a mod-
ule. The table does not include constraints that are in place according to Schillinger’s
explicit recommendations, thereby contributing directly to the modelling of the the-
ories. This information is meant to complement the constraints introduced by the
author as part of the process of adapting the procedures, such as those that were men-
tioned in sections 3.5.3, 3.5.4 and 3.6.2. Generally speaking, the settings have been
chosen with the view to coaxing forth a representative cross-section of the system’s
62 Implementation of the Schillinger System

Table 3.6: Parameter settings used by the author for the ‘push-button’ system
Section Parameter Range/setting
No. symmetric sub-scale intervals [1, 6]
Restrict 7-tone scales to Western false
Harmonic module
Tonic note [C3 , C5 ]
Time basis for splicing [3, 9]
Possible inversion types [1, 4]
No. flat scale intervals [1, 7]
No. symmetric sub-scale intervals [2, 6]
Flat scale range [5, 12]
Melodic module Restrict 7-tone scales to Western true
Tonic note [C3 , C5 ]
Time basis for rhythm [3, 9]
Nominal length [5, 9]
Pitch ratio [1, 2]
Time ratio [1, 4]

musical capability without requiring an enormous quantity of output and analysis.

Specifically, each parameter has been given its current setting by the author for any
one of three reasons:

• To avoid unreasonably long computation times in the Impromptu environment;

• To reduce the presence of clusters in the output possessing particular anoma-

lous characteristics, such as harmonies that contain only a single repeated chord,
melodies with physically implausible intervals or music centered in extreme reg-

• To implement musically logical lower or upper bounds that are not mentioned
by Schillinger but are necessary to prevent output which is completely trivial,
such as one-note harmonies or melodies5 ; or music that is absurdly long.

In future work, specific combinations of these parameters may be established that

serve as reliable prescriptions for stylistic or aesthetic properties in the music’s output.
They could also be made individually controllable by the user as part of a graphical
or command-line interface. So far, the author has not been able to identify individual
parameters that have a noticeable or measurable effect on the final output in terms of
its style.

3.7 Parts of Schillinger’s Theories Not Utilised

The content of books V–XII of the Schillinger System has not been used in either of
the modules due to the restricted scope of this thesis. Additionally, several aspects
This is not to suggest that single-note melodies cannot be musically interesting. In this case however,
they will certainly be trivial.
§3.7 Parts of Schillinger’s Theories Not Utilised 63

of books I–IV have also been omitted from the project for various reasons. These are
listed below to help give a clear idea of the extent and limitation of the current work,
and also as a reference for future work.

• The use of tertiary generators, variation techniques and algebraic expansions

for producing poly-rhythmic textures has not been included because the system
does not currently incorporate a notion of polyphony. Polyphony is central to
the construction of more complex compositions, requiring the context of books

• The application of resultants and synchronisation to ‘instrumental forms’ is omit-

ted because it pertains to instrumentation and orchestration, which are discussed
in later books.

• Rests are not incorporated into the rhythmic generator for want of a more so-
phisticated method determining their placement. Schillinger offers minimal ad-
vice on the placement of rests.

• Rhythmic accents are not incorporated because they are only covered extremely
briefly and fall partly into the realm of Schillinger’s Theory of Dynamics.

• Schillinger’s ‘evolution of rhythm styles’ is omitted because it consists primarily

of an analytical discussion with reference to popular musical styles of his time
of writing, rather than any explicit generative procedures.

• The discussion of ‘rhythms of variable velocities’ is relevant to the field of ex-

pressive performance rather than to algorithmic composition as such. The prob-
lem of expressive performance is mentioned in chapter 4 of this thesis.

• The use of synchronisation to produce simple looping melodic forms from pitch-
scales has not been incorporated into the melodic module because it does not fit
with the melodic axis paradigm, which is what the current melodic module is
built around. As it is presented, it also produces absolute rhythmic monotony,
which has been avoided for this system’s melodies.

• Schillinger’s ‘evolution of pitch-scale families’ refers to the use of interference,

subdivision, circular permutation and transposition to build a set of supposedly
related scales which may bring unity to a longer form piece. As both modules in
this system are focussed on smaller compositions, this concept has been aban-
doned for the present time.

• The concept of ‘melodic modulation’, as discussed in the Theory of Pitch-scales;

that is, concatenating the synchronised melodic forms mentioned above into
longer sequences using multiple pitch-scales with pivot sequences at the con-
nection points, has not so far been incorporated into the melodic module. Again
this is due to it being largely incongruous with the axis paradigm. Schillinger’s
method of identifying and reusing motifs using this concept should also be
64 Implementation of the Schillinger System

• Producing melodic continuity from symmetric pitch-scale ‘contractions’ has been

omitted for the same reasons as above.

• The accompaniment of the simple harmonic procedures in section 3.3.4 with

melodic forms derived from the same pitch-scale has been omitted from the cur-
rent implementation, because without significant human intervention it places
too many restrictions on the current method for harmonic generation used in
the harmonic module.

• The concatenation of short melodies into longer melodies using only geometri-
cal inversions has been avoided as a technique in itself, because the equivalent
functionality exists in the melody builder as part of the somewhat more sophis-
ticated melodic module.

• Geometrical expansions in the temporal domain have been left out of the melodic
module for the time being because they produce quite drastic incongruities in
what are currently short-form compositions. It may be more appropriate to in-
clude this once more explicit concepts of form and higher-level structure have
been incorporated from later books.

• The geometrical expansion of harmonies is not currently performed,

√ because it
has the effect of simply√projecting a chord √the 2 tuning sys-
√ progression from √
tem into whole-tone ( 6 2), diminished ( 4 2), augmented ( 3 2) and tritone ( 2 2)
systems. This technique was deemed unnecessarily limiting for short harmonic
passages, but could be viable in the context of longer compositions.

• No attempt has been made to automate Schillinger’s notion of musical seman-

tics because it is mostly in the form of philosophical discussion. The section on
climax and resistance in relation to a ‘psychological dial’ is particularly note-
worthy because in the past it has been referred to by successful film composers
[Degazio 1988]. As explained in section 3.6.2, the user is currently in control of
‘seeding’ the melodic module with a set of abstract axis types, but no explicit
musical meaning is drawn from their combination when building a composi-

• Schillinger’s application of melodic trajectories to generate short embellishments

has not been used in the current system, but is fairly amenable to being added
in the short term.

• The very brief discussion on melodic modulation in the context of axis systems
is omitted because it was felt that it would be better considered in the future
alongside Schillinger’s other discussions of melodic modulation in the context
of pitch-scales.

• Finally, the use of ‘organic forms’ (melodic motifs or entire passages generated
using number sequences related to the Fibonacci series) in melody generation
§3.8 Discussion 65

has been omitted due to time constraints. These motifs could easily be incorpo-
rated into melodic compositions by giving the melody builder the opportunity
to select them either as a possible variation or an alternative initial sequence.
This requires the composition’s pitch-scale to be derived from the motif.

To summarise, the elements of Schillinger’s theories listed above have mostly been
left out either due to time constraints or because they are too heavily related to theories
in books V-XII to warrant further investigation without the additional context. All of
the items stand to be revisited in future work.

3.8 Discussion
The construction of an algorithmic composition system based entirely on Schillinger’s
theories has presented several hurdles. In particular, none of the first four books of
the Schillinger System under consideration contain the means for formally interfacing
each collection of procedures, and even some of the procedures which are amenable
to computer realisation require significant reinterpretation to make this plausible.
In both cases the author has been obliged to devise and implement algorithms not
present in Schillinger’s theories, and it is possible that this has influenced the aesthetic
characteristics of the system’s output in ways that are difficult to detect, something
undesirable but unavoidable.
Nevertheless, this chapter has shown that the bulk of the material in these books
can in fact be adapted to computer implementation. As far as the author can ascertain
this is the first system of its kind to be formally documented. Two modules have been
presented that automatically compose harmonies and melodies using Schillinger’s
theories in a non-interactive ‘push-button’ paradigm. These modules have been de-
scribed in detail, and the points in the system’s operation where constraints on the
output space are enforced have been documented. Of particular note is a new formal
definition of Schillinger’s ‘forms of motion’ in section 3.5.3, which allows for gener-
ation of melodies using the informal framework he provided in the Theory of Melody.
This was followed by a comparison between the formal and informal procedures in
the context of music by J. S. Bach, which has raised further pertinent questions about
the nature of the automated Schillinger System’s output with regard to musical style.
As it stands, this chapter’s content also provides a valuable resource for others wish-
ing to approach Schillinger’s first four theories of composition, because it contains
concise explanations of the majority of their generative procedures.
Up to this point the automated Schillinger System has been discussed in terms
of its procedures, but not in terms of the quality or stylistic diversity of the music
it is capable of producing. This is another matter entirely which will be explored
extensively in chapter 4 as a means of critically evaluating the system.
66 Implementation of the Schillinger System
Chapter 4

Results and Evaluation

4.1 Introduction
An algorithmic composition system is of no use if it does not produce musically mean-
ingful output. In a survey of the first three decades of computer-assisted composition,
Ames acknowledged the evaluation of output to be a highly problematic but essential
aspect of this research [Ames 1989]. Miranda has frequently noted the difficulty of
verifying musical output without intervening human subjectivity [Miranda 2001; Mi-
randa 2003]. Section 4.2 will briefly survey the most common methods of assessment
employed by authors who have viewed it necessary to go beyond a cursory personal
judgement. In the sections thereafter, informed by past methods of evaluation, two
experimental methods will be described that have been used to gain some insight into
the aesthetic and stylistic characteristics of the output from the automated Schillinger
The first experiment draws on the burgeoning field of musical information re-
trieval (MIR); in particular, automated genre classification. Section 4.4 presents a
method for measuring the style and diversity of MIDI output using MIR-oriented
machine learning software, and the corresponding results. The second experiment is
a listening survey involving expert participants, which provides a useful collection of
both quantitative and qualitative data from which to develop robust conclusions re-
garding the subjective properties of a representative group of samples of the system’s
output. Section 4.5 describes the details of the listening survey and presents the re-
sults from it. Section 4.6 summarises and discusses the implications of the results of
both experiments.

