Morphological Metrics

solo laptop performance

Dynamical Synthesis

Dynamical Synthesis is a work for solo laptop that draws on my research in musical contour. I transpose basic shapes — or morphologies — into audible gestures through an iterative waveshaping process. The waveshaping function is a logistic map, and the iterative process transposes frequency by adding polynomial degrees with each iteration. The piece begins with three random shapes — or points in morphological space — and interpolates within these boundaries. The interpolation is derived from my ideas about the inherent structure of morphological space, which I write about in my research on musical contour.

About Musical Contour and Morphology

poster presented at Society for Music Theory 2017, David Kant and Larry Polansky

download poster pdf

The study of music contour — important in music theory, cognition, and ethnomusicology — is motivated by an interest in melodic similarity and classification. Contour theory attempts to categorize, clarify, analyze and define basic melodic principles, as well as, more generally, morphology — musical phenomena quantifiable as “change over time.” Contour is fundamental to perception, and as such, an understanding of relationships, or distance functions (metrics), in contour space essential.

A “contour” is, simply, an ordered set of “directional” relationships between (quantifiable) elements, prioritizing “up/down/equal” over “how much up or down or equal.” The study of contour has often consisted of categorical classification and a search for archetypes. The “up/down motion of “things changing in time,” is one way to understand morphology, or the “nature of melody” in terms of this limited but essential feature. Contour relationships (particularly similarity) and categorizations may be considered an effort to describe contour space.

Above is a research poster that Larry Polansky and I will present at Society for Music Theory 2017. Using the techniques of n-ary contour and basis-space, we express all possible CCs for any n (resolution) and any L (length), and by extension, all possible morphologies of any length with elements of arbitrary magnitudes, formally collapsing the distinction between contour and morphology into a unified representation of “contour/morphological space” on the unit hypersphere.