RESULTS of chord-grammar test (Martin Braun )

Subject: RESULTS of chord-grammar test
From:    Martin Braun  <nombraun(at)POST.NETLINK.SE>
Date:    Thu, 3 May 2001 10:02:12 +0200

Before the results, you'll see the test again. After the results, you'll see by whom, when and where the piece was written. _____________________________________________________________ THE TEST (as mailed to this list on 2001-4-29): A piece, which is well known and appreciated in many parts of the world, has the following sequence of chords in its final 10 bars: 1) D-A-C 2) D-F 3) G-minor 4) C-Eb 5) D-major 6) G-D-Bb-A 7) G-minor 8) D-major 9) G-D-A-Bb 10) G-minor 11) D-major 12) G-A-D-Bb 13) G-minor 14) D-major 15) G-minor 16) G-E-C#-B 17) D-major 18) D-major 19) D-F#-A-E 20) D-major 21) D-major 22) D-major Questions of the test: A) Which syntactical expectations could be SATISFIED by this chord sequence? B) Which syntactical expectations could be VIOLATED by this chord sequence? C) Can you guess from the chord sequence which musical style this piece belongs to and at which time about it may have been written? _____________________________________________________________ RESULTS (as mailed to me on 2001-4-30): 1) Any syntax of chords is associated with style - therefore you cannot answer A) and B) without knowing the style of the music. 2) The harmonic repertoire consists in essence of these chords (number of times in parenthesis): - G minor, line 3,7,10,13,15 (n = 5) - G minor add 9, line 6,9,12 (n = 3) - D minor omit 5, line 2 (n = 1) - D major, line 5,8,11,14,17,18,20,21,22 (n = 9) - D major add 9, line 19 (n = 1) - D 7 omit 3, line 1 (n = 1) - C# minor 7 b5, line 16 (n = 1) To recapitulate; there are 8 G minor chords, 10 D major chords, 1 D minor chord, a D7 chord omit 3 and a C# minor 7 b5 which functions as V of V (V9 omit 1). I = 8 V = 12 V of V = 1 (Granted that the melody line is incorporated into the description of tones that Braun presented). ["Yes, of course it is." Martin Braun] The progression is circular. There is one modulation. The chords and the sequence in which they appear could be from a number of styles. The problem is that you cannot for certain exclude a style because this could be an untypical example of that style. This could have been made in the romantic period, but "as a rule" (defined earlier in this discussion) the harmonic progressions in the romantic period is often characterized as linear. The modulation point sounds rather "romantic" though. This could also have been a song by Mariah Carey whose music often employs a kind of simplified romantic harmony. It could even be a song by Grieg. This can be a typical or an untypical piece, regarding its harmony, of the style it represents. The thing is that a piece of music - as a multidimensional object - compensates for its untypical parameters by employing parameters that are prototypical to the style the composer associates with. To sum up: the harmonic rules of a certain style is extracted from a vast number of pieces in that style. These rules can be regarded as harmonic schematas based on statistical occurrences. This means that no style can provide a harmonic repertoire that is completely homogeneous - there will always be "outliers" that muddles the picture. There is nowhere in the real world where you find 100% conformity between objects and "rules". This I don't know for sure, but maybe a statistical occurence between 50 and 100% is needed to consider some harmonic progression to be typical to a style? Also, the more central the harmonic parameter is in a particular style, the higher the statistical occurence of a specific harmonic progression needs to be in a song in order for that song to be associated with that style. If there is a style whose harmonic parameters are subdued for the benefit of timbre or rhythm, I suspect that we might find very low consistency in the harmonic parameters. The techno genre drum'n'bass could employ all sorts of harmonic relations without distorting the stylistic impression - this is because harmony is of minor importance in this genre. This is not the case with the chorals of J.S. Bach. As I see it, this test is not a test on the existence of syntax or rules in harmony. It is rather a test on our knowledge of different harmonic rules in different styles around the world. Many of these relations are still waiting to be unveiled. Odd Torleiv ______________________ Odd Torleiv Furnes Department of Musicology University of Oslo Norway oddtf(at) _______________________________________________________________ THE PIECE WAS: Final 10 bars of the second movement of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 5. It was written 1875-1878 in Austria, and it has been an international success right from the first performance 1894 until today. The Symphony No. 5 is often regarded as Bruckner's best symphony. I should add that I picked this piece at random. The finale of this movement was all that I looked at. I did NOT search for anything particularly uncommon or strange. _______________________________________________________________ Martin

This message came from the mail archive
maintained by:
DAn Ellis <>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University