4.2 Common Methods of Evaluation

In describing the genetic algorithm-based improvisation system GenJam, Biles claimed
that solos begin to yield “pleasing” results after five generations and “reasonable”
results after ten generations [Biles 1994]. Johnson-Laird referred to the results of
a constraint-satisfaction composition system as “simplistic but pleasing” [Johnson-
Laird 1991]. Johanson and Poli, referring to a system using genetic programming,
gave the concluding statement that “almost all of the generated individuals were

68 Results and Evaluation

pleasant to listen to” [Johanson and Poli 1998]. This kind of cursory subjective judge-
ment by authors in the published literature is common. There is no suggestion being
made here that these judgements are necessarily unjustified, but they are fundamen-
tally unscientific, prone to bias and therefore unsatisfactory [Wiggins et al. 1993].
The formal assessment of the validity of musical passages has often been attempted
using objective functions, mostly in the context of genetic algorithms where it is neces-
sary to sort population members by fitness. These objective functions typically calcu-
late a ‘penalty’ score based on how many and what kinds of rules in a knowledge base
are broken [Phon-Amnuaisuk et al. 1999], or perform a statistical comparison to a cor-
pus of musical exemplars [Puente et al. 2002]. Unfortunately these methods are lim-
ited to musical problems with well-defined, widely documented aesthetic constraints
— namely traditional chorale harmonisation.1 Pearce and Wiggins have discussed
more advanced frameworks intended to replace subjective judgements with exten-
sive musical analysis, but they too can only operate within specific stylistic boundaries
[Pearce and Wiggins 2001].
It is desirable to move beyond this kind of evaluation. For this reason some au-
thors have undertaken more rigorous evaluations of output by involving one or more
‘musical experts’. Phon-Amnuaisuk engaged a senior musicology lecturer to mark
computer output using the same criteria as first-year students of harmony [Phon-
Amnuaisuk et al. 1999]. Hild et al. used “an audience of music professionals” who
ranked the output of the system HARMONET to be on the level of an improvising or-
ganist [Hild et al. 1991]. Periera et al. used “expert musicologists” to give a panel-style
evaluation using criteria such as musical interest and musical reasoning [Pereira et al.
1997]. Storino et al. have concentrated on whether or not humans are able distinguish
human-composed music of a particular style from similar computer-composed music
in controlled experiments [Storino et al. 2007].
In the human experiments above where the focus is not on fooling participants
with style imitation but rather seeking a genuine appraisal of merit, none of the meth-
ods or results are presented in the literature except anecdotally, and there is little evi-
dence that they are particularly rigorous. This thesis will take the concept of assessing
musical merit one step further by performing a far more in-depth survey of expert hu-
man participants using carefully designed criteria. The details of this study comprise
section 4.5.

4.3 Automated Schillinger System Output

Before the details of the experiments designed for evaluation are presented, it is im-
portant to make clear exactly what is being evaluated.
The automated Schillinger System does not output audio data; instead it gener-
ates symbolic data constituting pitch and duration information in the form of LISP
Even within this apparently well-defined problem space, the use of objective functions to guide
musical quality is highly questionable, given that the exemplars of four-part chorale writing routinely
break the rules of harmony that have supposedly been derived from them [Radicioni and Esposito 2006].
§4.3 Automated Schillinger System Output 69

data structures (discussed briefly in section 3.1.2). This has two implications: firstly,
a process must take place in order to convert the symbolic data into audio, and sec-
ondly, such a process will necessarily add information pertaining to musical dimen-
sions other than pitch and duration. The simplest solution is to map the pitch and
duration information to raw MIDI output, using default values for the other musi-
cal dimensions (primarily tempo, timbre and note velocity). This method was used
during development because it allowed instant feedback; the provision of audio and
MIDI interfaces is one of the advantages of writing Scheme in Impromptu.
The plain pitch and duration data is sufficient for this chapter’s genre classifica-
tion experiment, however the audio generated for instant feedback is only adequate
for verifying the correctness of the program. In order to assess the musical merit of
pitch and duration data, this data needs to be heard in the context of a fully embod-
ied parameter set in order to avoid biasing or distracting the listener by the lack of
variation in the dimensions which aren’t controlled by the system. This is especially
important when listeners undertaking the evaluation are musical experts with limited
or no experience in computer-aided composition.
This issue has been identified by several authors working in the field of automated
musical performance [Widmer and Goebl 2004; Arcos et al. 1998]. Kirke et al. pro-
vided a comprehensive survey of the approaches taken towards simulating the human
performance of musical data sets [Kirke and Miranda 2009]. The goal of this field of re-
search is to extend the realm of computer generated parameters to the total symbolic
parameter space of music, which would ultimately enable software to give expres-
sive renditions of computer-generated compositions instead of just ’robotic’ ones. In
particular, it focuses on the context-sensitive prediction of tempo and note velocity in-
formation. The computational approaches include ’expert’ non-learning performance
systems, regression methods, neural networks, case-based reasoning systems, statis-
tical graphical models, and evolutionary models.
Although automated expressive performance is clearly beyond the scope of this
thesis, it is still necessary for the music to be presented to a human audience in the
form of expressive performances. Such an approach using human performers has
been used extensively by Cope, for similar reasons related to bias as listed above
[da Silva 2003]. In this case however, to avoid the inconvenience of obtaining pro-
fessional performances from multiple instrumentalists, a high quality digital sound
library has been used to provide the timbres for a series of performances recorded by
the author using sequencing software. These sequences are subsequently rendered to
audio. Figure 4.1 gives a visualisation of the entire process, which incorporates the
open-source musical engraving software LilyPond to produce the intermediate output
of standard musical notation. (LilyPond is also used to generate the MIDI files to be
used for genre classification.) The reader, should they wish to briefly become listener,
is directed to the audio samples on the CD accompanying the hard copy of this docu-
ment. The samples are also available online.2

2 To access the MP3 files online, follow the hyper-links in the electronic copy of this document con-
tained in table 4.3, located in section 4.5.1.
70 Results and Evaluation

MIDI Files Classifier

Schillinger Sound
System Library

Author's Human
PDF Sequencer Audio
Performance Audience

Figure 4.1: Conversion process from list representation to audio

4.4 Assessing Stylistic Diversity

Both Schillinger and the editors of his published volumes make various claims to
the effect that in its capacity as a formalism designed for human composers, the
essence of the Schillinger system is independent of any overbearing stylistic frame-
work. The foreword by Henry Cowell, a distinguished composer and contemporary
of Schillinger [Quist 2002], suggests that Schillinger’s system is capable of generating
music in any style [Schillinger 1978]. The reasoning behind these views is that rather
than encoding explicit style-specific musical knowledge like many other music the-
ory treatises, the Schillinger System encodes implicit musical knowledge in the form
of procedures which, for the most part, can be expressed mathematically (see chapter
Given that the procedures have been adapted and implemented in the form of a
computer system, the notions of style and diversity must be investigated; not simply
to assess the credibility of the claims (it is not the express purpose of this section
of the thesis to either validate or debunk them), but more importantly to determine
whether or not the automated system could actually be used for generating material
in a variety of musical contexts.
It is for this reason that the active research field of genre classification has been
employed. The goal of using a classifier is two-fold: to find out which musical cate-
gories are assigned to the output of the automated Schillinger System, and to find out
whether the output contains a notable degree of statistical diversity — something that
would manifest as the frequent assignment of several different genres. If the classifier
were to give statistically significant results, then it would be meaningful to compare
them to the assertions regarding style and diversity collected from participants in the
listening survey (see section 4.5.4).
Section 4.4.1 will give an overview of the field of automatic genre/style classifi-
cation. This will serve as justification for the choice of software used to perform the
experiment outlined in sections 4.4.3, 4.4.4 and 4.4.5. The results will be presented and
discussed in section 4.4.6.
§4.4 Assessing Stylistic Diversity 71

4.4.1 Overview of Automated Genre Classification

Automatically classifying musical genre or style by examining an file’s audio or sym-

bolic (usually MIDI format) musical content has applications primarily in musical in-
formation retrieval and cognitive science. In the former case, the goal is to automate
the human task of assigning genres to tracks in musical databases to facilitate search-
ing, browsing and recommendation. In the latter, the goal is to discover the processes
behind the human cognition of musical style, and often to try and determine how
composer styles are manifested statistically or structurally. The computational ap-
proaches for each discipline have tended to be slightly different in the literature. MIR
research focuses predominantly on statistical feature extraction and standard machine
learning techniques. Style cognition research has a longer history, and has seen em-
phasis on grammatical and probabilistic models in additional to statistical feature ex-
Scaringella et al. [Scaringella et al. 2006] provide a comprehensive survey of au-
tomatic genre classification, pointing out that it is an extremely non-trivial problem
not only for technical reasons, but also due to many endemic problems with genre
definitions themselves. One of these problems is the lack of a consistent semantic
basis: labelling can derive from geographical origins (Latin), historical periods (Clas-
sical), instrumentation (Orchestral), composition techniques (Musique Concréte), sub-
cultures (Jazz), or from terms which are coined arbitrarily in the media or by artists
(Dubstep). Issues of scalability arise whenever new genres emerge from combinations
of old ones. Pachet and Cazaly noted the utter lack of consensus on genre taxonomies
among researchers and popular musical databases [Pachet and Cazaly 2000].
These problems cannot be ignored when designing classifiers. Scaringella argues
that attempting to derive genre from audio requires the assumption that it is as much
an intrinsic attribute of a title as tempo, which is “definitely questionable” [Scaringella
et al. 2006]. Dannenberg et al. commented that higher-level musical intent appears
“chaotic and unstructured” when viewed as low-level data streams [Dannenberg et al.
1997]. On the other hand, one particular study seems to provide good motivation
for this line of research: Gjerdingen and Perrott found that humans with variable
musical backgrounds were able to correctly categorise musical snippets of only 250ms
in 53 percent of cases, and snippets of 3 seconds in 72 percent of cases [Gjerdingen
and Perrott 2008]. This result is convincing evidence that even untrained humans
have an innate ability to recognise style from a small amount of data, which implies
that the data must contain some measurable characteristics which make that possible.
Therefore, in MIR the importance to date has been on the extraction of meaningful
statistical features from short frames of audio data.
Statistical features extracted from audio fall into the broad categories of temporal,
spectral, perceptual and energy content [Scaringella et al. 2006]. The precise feature
extraction algorithms are numerous and need not be discussed here. Feature patterns
are used to train models based on unsupervised clustering algorithms or supervised
learning algorithms. In both cases the resulting model of pattern separation is used as
the basis for the classification of new patterns extracted from unlabelled pieces of mu-
72 Results and Evaluation

sic. Various authors have reported success with an array of different algorithms and
feature sets, for both audio and symbolic data [Scaringella et al. 2006]. The advantage
of symbolic data is that reliably discerning musical statistics such as pitch and chord
relationships is easily accomplished; a disadvantage is the shortage of important spec-
tral information.

