Building Algorithmic Software for Musical Harmony

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Gruman, Benjamin
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Music and Theatre
The Department of Music and Theatre is committed to a philosophy of education that draws its goals from the larger purposes of liberal arts education and from the guidelines of its accrediting agency, the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). The primary aims of the department are to prepare students for a variety of professions in music, theatre, and the performing arts, to provide all students with educational experiences that will enhance their understanding of and aesthetic sensitivity to music, theatre, and the performing arts, and to serve as a vital force in the cultural life of the university, the community, and throughout the state and nation. The activities of the department reflect the university's commitment to excellence in teaching, creativity, and service.
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Honors Projects and Posters
University Honors Program

The Honors project is potentially the most valuable component of an Honors education. Typically Honors students choose to do their projects in their area of study, but some will pick a topic of interest unrelated to their major.

The Honors Program requires that the project be presented at a poster presentation event. Poster presentations are held each semester. Most students present during their senior year, but may do so earlier if their honors project has been completed.

This site presents project descriptions and selected posters for Honors projects completed since the Fall 2015 semester.

Music and Theatre

This project implements an algorithmic process of musical harmonization in software, using traditional species counterpoint described in Johann Joseph Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (1725) as a model. The purpose is to provide a prototype for software with which a user will explore alternate harmonic theories and facilitate the production of a musical composition. The limit set for the prototype is to encapsulate the fundamental principles of two-part, first-species counterpoint in Gradus ad Parnassum, by which a composer adds a rule-based second melody, the counterpoint, to a provided fixed melody, the cantus firmus. For the software implementation, the algorithm constructs a counterpoint for any cantus firmus by arranging hypothetical notes into a graph, with edge magnitudes chosen to reflect the allowance of and preference for certain motions between notes, adapting Dijkstra’s Shortest Path First algorithm to choose a valid path. The technical implementation involves programming the algorithm in JavaScript embedded in the Max 8 audiovisual programming environment to provide the user interface and musical sound. The project sets the foundation for further explorations of musical graph theory and algorithmically generated harmony that will expand to more complex textures.