Tuning by Ratios

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Although it plays an increasingly prominent role in music, the computer remains only an extension of the composer, arranger or performer. While it is true that some programs can be taught to mimic compositional techniques within a limited style, mainly by recognizing repeating patterns in musical scores, they completely lack imagination. Such mechanical, statistical programs can never duplicate the mysterious human process of artistic creation.

Take, for example, the great Claude Debussy, whose fluid, unpredictable impressionism was an entirely new phenomenon at the end of the nineteenth century. His harmony embraced principles outside the realm of traditional tonality. Perhaps, in part, Debussy's love of impressionistic art and poetry gave him the inspiration to create a new musical language in which to express his revolutionary ideas. It is extremely doubtful that a computer will ever be inspired by poetry, by sounds and fragrances in the air, or by a girl with flaxen hair.

Human creativity and spontaneity will always be essential ingredients in both the creation and realization of music. "No system is used to generate meaningful music completely automatically. The value of mathematics is that it can provide new points of view for the composer, make available to him new aspects of his art, and suggest new means of controlling them." [John Vinton, "Dictionary of Contemporary Music" (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1974) pp. 458-459]

Robert Asmussen

About the Author

Robert Asmussen is a PhD Student in Musicology at the University of Leeds  Department of Music.  Under the guidance of Dr. David Cooper, Mr. Asmussen is currently involved in the writing and implementation of computer programs that catalog and tune chord progressions. 

Zip File of all *.orc and *.sco Files

The following zip file contains all of the Csound orchestra and score files found in these pages.

cstuning.zip (6K)

MP3 Software Download Site

If you do not already have an MP3 player, you can download one from:

How to Download MP3 Sound Files

When your mouse cursor is directly over a hyperlink, such as a reference to an MP3 file, the cursor turns into a "link select pointer". This pointer looks like a right hand with its index finger pointing to the ceiling. When you see this pointing hand, you may download the file (which may take anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 or more minutes to transfer) by either of the following methods: 

Method 1 (preferred)
When the link select pointer (pointing hand) appears, RIGHT-click (click the button on the right side of the mouse) on the hyperlink text or picture. Then select "Save Target As". When the "Save As" dialog box appears, select the desired pathname for the file and save it. This file can then be played either by double clicking it (if the file type has been linked to a specific MP3 or Media Player program), or by first opening an MP3 player and then playing the file.

Method 2
When the link select pointer (pointing hand) appears, LEFT-click (click the button on the left side of the mouse) on the hyperlink text or picture. If you already have a linked MP3 player, such as a recent version of Windows Media Player, the file will begin simultaneously downloading and playing. The sound  may start and stop several times. Once the file has finished loading, you may save it by clicking "File>Save As". You may then accept the current name, or provide one of your own. Alternatively, you can click the play button and listen to the file again without saving it to your hard drive.

Other Tuning and Csound Sites

Csound Front Page

University of Bath Csound Download Site

The Just Intonation Network

John Starrett's Microtonal Music Page

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