Chai and Vercoe classified symbolic encodings of monophonic folk melodies as

being Irish, German or Austrian using Hidden Markov Models, with an accuracy
approaching 80 percent [Chai and Vercoe 2001]. The classification of symbolically en-
coded folk songs was also addressed by Bod, using probabilistic grammars to achieve
85 percent accuracy [Bod 2001]. Shan and Kuo trained a genre classifier using both
MIDI harmonies and melodies [Shan and Kuo 2003]; they used a method combining a
priori pattern finding with heuristics, which achieved an accuracy of 84 percent using
just melodic features. Keirnan used self-organising maps to successfully partition au-
dio into three classes representing the composers Friederick, Quantz and Bach [Kier-
nan 2000]. Ruppin et al. [Ruppin and Yeshurun 2006] used the K-nearest neighbour
algorithm to classify MIDI files as either Classical, Pop or Classical Japanese, with 85
percent accuracy. Kosina used K-nearest-neighbours to classify audio as Metal, Dance
or Classical with 88 percent accuracy [Kosina 2002]. Xu et al. distinguished between
Pop, Classical, Jazz and Rock audio using support-vector machines, with 96 percent
accuracy [Xu et al. 2003]. Among the most comprehensive and successful work in
MIR to date is that by McKay, who used a learning ensemble consisting of neural net-
work and K-nearest-neighbour classifiers trained on MIDI files using 111 features and
audio using 26 features, each weighted by sensitivity using a genetic algorithm. This
system achieved a 9-genre classification accuracy of 98 percent [McKay 2010].

The majority of authors agree that improvement can be made by increasing the
sophistication of the feature sets, but evidently there is still no widely accepted algo-
rithm for making even extremely broad classifications. Some authors have deduced
that the relatively small size of the datasets may be to blame — both McKay and Ponce
de León et al. have concluded that song databases much larger than those currently
in use are the key to assessing the real worth of particular combinations of feature sets
and learning algorithms [McKay 2010; Ponce de León et al. 2004]. McKay also advo-
cates the training of classifiers on both audio and symbolic features simultaneously.
This requires perfect MIDI transcriptions of audio files, a rare commodity that will
continue to rely on highly skilled human labour until significant advances are made
in the field of automated polyphonic transcription [McKay 2010].

The recent release of a million-song feature-set for public use [Bertin-Mahieux et al.
2011] is likely to instigate the next generation of MIR research and a significant rais-
ing of the bar in the near future. In the meantime, it must be stressed that the assign-
ment of genre labels to the automated Schillinger System’s output will be flawed to
an extent; the purpose of the experiment is simply to determine whether the output’s
statistical characteristics point more towards certain styles than others, and whether
the output contains a notable degree of diversity.
§4.4 Assessing Stylistic Diversity 73

4.4.2 Choice of Software

As described in section 4.3, the output of the automated Schillinger System requires
conversion to audio for the human participants in the listening survey; however, only
MIDI files were able to be used for the purpose of automated classification. The main
reason for this is that the method for encoding audio from symbolic musical data
in figure 4.1 is time-consuming, and it was desirable to classify a large number of
compositions in order to obtain statistically significant results. The use of MIDI files
meant that symbolic classification software was required.
Classification software designed specifically for MIR research is currently diffi-
cult to come by. Fortunately McKay has developed a suite for precisely this purpose
called jMIR [McKay 2010] which may be used for both symbolic and audio files, and
a predecessor called Bodhidharma [McKay 2004] which was designed specifically for
working with MIDI files and is equivalent to using jMIR in symbolic mode. Bodhid-
harma was responsible for the winning entry at the 2005 MIREX music classification
conference [Mckay and Fujinaga 2005]. It extracts up to 111 selectable features, uses a
hierarchical taxonomy of 9 root genres and 38 leaf genres, and uses a learning ensem-
ble consisting of artificial neural network and K-nearest-neighbour classifiers [McKay
2004]. Furthermore, it is accompanied by a sizable training set of 950 MIDI files (re-
ferred to henceforth as the Bodhidharma set) intended for use with the hierarchical
taxonomy. It is therefore arguably the best possible means for performing a classifi-
cation experiment on MIDI data currently publicly available. Other options for MIDI
feature extraction and analysis such as Humdrum [Huron 2002] and The MIDI Toolbox
[Eerola and Toiviainen 2004] were examined, but proved to be not as comprehensive
as Bodhidharma.

4.4.3 Classification Experiment

The goals of this experiment can be summarised as follows:

1. To find out which genres are automatically assigned to the Schillinger output;

2. To see if those assignments are significantly different for the outputs of the har-
monic and melodic modules;

3. To test the hypothesis that the output from the Schillinger system is stylistically

The method used is outlined below:

1. Automatically generate sets of melodies and harmonies using the automated

Schillinger System;

2. Establish appropriate configurations for training a classifier for each set;

3. Train separate classifiers on the Bodhidharma set using the two configurations;
74 Results and Evaluation

4. Present the Schillinger sets to their respective classifiers to obtain genre labels;

5. Analyse the distribution of genre labels to satisfy each goal above.

4.4.4 Preparation of MIDI files

The current version of the automated Schillinger System is effectively engineered as a
‘push-button’ solution consisting of separate modules for generating harmonies and
melodies. The combinations of parameters controlling these modules, specified by the
author, have been listed in section 3.6.3.
The melodic module accepts as input a vector of high-level axis types (see section
3.6.2). One-hundred MIDI melodies were generated using the input (u u b b) —
that is, a sequence of two ‘unbalancing’ axes followed by two ‘balancing’ axes. This
set will be referred to as the 100M set. The harmonic module is fully automated. One-
hundred harmonies were generated which will be referred to as the 100H set.3
Harmonies were encoded as MIDI files using one voice per track, in order to im-
prove the performance of the feature extractor for pitch-class and textural features
[McKay 2010].
Ideally, to properly control the experiment the Bodhidharma set should be modi-
fied to be in exactly the same format as the system’s output. This would mean creating
one Bodhidharma set with all non-melodic tracks removed and another with all non-
harmonic tracks removed, with appropriate rhythmic quantization applied to all note
events. There are both practical and technical reasons why this could not be done in
the required time-frame:

• Distinguishing between melodic and harmonic tracks is very problematic in

some genres, despite being simple in others (those with lead vocals, for in-

• Melodic content contributes to harmonic content, and the music’s functional

context can easily change when the melody is absent;

• The two issues above mean that automating such a process could not give reli-
able results without implementing a complex set of algorithms for musical anal-
ysis. Such an implementation would be inordinately time-consuming within the
scope of the thesis, as would the manual modifications otherwise required;

• With so much information missing, the classifier’s ability to train successfully

on the Bodhidharma set may end up being too weak. If this were the case then it
might give credence to the notion that statistically similar harmonies or melodies
can be adapted to multiple genres, but it could just as easily lead to meaningless
classification results.
3 The first constraint in table 3.6 restricts harmonies to between 2 and 7 voices. This is deliberate,

because anything thicker than 7 voices causes the nearest-tone voice leading algorithm to have an un-
reasonable execution time due to its computational complexity and the fact that Impromptu is an inter-
preter. See section 3.3.3.
§4.4 Assessing Stylistic Diversity 75

Thus, a potentially less-than-ideal situation was settled upon to ensure the exper-
iment was at least feasible.

