Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Toward a unitary music theory?”

What is the basic common denominator of all music styles? Why do we like some types of music and not others?

Since about twenty years, these questions guide me toward a fundamental research in music. The subject is not new and Pythagoras already determined that the most harmonious intervals were related to simple mathematical ratios (for instance, a perfect fifth is formed by a ratio of 3 vibrations to 2).

If the structure of the harmonics of a sound and the scale intervals are explained in almost every music theory or harmony course under the sun, these mathematical considerations are quickly forgotten by the student for the rest of his curriculum.

But would these concepts of relative proportions have something else to unveil? I strongly believe so. There must be a small number of basic natural laws that could explain and unite the various elements found in harmony, counterpoint, rhythm and orchestration for any music style, whether tonal, atonal, micro-tonal, ethnic, techno or acousmatic.

Such a theory must provide a more subtle and finer analysis of music than is possible today and bring a much better understanding of the musical phenomenon. I called it unitary music theory.

It is one of my goals in life. Even if I am still far from the final results, I have accumulated some interesting elements and I would like to share them with you. I am also open to – and even searching for – any collaboration in this vast and exciting field of research.

The ultimate goal is a practical theory, not a pure academic knowledge. It happens in the frame of the development of a music composition software that would be really intuitive, where the user would not need to be enclosed in a notation system or learn elaborate music theories when his only purpose was to express himself/herself as an artist. Too many theoretical barriers still exist today and musical creativity should be available to anyone.


Photograph : Pythagoras and Philolaus experimenting musical pipes

Post written by Dominique Vandenneucker (Arpege Music Software Development CEO)

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