New Cognitive Theories of Harmony Applied to Direct Manipulation Tools for Novices

Holland, Simon (1987). New Cognitive Theories of Harmony Applied to Direct Manipulation Tools for Novices. In: Proceedings of 1987 International Computer Music Conference, Michigan Publishing pp. 182–189.



Two recent cognitive theories of harmony can be exploited to design powerful direct manipulation tools to help novices sketch, analyse and experiment with harmony. Longuet-Higgins' (1962) and Balzano's (1980) theories are the focus of much current investigation by cognitive psychologists of music but they also offer considerable potential, so far virtually neglected, in music education and musician-machine interface design. Longuet-Higgins and Balzano start from quite different bases, (one from the overtone series and the other from mathematical group theory) but the two theories lead to closely related two-dimensional representations of harmonic structures and relationships. The paper discusses the design of direct manipulation tools based on a version of Longuet-Higgins' theory to allow novices to modify, sketch and analyse harmonic sequences simply and clearly by moving two-dimensional patterns representing notes, chords and key areas on a computer screen linked to a synthesizer. Such interfaces should enable novices to experiment intelligently with harmony in ways that might normally be barred to them because of lack of theoretical knowledge or instrumental skill.

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