4.4.5 Classifier Configuration

Bodhidharma’s strength as a MIR utility lies in the carefully designed set of 111 sta-
tistical features that are extracted from the MIDI data. These features are split into
groups pertaining to instrumentation, texture, rhythm, dynamics, pitch, melody and
chords. The complete list can be found in [McKay 2004]. In order to focus as closely
as possible on the parameters controlled by the automated Schillinger System, the
classifiers for the 100H and 100M sets were trained with certain features switched off
for practical considerations, as shown below in table 4.1. For instance, it would not
make sense to include the instrumentation features in the training patterns when ev-
ery single member of the 100H and 100M sets uses the single default instrument of
grand piano. McKay and Fujinaga pointed out that instrumentation features can have
strong classification ability on their own [Mckay and Fujinaga 2005], therefore it is
necessary to remove the possibility of all 200 samples being assigned a genre which
is strongly defined by the presence of grand piano. Similar reasoning lies behind the
ignoring of features relating to dynamics and, in the case of the block harmonies of
the 100H set, rhythm.4

Table 4.1: Classification Experiments Using a 38-leaf Hierarchical Taxonomy

Feature Types Default 100M 100H
Instrumentation on off off
Texture on on on
Rhythm on on off
Dynamics on off off
Pitch Statistics on on on
Melody on on on
Chords on on on
Root success rate 84.7 67.0 80.0
Leaf success rate 58.3 43.9 57.0

Table 4.2, found below, lists the parameter settings which have the most impact
on the execution time and the classification accuracy for the training set. As Bodhid-
harma is flexible enough to allow training sessions which may run for impractical
amounts of time (in the order of several CPU-weeks), it was necessary to make sev-
eral compromises. The final configuration was slightly more liberal than one used by
McKay which was deemed successful in [McKay 2004]. Using this configuration, the
various combinations of extracted features lead to the root and leaf classification suc-
cess rates on the training set found above in table 4.1. It should be noted that using
4 In fact, Bodhidharma contains a bug that causes division by zero during the extraction of certain
rhythmic features from MIDI sequences in which note events are perfectly quantized and regularly
spaced — so the decision was further enforced by circumstance.
76 Results and Evaluation

a hierarchical taxonomy tends to hinder the assignment of correct root categories —

when trained with Bodhidharma’s regular flat taxonomy, root success rates are gener-
ally above 95 percent [McKay 2004]. The leaf success rates for the training set, while
not spectacular, are still impressive compared to the expected success rate of 2.63 per-
cent for pure chance (that is, the random assignment of leaf genres), and hence should
be adequate for gaining an insight into the characteristics of the 100M and 100H sets.

Table 4.2: Bodhidharma configuration

Preference Setting
Training/test split 80:20
Cross validation NO
Weight multi-dimensional features YES
Flat classifier ensemble YES
Hierarchical classifier ensemble YES
Round robin ensembles NO
Max GA generations 105
Max change in GA error before abort 10e-5
Max NN epochs 2000
Max change in NN error before abort 10e-7
Certainty threshold 0.25

4.4.6 Classification Results

The classifier was trained on the Bodhidharma set. The resultant training time for the
configuration described in 4.4.5 was roughly 300 minutes. The 100M and 100H sets
were then fed to the classifier to obtain genre labels. The assignment of genres for the
two sets is presented in figures 4.2 and 4.3. In the case where multiple outputs of the
neural network fired above the certainty threshold, multiple genres were assigned.
This provision is widely considered to be representative of how genres are assigned
by humans [Scaringella et al. 2006; McKay 2010], and is the reason for the relative
genre assignments in the graphs summing to more than 100 percent.
In figures 4.2 and 4.3, clustering is apparent in the broader genres of Jazz, Rhythm
and Blues, and Western Classical. Many genres have not been assigned at all. There
is also a significant difference between the assignment of harmonies and melodies.
100M was classified as 67 percent Jazz, 16 percent Rhythm and Blues and 82 percent
Western Classical. Conversely, a convincing 100 percent of the 100H set is deemed
to be Western Classical with only 4 percent being assigned Jazz. These figures are
apparently strong evidence that the output of the automated Schillinger System does
in fact have salient statistical properties which are suggestive of particular styles, and
that the melodic module has more diverse output than the harmonic module. These
results will be discussed further in section 4.6, in the context of the data from the
listening survey.

mp Blu

Tra orar e gr
Co dit y C ass
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un al n
try Co try
Be try
Bo Co


a N ol
Ja J o
zz Sm azz S va
th oul
Ad Ra azz
ult gti
Mo Co me
de nte Swi
rn mp ng
Po Da ora
p nc ry
Po Pop
Ha T ap
rdc echn
ore o
Ra B R
p Ch lues ap
ica Ro
Co o g ck
un Blu
Rh try es
yth So lue B
m ul
&B Blu s
lue Ro es
s ck Fu
an nk
Ha So
P r d ul

Root Classifier Results

Leaf Classifier Results

Ro Alt sych Rock

ck ern ed
ati e
ve lic
We c
Me k
ste tal
§4.4 Assessing Stylistic Diversity

nC P
las Ba unk
sic roq
al Cla ue
R Me sica
Mo ena diev l
We de i a
rn ssan l
ste Cla ce
rn ss
F olk Ro ica
ma l
Fla Celti
me c
Wo nc
rld Sa o
be ls
at Ta a
Figure 4.2: Leaf genres assigned to 200 samples from a 38-leaf hierarchical taxonomy

Figure 4.3: Root genres assigned to 200 samples from a 38-leaf hierarchical taxonomy
Re ngo
78 Results and Evaluation

4.5 Assessing Musical Merit

Section 4.2 mentioned the inadequacy of informal assessments of computer-generated
compositions. As the automated Schillinger System does not make any attempt to
imitate a particular style, there is no objective function of any complexity that will be
able to give an indication of the inherent quality of the compositions. Hence, there is
a motivation to evaluate the system using a group of expert listeners, using a more
rigorous and repeatable method than is typically found in the academic literature.
The aim of the experiment is to gather and process subjective data as objectively as
possible to correctly identify consensus or variation in collective opinion.
The following sections will outline the details of a listening experiment that has
provided strong indications about the intrinsic musical merit of the material gener-
ated by the automated Schillinger System. Sections 4.5.1 and 4.5.2 will discuss the
survey and the audio samples, and justify the decisions that went into their prepara-
tion. Section 4.5.3 will present the quantitative results from the sections of the survey
involving Likert scales, and section 4.5.4 will present the qualitative results obtained
from participants’ written responses using a process of analysis borrowed from the
field of Grounded Theory.

4.5.1 Listening Survey Design

Unlike the situation in section 4.4.3 in which a batch of 200 output samples could
be presented to a classifier, only a handful of samples can be presented to an audi-
ence. A group of three melodies and three harmonies was split evenly between the
main system modules of harmony and melody. In order for this group of six samples
to be properly representative of the range of output from the automated Schillinger
System, a selection process was necessary, because it is possible for the system to pro-
duce a string of pieces utilising collections of parameters that effectively form clusters
in terms of their resulting interval distributions or rhythmic content. In the literature,
Holtzman acknowledged the necessity of selecting from the output in this way. “Ulti-
mately, a composer must choose which generated utterances to use, how to interpret
the data generated by the machine, and so on. The composer may be seen as a selec-
tor” [Holtzman 1981]. Cope selected exemplars from his system’s output to constitute
a final representative collection [Cope 2005].
The decision to render the selected output as audio performances, to provide the
listeners with a complete musical context, was informed by several authors who have
faced the same decision. Hiller commented that “performance is, without a doubt, the
best test of the results” [Hiller 1981]. Gartland-Jones followed a similar philosophy in
a festival installation of an interactive GA system, where output was performed on
guitar: “Recording the output on a real instrument enabled the perceived musical-
ity of the fragments to be brought out, and provides additional musical dimensions”
[Gartland-Jones 2002]. DuBois is of the same view – that the product of his L-System
is an intermediate state requiring joint interpretation by the composer and performer
to render it fit for consumption [DuBois 2003].
§4.5 Assessing Musical Merit 79

Title Instrumentation View (Appendix A) Media URL

Harmony #1 Rhodes piano A.1 Listen
Harmony #2 Orchestra A.2 Listen
Harmony #3 Grand piano A.3 Listen
Melody #1 Clarinet A.4 Listen
Melody #2 Grand piano A.5 Listen
Melody #3 Violin A.6 Listen

Table 4.3: Output samples used in the listening survey

It should be noted that these issues are not relevant for all computer music sys-
tems. This includes those with output that is physically impossible to perform and
those which are interactive during performance [Blackwell 2007; Biles 2007].
The method for generating performances from the system’s output for the listen-
ing survey was described earlier in section 4.3. To prevent the listeners from becoming
bored of and potentially biased against the timbre of a single instrument, a variety of
instruments was used. Table 4.3 lists the instruments used for each sample. These
titles correspond with tracks 1–6 on the CD accompanying this thesis. The table also
contains hyper-links for listening to the audio files online.
The survey was designed in consultation with Jim Cotter, a senior lecturer in com-
position at the Australian National University (ANU). The survey preamble encour-
ages participants to provide entirely subjective opinions, and to judge musical merit
against their own musical experiences instead of attempting to compare the samples
to other computer-aided composition software. For each audio sample, listeners were
asked register their opinion of four different aspects of the music on a Likert scale, as
well as to provide written opinions on what intrigued or bored them. Likert scales
are widely used in many fields of research within the humanities; they are used to
rank opinion strength and valence as shown in figure 4.4. Their symmetry allows for
a respondent to express impartiality. Five labels were used, with four extra nodes in-
terspersed so that participants would feel free to register opinions between the labels.

-4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4
Very negative Negative Neutral Positive Very Positive

Figure 4.4: Likert scale example

The Likert scales for each audio sample represented the dimensions gut reaction, in-
terestingness, logic and predictability. The final page of the survey registered two further
dimensions — diversity and uniqueness. Each term may be mostly self-explanatory,
however they were deliberately not defined or clarified for the participants prior to
the commencement of the experiment. Instead, it was intended for them to decide
for themselves precisely what to listen for, rather than add the distraction of trying
to reconcile worded definitions with what they were hearing. Explanations of the
dimensions encompassed by the survey are itemised below.
80 Results and Evaluation

• Peoples’ gut reactions were recorded so that a measure could be obtained of

whether the group actually enjoyed what they were listening to on a fundamen-
tally aesthetic level. This question was placed at the top of each page to increase
the likelihood of it being answered first in a spontaneous way. This kind of mea-
sure is obviously important if the point of a composition system is to produce
music that people like.

• Interestingness is, broadly speaking, a measure of how well the music holds peo-
ples’ attention, and as far as composition as an art-form is concerned, a measure
of success. Miranda concluded that while computers can compose music, rule-
based systems seldom produce interesting music [Miranda 2001]. Given that the
automated Schillinger System is rule-based, it is clearly important to find out if
it can produce interesting music or not.

• Logic was chosen as a subjective measure because several authors or their au-
diences have commented on the fact that despite computer compositions being
‘pleasing’ or ‘acceptable’, they are often criticised for lacking logical progres-
sion, development or higher-level structure [Pereira et al. 1997; Mozer 1994].
Although logic in terms of musical structural coherence can, to some extent, be
measured quantitatively by searching for multilevel self-similarity in the man-
ner of Lerdahl and Jackendoff [Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983], it is still an impor-
tant element to test subjectively because it has more than one possible interpre-

• Predictability was used to roughly measure the ‘surprise’ factor (or lack thereof)
which can either contribute to or detract from the other three elements. It is
conceived as a subjective measure of information content, thus bearing some re-
lation to work by Cohen [Cohen 1962] and Pinkerton [Pinkerton 1956]; and also
to Schillinger’s notion of the ‘psychological dial’ which has occasionally been
referred to by film composers [Degazio 1988]. The neutral position on the Likert
scale indicates a balance between predictable and unpredictable musical events
in the minds of the listeners. It was expected that each listener’s ideal balance
would lie at this position even if their respective tastes for unpredictability dif-
fered wildly. For this reason the extreme points of the scale were labelled ‘too
predictable’ and ‘too unpredictable’ so that the relationship to musical merit
could be more easily inferred.

• Diversity was intended to collect data to compare to the results of the automatic
classification system, and aid in interrogating the notion that Schillinger’s sys-
tem is somehow neutral in a stylistic sense. It also helped in assessing how the
system’s output might apply to different musical contexts in practice.

• Uniqueness was intended to gauge how different the music was to that which
the audience had heard in the past. This question was included in order to
add perspective to the interpretation of the other answers. For instance, if the
§4.5 Assessing Musical Merit 81

group were to claim that they had essentially ‘heard it all before’, this might add
credibility to positive or negative consensus in other questions.

• The survey’s final question was whether, as composers, the participants could
imagine using the system themselves to generate raw musical material. The
answers to this question may indicate whether a more advanced interactive ver-
sion of the system would be adopted for experimentation if it were made avail-
able to the wider composition community.

The complete survey has been included in this document in Appendix B for reference.

4.5.2 Listening Experiment

A total of 28 survey participants ranging from first-year undergraduates to
postgraduates and lecturers were recruited from the composition department at the
ANU School of Music. Composers in particular were chosen because they are trained
to possess a strong ear for multiple levels of musical structure, they tend to have an
extremely diverse range of musical tastes and listening experiences, and they may
also be able to perceive the construction of the samples in terms of their knowledge of
compositional techniques. The survey procedure was approved by the ANU’s Human
Research Ethics Committee.5 Undergraduates were requested to note their composi-
tion enrollment level (how far through their major they were). This field was marked
‘N/A’ by post-graduates. Each audio sample was played twice over loudspeakers
while participants filled in the survey questions. Each first playing was followed by
a 30-second pause and each second playing by a 60-second pause. Participants were
then given time to fill in the section of general opinions regarding the group of com-
positions as a whole.

4.5.3 Quantitative Analysis and Results

This section describes box plot summaries of the data collected from the Likert scales
for the six samples, found below in figure 4.5. The plots represent the dimensions
gut reaction, interestingness, logic and predictability for the three harmony samples (H1-
H3) and the three melody samples (M1–M3). Boxes represent interquartile ranges (the
‘middle 50 percent’ of opinion), diamonds indicate arithmetic means, red bars indicate
medians, and ‘whiskers’ (the dashed lines) indicate extremes of opinion. There are no
outliers. Given that each scale contains five labels with extra nodes in between them,
the range for each dimension is [−4, 4]. No participant marked in-between any of the
nine nodes, so only integers were recorded. Two of the participants wrote comments
on the general opinions page instead of answering the Likert scales. These answers
were transferred verbatim into the text fields on that page to ensure any qualitative
data was not lost, and the opinions were converted into reasonable estimates on the
Likert scale of what these persons were thinking.
5 Ethics protocol no. 2008/237
82 Results and Evaluation

Gut Reaction

(a) M1
−4 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 4


(b) M1
−4 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 4


(c) M1
−4 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 4


(d) M1
−4 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 4

Figure 4.5: Box-plots representing individual samples

The gut reaction mean results in figure 4.5(a) range from exactly neutral for sample
H2 to 1.43 for sample M2, which is tending towards the value of ‘like’ on the Likert
scale. For all samples except H2, the interquartile box lies on the positive side of neu-
tral. H2 appears to have polarised the audience the most, with the mean, median and
interquartile box lying exactly on or centered around zero. The overall response for
interestingness, shown in 4.5(b), was unequivocally positive, with all means lying on
§4.5 Assessing Musical Merit 83

or above 1 and almost all of the interquartile data being above zero. The noticeably
smaller interquartile boxes indicate a greater consensus of opinion. In figure 4.5(c), the
unanimous perception of logic within M2 is striking. There is a greater range of means
between samples (-0.86 to 2.14) and less consensus on each individual sample, indi-
cated by most of the interquartile boxes being wider. In figure 4.5(d), the interquartile
boxes for predictability are also generally wider, although the general perception is
closer to neutral (a good balance between predictability and unpredictability). Sam-
ples H1 and in particular, H2, were perceived unanimously as too unpredictable.
It is notable that samples H3 and M2, which have the highest means for gut reaction
and logic, also have the two lowest means for predictability (suggesting they were the
most predictable). Sample H2, which was the least liked according to its gut reaction,
was also considered the most interesting (by a slight margin), the least logical and the
most unpredictable.
The figure 4.5 plots suggest that overall, people enjoyed what they heard, and
found it somewhat interesting and logical; but that each individual sample certainly
polarised the audience to a degree, as indicated by the width of the interquartile boxes
and the extent of the whiskers. The opinions of logic and predictability also appear to
have differed significantly between samples, compared to the measures of gut reaction
and interestingness.

Sample Aggregates

Gut Reaction



−4 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 4

General Opinions

(b) Logic
−4 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 4

Figure 4.6: Box-plots representing overall opinion

The box plots in figure 4.6 give further promising indications of the intrinsic merit
of the samples. Plot 4.6(a) was calculated by aggregating the data across all six sam-
ples for each dimension; hence, it shows overall an extreme range of opinion, but
it also shows that the average opinions on gut reaction, interestingness and logic were
positive and predictability was close to ideal. Plot 4.6(b) represents the final page of
84 Results and Evaluation

the survey which collected participants’ overall opinions of the set of samples after
listening was concluded. Once again, there is the suggestion of an overall positive
reaction for the measures which were used for each sample. It is interesting to note
the strong correspondence between figures 4.6(a) and 4.6(b) for interestingness, logic
and predictability. This indicates that opinions changed very little on average between
the listening phase and the final page of the survey. The opinion of diversity is pos-
itive, which is supportive of the idea that the automated Schillinger System may at
least be useful in a variety of stylistic contexts. The only strongly negative measure is
that of uniqueness, which is an assertion that the audience did not encounter anything
especially unfamiliar.

Table 4.4: Kruskal-Wallis variance measure p for each dimension across all 6 samples
Dimension Mean Median Std. Dev. p p with H2 removed
Gut Reaction 0.84 1 1.71 0.0125 0.1477
Interest 1.26 2 1.55 0.9605 0.9023
Logic 0.71 1 1.94 <0.0001 0.0004
Predictability 0.28 0 1.76 0.0031 0.2359

To corroborate the intuitive conclusions of diversity of opinion between samples

from visual inspection, the Kruskal-Wallis variance measure was applied to each di-
mension in the case of the samples. This measure, expressed as p, falls below 0.01 if
the data in a dimension contains statistically significant differences among subgroups.
The Kruskal-Wallis results can be found in table 4.4 alongside the mean, median and
standard deviation for each dimension across all six samples. Additionally, from ob-
servation of figure 4.5 it would appear that Harmony #2 (H2) elicited a rather different
reaction from listeners compared to the rest of the samples. In order to validate that as-
sertion, the Kruskal-Wallis measure was repeated with the H2 results removed from
the data-set — this is included in the right-most column of table 4.4. The p values
confirm the consensus among participants regarding the music’s interestingness and
a varying perception of both logic and predictability across the different samples. It
also confirms that sample H2 caused the high variance of predictability across samples.
Sample H2 contained the most voices and arguably the highest degree of dissonance,
which is perhaps what people reacted against.
The final survey question was whether or not the participants could imagine using
this kind of system for generating musical material. The data from this question was
collected in the form of ‘no’/‘maybe’/‘yes’ circled answers. These responses were en-
coded as -1, 0 and 1. The mean response of 0.07 — shown in figure 4.7 — substantiates
the observation that most people circled ‘maybe’, and more people circled ‘yes’ than
Would you use the system?

−1 (No) 0 (Maybe) 1(Yes)

Figure 4.7: The mean anticipated ‘usefulness’ of the automated Schillinger System
§4.5 Assessing Musical Merit 85

A Pearson’s correlation analysis is shown in figure 4.8 to see if any strong relation-
ships exist between dimensions — in particular, whether the more ‘experienced’ com-
posers, as inferred from undergraduate levels, had different opinions to those with
less experience. For this to be possible the values of ‘N/A’ collected from the survey
were encoded as the value of 7, because all of the ‘N/A’ group were post-graduates
and undergraduate levels fell between 1 and 5. It is notable that composition experi-
ence only correlated strongly with the opinion of uniqueness. This and other strong
correlations to be deduced from the graph are summarised below.

Figure 4.8: Pearson’s correlation graph of the survey’s quantitative data

• Participants with more composition experience found the samples less unique
(that is, more familiar);

• Participants who found the music less familiar found it more interesting;

• Participants generally found the highly logical samples to be too predictable;

• Participants who found the music interesting noted a higher level of diversity;

• Participants who registered the most positive gut reactions also found the music
somewhat interesting and logical, suggesting that these properties are intrinsic
to the enjoyment of music.
86 Results and Evaluation

Generally speaking, the data from the Likert scales can be said to indicate a thought-
ful and mostly positive response from the audience, with many divided opinions
within individual samples and differing collective opinions across the group of sam-
ples. Furthermore, the composers showed a degree of curiosity about the system
by indicating that they would entertain the idea of using it themselves. From a de-
veloper’s perspective this is an encouraging response because it shows that expert
listeners have acknowledged the musical merit and potential of the current state of
the output. This provides an impetus for further exploring the implementation of
Schillinger’s procedures.

4.5.4 Qualitative Analysis Methodology

Each section of the survey incorporated a blank field in which participants could freely
write about any elements of the music they believed to be intriguing or boring. These
fields were deemed necessary in order to capture the nuances of opinion that would
otherwise be lost in the small number of Likert dimensions.
Written responses provide a rich source of information that must be analysed us-
ing an established qualitative method. The principles of Grounded Theory were bor-
rowed for this purpose. Grounded Theory originates with the work of Glaser and
Strauss [Glaser and Strauss 1967] and is prominent in the fields of psychology and
human-computer interaction [Lazar et al. 2010]. Glaser and Strauss pursued the basic
idea that in fields where established theories often do not exist, but where data sources
are abundant, it makes far more sense to allow hypotheses to emerge as part of the
process of data collection and analysis, rather than to formulate them a priori. Thus
the principles of data ‘coding’ and ‘emergent categories’ become important, as does
the repeatability of the coding process. Coding is, in short, the conversion of human
responses to a consistent short-hand which allows for general concepts to be repre-
sented, higher-level categories to be defined and robust relationships to be identified
within or between data-sets [Lazar et al. 2010].
The purpose of using Grounded Theory for the listener responses was to develop
a better understanding of how the listeners reacted to the audio samples. The coding
process identified recurring keywords to help build this picture and allow concept
categories to emerge. Since the data consisted of subjective evaluations, each instance
of a category was assigned a valence of opinion (positive or negative) and a magni-
tude of opinion. An initial review of the data suggested that three levels of magnitude
were sufficient (slight=1, moderate=2, strong=3). Category instances were then tallied
and graphed to facilitate higher level conclusions. The resulting concept/category hi-
erarchy should enable the experiment to be easily repeated with different participants
and different audio samples.
This is an appropriate method to use on the current sample size: Guest et al. have
found that in interview situations, new codes rarely tend to emerge after 12–15 inter-
views [Guest et al. 2006]. Survey responses are relatively short by comparison, but
given that the subject matter was tightly constrained by the scenario it was highly
§4.5 Assessing Musical Merit 87

likely that the responses of 28 participants would contain enough data to make this
process worthwhile. Furthermore, this particular use of Grounded Theory is war-
ranted by the fact that, despite there being only one coder (the author, as multiple
coders was not an option for organisational reasons), this coder was equipped with
specialist domain knowledge on the subject (the author is a musician and composer)
[Lazar et al. 2010]. This helped to ensure consistency and reliability of the coding
process, and also to ensure the correct identification of the point of ‘theoretical sat-
uration’; that is, the threshold beyond which no new categories emerge [Glaser and
Strauss 1967]. Analysis and Results

During the initial phase of coding the participants’ responses, several categories rapidly
presented themselves as elaborations of the Likert categories, including predictability,
interestingness and logic; as well as form/structure, instrumentation/timbre, identifications
of style or genre, and identifications of compositional techniques like repetition and vari-
ation. Understandably, several categories emerged commenting on aspects of the sam-
ples beyond the control of the system, such as the performance, dynamics and recording
Consistency of coding is essential to the validity of Grounded Theory, especially
since the interpretation of written opinions requires an unavoidable degree of subjec-
tivity. Certain principles were followed which are listed below:

• Blank fields were ignored;

• Declaring that a sample had no boring aspects was viewed as a strong indication
of general merit;

• A declaration that there was nothing intriguing about a piece was considered a
strong indication of a lack of general merit;

• Valence of opinion was for the most part determined by whether or not the per-
son was writing in the ‘intriguing’ or ‘boring’ field unless it was otherwise ob-

• Magnitude of opinion was inferred from any qualifiers or adjectives used, and
whether the opinion was in agreement or contradiction with other opinions of
the listener in the same section;

• For opinions to qualify as strong they had to either contain emotive language or
be clearly unequivocal;

• Multiple categories could be assigned to single statements depending on the

implications given by their wording;

• It was possible for the same statement to be assigned a positive or negative va-
lence of opinion depending on the person’s taste;
88 Results and Evaluation

• Multiple comments on different concepts within the same category were treated
separately to retain information, so that for instance, a positive reaction to per-
ceived harmonic function would not be simply cancelled out by a negative reac-
tion to harmonic voicing.

Some examples are given here for clarity. Codes are represented as three-element
tuples of the following format:

{category, concept, opinion type}

The opinion “perfectly acceptable melody. Sounded great” was coded as

{general, merit, +3}. “A touch too dissonant, seemingly a bit random” was coded
as {dissonance, general, -1} and {predictability, unpredictable, -1}. These latter opinion
types on their own perhaps could have been interpreted as ‘moderate’, but they were
offset by the person’s intriguing aspects of the same sample: “some very nice resolu-
tion. The range was quite vast”, implying that the dissonance was only a minor issue.
This opinion was coded as {harmonic, function, +2} and {textural, range, +2}. ‘Moder-
ately positive’ was chosen for both due to the presence of the word ‘some’ in the first
sentence, which suggests that the very nice resolution was somewhat irregular, and
the word ‘vast’ which can have an emotive gravity but in this case has been stated
as more of a detached observation than an inherently meritorious characteristic. A
total of 239 opinions were coded in this manner. Table 4.5 contains the resulting code
concepts and emergent categories.

Table 4.5: Emergent categories and associated code concepts

Abbr. Category Concept

TMB Instrumentation and timbre
PRF Aspects of the human performance General
REC Recording and mixing quality Reverb
TMP Tempi
DYN Dynamics and articulation
MOD Mood and emotional content Happy/meandering
LEN Length General
Tension and release
FRM Form and structure
RPV Compositional Techniques Variation
Motif use
Continued on next page
§4.5 Assessing Musical Merit 89

Table 4.5 – Continued from previous page

Abbr. Category Concept
Lack of
TON Tonality Modal
DIS Dissonance
Varying degrees of
PRD Predictability Unpredictable
Presence of rules
MDY Melodic aspects
Lack of direction
Polyphonic implication
TXT Textural aspects
Specific composer
STY Comments on style or genre
Specific style or historical period
RHY Rhythmic aspects Lack of rests
Voice leading
HMY Harmonic aspects Direction/development
Lack of direction
GEN General musicality Potential
Nice ideas
Lack of diversity/contrast
90 Results and Evaluation

Qualitative Analysis − Harmony Qualitative Analysis − Melody



















−3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3

Figure 4.9: Coded results of qualitative analysis of participant responses. The results for har-
monies are contained in the left-hand graph; melodies in the right-hand graph.

The coded opinions, along with their associated valence and magnitude informa-
tion, are plotted in figure 4.9. Magnitude and valence of opinion constitute the hori-
zontal axes and the emergent categories constitute the vertical axes. The vertical axes
are unordered, however those categories that were not entirely relevant to the be-
haviour of the automated Schillinger System have been placed towards the top of the
graph. The abbreviations can be deciphered using table 4.5. No information lies at
zero magnitude for the simple reason that it would constitute ‘null’ opinion — none
of these were expressed by respondents. The size of each point on the graph repre-
§4.5 Assessing Musical Merit 91

sents the tally of each opinion type for a particular category. Figure 4.9 provides a lot
of information. The most important inferences are listed below.

• Judging by the general opinions row and a greater presence of points in the +3
column, participants thought the melodies were better than the harmonies;

• Predictably, most of the comments related specifically to harmonic and melodic

properties. For both groups of samples the opinions offered were substantially
more positive than negative;

• Only a small number of people made comments which did not shed any light on
the success of the automated Schillinger System itself (the top five rows). This
indicates that people were engaged and well aware of the parameters they were
listening for;

• People could not help being unimpressed by the static rhythm of the harmonies,
despite the fact that they knew to expect it. This suggests an initial focus for fur-
ther development must be to treat harmony as integral to other contexts rather
than a lone entity;

• There was a greater perception of actual compositional techniques taking place

in the melodic samples, even though opinion on their success was divided;

• From the Likert scale data it was concluded that people generally perceived
a balance of predictability and unpredictability. Figure 4.9 confirms that they
mostly enjoyed whatever unpredictability or predictability they experienced. Genre and Style

Table 4.6 contains all genres or styles that were identified by participants, including
styles supposedly identifying particular composers. In the table these are associated
with the root genres found by the automated classifier to give some sense of compar-
ison (see section 4.4). Plotting the ratio of the occurrences of root genres in table 4.6
against the classifier results in figure 4.3 is tempting, but this would not be partic-
ularly legitimate because the listening survey used only six samples and the genres
identified by humans were mostly assigned to the group as a whole which contained
both harmonies and melodies. However, it is clear that the vast majority of comments
on genre and style fell within the bounds of Western Classical music, and this is in
striking concordance with the results of section 4.4.6.
If the attention is instead focussed within the genre of Western Classical music,
which is an extremely broad genre, then the participant responses in table 4.6 do sug-
gest a fair level of stylistic diversity which could perhaps not be captured by the mod-
est collection of Western Classical sub-genres in McKay’s taxonomy (see figure 4.2).
92 Results and Evaluation

Table 4.6: Genres suggested by participants

Classifier root genre Genre or style identified
Jazz Jazz
Western Folk
Late Romantic
Perpetuum Mobile
Western Classical
Expressive tonal music
Art Music
Western Tonal Classical
20th Century
Modern Pop Muzak
Rock Progressive Rock

4.6 Discussion
The automated Schillinger System’s output has been evaluated using methods which
are intended to improve upon those currently present in computer music literature.
The stylistic diversity of a group of 200 output samples has been measured using an
automated genre classification system. The intrinsic musical merit of a group of six
selected output samples, rendered with human performances, has been rigorously
assessed by a group of expert human participants.
The results from the listening experiment are convincing. Collectively, the listen-
ers registered positive responses regarding the music’s merit; in particular its likeabil-
ity and interestingness. They decided that the music’s level of predictability was close
to appropriate, and that there was some form of logic underlying its construction; al-
though in these cases there was slightly less consensus. The application of a method of
qualitative analysis from Grounded Theory revealed a multitude of complaints and
compliments specific to various properties of the samples, which have provided a
wealth of information to inform further development. Ultimately these contributed
§4.6 Discussion 93

to an overall positive opinion of the system’s output.

The classification experiment suggested that the harmonies fell within the sweep-
ing genre of Western Classical music, while the melodies were a somewhat more di-
verse split among Western Classical, Jazz, and Rhythm and Blues. These results are
corroborated quite strongly by the list of styles and genres the human participants
attributed to the samples in the listening experiment. These latter styles, however, do
represent diversity within the genre of Western Classical music, showing the potential
for the automated Schillinger System to be applied to a variety of musical contexts.
Additional experiments will be needed to address some lingering questions. For
instance, it is unclear how much of an influence the quality of the audio rendering
may have had on listeners’ perceptions of musical merit, or how much the choice of
instrumentation influenced their interpretations of style. McKay and Fujinaga have
suggested that instrumentation is a particularly important feature for automatically
distinguishing genre [Mckay and Fujinaga 2005]. On the other hand, Aucouturier
and Pachet found that for humans, style and timbre may not be so strongly correlated
[Aucouturier and Pachet 2003]. It would almost certainly be unwise to revert to pre-
senting raw MIDI data to an audience, but it could be informative to perform a similar
experiment using high quality recordings limited to a single instrument.
94 Results and Evaluation
Chapter 5


The Schillinger System of Musical Composition was intended to be used by students of

composition and by working composers. Despite its self-proclaimed grounding in a
school of thought that espoused rigorous scientific approaches to all forms of human
endeavour, it was ultimately designed to stimulate real creativity in musical thinking.
Schillinger almost certainly did not conceive of the formalism as a means of generating
music automatically; in fact he stated quite plainly that success using his methods
depended on “the ability to think” [Schillinger 1978]. Such a statement should not act
as a deterrent, but it does force one to accept that an extensive formalism intended for
the composition of new music cannot be so rigorous that it presents itself as a complete
mathematical framework for computer implementation. The issues encountered in
building the automated Schillinger System, as described in chapter 3, were therefore
to be expected, and by necessity the resolutions of these issues required a modicum of
creativity on the author’s part.
Rader stated the opinion that the goal of computer music is not to be aesthetically
‘perfect’, but to be indistinguishable from human-produced music [Rader 1974]. This
goal has since been mostly superseded by the idea, echoed by Blackwell, that
the goal of automated composition research is not to replace human music
making with an automatic machine . . . the desire is to find artificial music
that is different from human expression, yet comprehensible [Blackwell
This line of thinking influenced the decision to use a listening experiment in this
research to establish the intrinsic musical merit of the automated Schillinger Sys-
tem’s output, rather than attempt to bluff audiences with selections of human- and
computer-composed pieces in the manner of Storino et al. [Storino et al. 2007]. It
is also in concordance with many authors’ views that the ultimate goal of algorith-
mic composition should be to realise genuinely new music, rather than ‘recompose’
existing music.

5.1 Summary of Contribution

• This thesis has presented what appears to be most comprehensive computer
implementation of The Schillinger System of Musical Composition to date. Until

96 Conclusion

now, no such system has been documented in academic literature. The only
other alternative implementation is much narrower in scope and unpublished.

• Several extensions to and simplifications of Schillinger’s theories have been nec-

essary in order for them to be fully implemented. This has applied particu-
larly to Schillinger’s Theory of Melody, which has previously been dismissed
as “completely obscure” by Backus [Backus 1960] and “too cumbersome for
practical use” by Arden [Arden 1996]. As such, this thesis also contains the
groundwork for developing a more concise and mathematically sound version
of Schillinger’s theories for both composers and future researchers.

• The use of an automatic genre classification system to assess the style and mu-
sical diversity of the system’s output has shed some light on the characteristics
of the automated Schillinger System. This has aided in an investigation of the
claims of Schillinger and his editors to the effect that the system somehow op-
erates independent of musical style [Schillinger 1978]; but more importantly it
has given an indication of how useful the automated system may turn out to be
in practical applications. This author is not aware of any previous attempt in
the academic literature to measure the diversity of computer generated music
using a genre classifier. The experiment is repeatable, and will provide increas-
ingly accurate results as the field of musical information retrieval continues to

• A rigorous listening survey with expert participants has been conducted to es-
tablish the intrinsic musical merit of samples from the system’s output, by pre-
senting them as expressive human performances using a variety of instrumenta-
tion. The data collected has undergone both quantitative and qualitative analy-
sis to precisely determine the range and strength of opinions formed by listeners.
The paucity of thorough critical evaluations in the academic literature suggests
that this kind of survey and analysis is rare, and could be more widely used in
the future to measure the success of algorithmic composition systems.

• The results of both the classification and listening experiments strongly indicate
that the automated Schillinger System’s compositions constitute a broad range
of musical styles within the realms of Jazz and Western Classical music. Fur-
thermore, the results of the listening experiment suggest that these compositions
exhibit some musical merit and are generally enjoyable and interesting to listen
to. Most of the 28 composers who participated in the survey also indicated a de-
gree of interest, based on what they heard, in experimenting with the system for
creative purposes. It can be concluded that the system described in this thesis
represents a musically worthwhile addition to the computer-aided composition
§5.2 Avenues for Future Work 97

5.2 Avenues for Future Work

The automated Schillinger System provides extensive scope for further research and
development. An obvious initial task is to expand the system to incorporate as much
of the content of books V–XII of the Schillinger System as possible, and to revisit some
sections of books I–IV that were omitted either due to time constraints or other reasons
listed in section 3.7. This will lead to a system capable of producing compositions with
complete form and instrumentation, but it is likely that the types of difficulties so far
encountered in adapting Schillinger’s formalism will continue.
In its current state, the implementation acts as a ‘push-button’ system without
requiring human intervention during the construction of each piece. The problem
with this paradigm is that the user is unable to ‘tune’ the musical surface or structural
qualities to their own liking, or indeed exercise a deeper level of control to explore the
individual Schillinger procedures for their own use. There are two possibilities that
may address this.
The first is to retain the push-button interface, but develop a series of high-level
aesthetic parameters for the user to tweak before each execution. At present, no spe-
cific aesthetic or stylistic constraints find their way into the system’s output other than
those which are somehow inherent in Schillinger’s procedures, and those which are
symptomatic of the constraints that were necessary to make the procedures amenable
to computer implementation (such as a formal definition of Schillinger’s undefined
term ‘acoustically acceptable’ — see section 3.3.4). This results in music ranging from
extremely consonant to extremely dissonant, with a wide range of temporal and har-
monic textures. As such, it will be necessary to find mappings from such high-level
parameters to precise parameter combinations that control each section of the com-
position modules. The author is yet to identify combinations that constitute reliable
prescriptions for particular aesthetics or styles. If such a model were successful it
would engender two further practical uses — a tool for content creators to automati-
cally produce music of a particular length and character to be rendered as audio via
performance or synthesis, or a programmable plugin for applications with generative
music requirements such as websites or computer games.
The second possibility is to devise a command line or graphical interface that
would give users low level access to the individual composition procedures. Each
procedure’s input could either be assigned to the output of another compatible pro-
cedure or generated randomly at the user’s behest. This would allow Schillinger’s
individual theories to be explored by those simply interested in the Schillinger Sys-
tem itself, or allow for whole compositions to be built systematically with as much or
as little control as desired. It would also eliminate the current reliance on procedures
that the author has devised to interface the different theories. A brief example of how
the terminal-based realisation of this concept might function is given in figure 5.1.
Finally, as mentioned above in section 5.1, much work has gone into developing
formal adaptations of procedures which were expressed inexactly by Schillinger. The
prospect of reworking the entire Schillinger System into a significantly condensed
complementary ‘handbook’ version, free of the obfuscatory verbosity and notational
98 Conclusion

> s = (2 1 2 2 1 2)
> p = 5
> t = 4
> axis1 = (1 rhythm(t, 2) 2 (-1 false 0))
> axis2 = (2 rhythm(t, 1) 1 (-1 false 0))
> axis3 = (3 rhythm(t, 1) 1 (-1 false 0))
> axes = (axis1 axis2 axis3)
> M = superimpose(s, C4, p, t, axes)
> C = buildParams(axes, 8)
> pdf(buildMelody(s, M, C))

          
  
      
 
 

 
     
         

Figure 5.1: The potential functioning of a terminal-based interactive Schillinger System

inconsistency lamented by [Barbour 1946], is enticing. As far as the author has been
able to ascertain, no publication exists to serve this purpose. This resource would be
particularly valuable to composers interested in Schillinger’s theories, as well as other
developers of composition algorithms who might wish to program their own models
of Schillinger’s procedures.
There is ongoing activity within the Schillinger Society1 with the aim of encourag-
ing a wider exploration and adoption of Schillinger’s work. This has been bolstered
in recent years by online courses dedicated to the teaching of Schillinger’s methods.2
Moreover, the recent release of Mc Clanahan’s four-part harmonisation program based
on Schillinger’s Special Theory of Harmony and further activity on the Schillinger CHI
Project website3 seem to indicate a recent surge of enthusiasm around possible com-
puter implementations of the Schillinger System. Future development of the work
presented in this thesis could form a significant contribution to this movement.

2 See and
Appendix A

Samples of Output

The system’s output, subsequent to being processed by LilyPond, consists of MIDI files
and the corresponding musical notation in PDF format. This section contains the six
example pieces used for the listening survey. Table 4.3 lists the instrumentation that
was used to render each performance, and includes hyper-links for listening online.

A.1 Harmony #1

% $"! ! !! !! "! "! " !! !! " !! " !!

"! #! ! ! " !! !
&$ ! ! ! "! "! ! ! ! ! ! "!
"! ! "! ! #! ! ! ! ! ! ! "!

A.2 Harmony #2

! "! ! " !! " !! !! !! " !!

& $ !! ! ! "! # !!

& $ ! "! !! ! ! ! !
! ! ! ! ! ! # " !! " !! "!
%$ !
# "! "! "! "! ! "! "! "! !
!! " !! ! " !!
11 # !! " !! " !! " !! "! !! " !!

& ! "! ! "! ! !!

! " " !! "! "! " " !! " " !! "! "!
" !!
% ! ! ! ! ! !
! ! #! #!

100 Samples of Output

A.3 Harmony #3

% $ " !! !! !! " !! " !! " !! !! !! "!! " " !!

"! !! !! !! !!
#$ ! " !! !! !! " !!

! ! ! ! ! "!
!! " !!

% " !! " !! ! ! "! "!

! "!
! ! !
# ! ! "! "! ! "! "!
! ! ! "! "! "! ! ! " !
! ! ! ! ! ! !
% ! ! !

! !
# "! "! " !! " !! " !! " !! " !!! " !!!
"" !
!! "! ! "! " !!
! ! " ! !

A.4 Melody #1

" ! "! ! & "! "! ! ! ! "!

" ! ! " ! $ & !
# 86 ! ! ! ! % ! ! ! ! " ! $ ! ! ! !% ! " ! ! ! $ ! %
"! ! ! ! "! & !$ & & &
# ! !! ! !
! ! !! ! ! ! ! ! $ ! ! $ ! ! " ! ! ! ! ! '!

! !
& "! "! ! &
# ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! " !% ! ! ! ! ! " ! ! ! !$ ! ! " !& !

"!$ %
§A.5 Melody #2 101

A.5 Melody #2

!" !# # !# #
$ % !# " !# " # # # # !# # # # !# # # # # " "
!# # " # !# !# # !" # !# # # #
" !# # # !# #

$ # " !# # #
!# # #
!# # # " !" &#
# !" " !# # !# # !#

$ ! # & # & #
# # &"
& #
&# " " & #
# !# !# " # !# # &# '# !# !" !#
$ !" !# # "

!# # !"

A.6 Melody #3

% & " # # # "# # # "# # # # " # # " # " ! # " # # "# ! $ # " ! # # # " !
$ # # $#

% # "! '# # "# # "# "# # $# # # # "!


"! # "# ! "! # "# '# $# # $! #

# # $# # # #

% " # "# ! # " ! # ! " # ' # "! # # " # ' # $ # # $ # # "# "# # "#

% # # "# # # " # " # $# "# !

"# " ! # # $ # ! $# # "# #

"# ! "# # # "# #

% "# ! "# $! # "# "# # "# '# # "# ! "# ! # "! $! # "! # "# '# "# #

! # #
# "# "# # # $# #

% "# # "# '# # # "# "# "#

$# $# # # # "# # #

% # "# " # # $# # " # "# " ! $# # "# " # ' ! # " ! # # "# " ! " # ! $ # $ # # " # " #

% "# '# # "# # $# "! "! "# # $! "! "# # $# # $# ! # # "# !


"# "! #
102 Samples of Output
Appendix B

Listening Survey

The survey document that was used by participants is included for reference.

Listening Survey

You are being asked to evaluate six samples of the output of a computer-automated composition
system. Answer on the basis of what you feel to be the intrinsic musical merit of each individual
piece from your expert musical experience. The goal is not to compare the examples with each
other, to a human composer, or to any other composition software that you may be familiar with.
Your evaluation should draw on your appreciation of music and the art of composition.

Each sample will be played twice. The samples consist of three homophonic harmonies and three
monophonic melodies.

For each sample you will be asked to register four opinions: your gut reaction, your evaluation of
its interestingness, your evaluation of its overall musical logic, and your evaluation of how
predictable it was. There is also a general section at the end of the survey with several more
questions relating to the group of pieces as a whole.

Ideally your answers should be carefully considered subjective opinions. You are not expected to
analyse any of the samples in terms of music theory.

Indicate your answers by marking in the appropriate circle on each scale, for example:

Really dislike Dislike Neutral Like Really like

Please consider writing free-form answers to questions in the spaces provided. These can be as long
or as short as you like, containing prose, keywords, etc – I want to know exactly what you are

You are allowed to leave individual answers blank if you wish, and you are free to opt out of this
experiment completely if you are uncomfortable with any aspect of it.

Optional: please indicate which COMP Level (1-6) you are presently studying: ______
(Write 'N/A' if this does not apply to you)

Matt Rankin
Sample #1: “Harmony #1”

Gut reaction:
Really dislike Dislike Neutral Like Really like

Harmonic Interest:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Uninteresting Interesting Interesting Interesting

Harmonic Logic:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Illogical Logical Logical Logical

Too Fairly Balanced Fairly Too
Predictable Predictable Unpredictable Unpredictable

What aspects intrigued you, if any:

What aspects bored you, if any:

Sample #2: “Harmony #2”

Gut reaction:
Really dislike Dislike Neutral Like Really like

Harmonic Interest:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Uninteresting Interesting Interesting Interesting

Harmonic Logic:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Illogical Logical Logical Logical

Too Fairly Balanced Fairly Too
Predictable Predictable Unpredictable Unpredictable

What aspects intrigued you, if any:

What aspects bored you, if any:

Sample #3: “Harmony #3”

Gut reaction:
Really dislike Dislike Neutral Like Really like

Harmonic Interest:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Uninteresting Interesting Interesting Interesting

Harmonic Logic:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Illogical Logical Logical Logical

Too Fairly Balanced Fairly Too
Predictable Predictable Unpredictable Unpredictable

What aspects intrigued you, if any:

What aspects bored you, if any:

Sample #4: “Melody #1”

Gut reaction:
Really dislike Dislike Neutral Like Really like

Melodic Interest:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Uninteresting Interesting Interesting Interesting

Melodic Logic:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Illogical Logical Logical Logical

Too Fairly Balanced Fairly Too
Predictable Predictable Unpredictable Unpredictable

What aspects intrigued you, if any:

What aspects bored you, if any:

Sample #5: “Melody #2”

Gut reaction:
Really dislike Dislike Neutral Like Really like

Melodic Interest:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Uninteresting Interesting Interesting Interesting

Melodic Logic:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Illogical Logical Logical Logical

Too Fairly Balanced Fairly Too
Predictable Predictable Unpredictable Unpredictable

What aspects intrigued you, if any:

What aspects bored you, if any:

Sample #6: “Melody #3”

Gut reaction:
Really dislike Dislike Neutral Like Really like

Melodic Interest:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Uninteresting Interesting Interesting Interesting

Melodic Logic:
Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Illogical Logical Logical Logical

Too Fairly Balanced Fairly Too
Predictable Predictable Unpredictable Unpredictable

What aspects intrigued you, if any:

What aspects bored you, if any:

General Opinions

Rate the overall diversity of the material:

Very Fairly Neutral Fairly Very
Similar Similar Diverse Diverse

Rate the overall interestingness of the material:

Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Uninteresting Interesting Interesting Interesting

Rate the overall musical logic of the material:

Completely Not Very Neutral Fairly Very
Illogical Logical Logical Logical

Rate the overall predictability of the material:

Too Fairly Balanced Fairly Too
Predictable Predictable Unpredictable Unpredictable

How different is it to music you've heard before?

No A Bit Somewhat Fairly Very
Different Different Different Different Different

Would you categorise it as belonging to any particular musical style or genre?

Were there any particular recurring features you found enjoyable or irritating?

Based on what you have heard today, could you imagine using this software as a compositional tool
for your own purposes? (Please circle: Yes / No / Maybe )

Thanks for participating!

112 Listening Survey
Appendix C

Function List

Not every function in the automated Schillinger System is included here; there are
dozens more which are concerned with auxiliary and standard musical operations,
as well as interfacing with Lilypond (see section 4.3). The listing is limited to those
which are related specifically to the implementation of Schillinger’s methods and
those which were necessary to interface the methods in a sensible fashion. Refer to
chapter 3 for details, and the call graph in section 3.6 for an overview of the system’s
structure.1 The listing may also help to give some idea of the functions that would
be available to the user in the proposed command-line interface mentioned in section
5.2. References back to Schillinger’s published volumes are included to aid further

C.1 Rhythmic Resultants — Book I: Ch. 2, 4, 5, 6, 12


C.2 Rhythmic Variations — Book I: Ch. 9, 10, 11


1 Note that the graph in section 3.6 is a representation that has been further condensed to focus on
the most important aspects of the system’s architecture. Not every function listed here is present on the

114 Function List

C.3 Rhythmic Grouping and Synchronisation — Book I: Ch.

3, 8

C.4 Rhythmic Generators


C.5 Scale Generation — Book II: Ch. 2, 5, 7, 8


C.6 Scale Conversions — Book II: Ch. 5, 9


C.7 Harmony from Pitch Scales — Book II: Ch. 5, 9

§C.8 Geometric Variations — Book III: Ch. 1, 2 115


C.8 Geometric Variations — Book III: Ch. 1, 2


C.9 Melodic Functions — Book IV: Ch. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

116 Function List

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