Jump to content
ChrisGibbs

Inversion synthesis - a groundbreaking new composition technique

Recommended Posts

Hi guys,

I'd like to share with you an interesting new music composition technique that I've been developing since 2009, called inversion synthesis. The core part of the process involves harmonic inversion (for melodies, chord sequences or both) and is a technique made famous by Rachmaninoff with his

on a
. This alone remains a huge untapped area of great source material, with the Rachmaninoff example being the only well known inversion.

My technique expands on the basic inversion principle to allow inverted melodies from different source pieces to be combined together, even from different genres of music. It results in a very powerful method of creating new ideas. So far I've applied the technique successfully to creating modern piano music, but it should be suitable for composing music in any genre or style.

I've written a full guide to the technique in four parts:

The technique, part 1 (inversion)

The technique, part 2 (synthesis)

The technique, part 3 (retrograde inversion)

The technique, part 4 (advanced inversion & composition)

I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing your results using the technique!

Also, to get some idea of how I've applied the technique, have a listen to the opening piece "

" from my debut album released in 2009.

Chris

Edited by ChrisGibbs

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing. I'll be sure to look at it more in depth, I just noticed it now.

I used to take a bunch of different classical pieces and invert the whole thing, a full retrograde invert. Meaning Beethoven-flipping-the-sheet-music-upside-down style, then transpose all the parts to their registers. From there you may need to make a few bass adjustments, but you have all kinds of new upside down music awaiting you, and lots of it is good. I think Beethoven did some of that too, in his symphonies. His 3rd for example, has a number of melodies the same upside down. The rules are different in the parallel universe though :)

Some compositions I will work back and forth between both dimensions. Flip the sheet music over, write some more to fit that end. Or invert without flipping. Thy become different shades, constantly weaving things into new colors and possibilities.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Congratulations, you have invented counterpoint!

I don't see how you can call this your own technique and even say it's "groundbreaking". Move along folks, nothing to see here.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So how full of yourself do you have to be call some thing you made up "revolutionary" and "groundbreaking" as if it had any real significance at all.

And then make an entire forum for it, because people totally care about this random thing and think it is genius.

I'll read it. Only to make fun of it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sorry, but I don't see it either. Is this intended to be a rhythmic technique? If so, I strongly recommend seeking out Cage, Carter, Stockhausen, and especially Stravinsky. Don't ignore the 20th century!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, I'm going to describe what this is so you guys don't have to read it.

First he explains what inversion, a well-known technique used since like forever, is, and acts as if he's the first one to discover it or implement it in composition.

Then he explains that you can combine material derived from inversions of well-known themes (this is essentially plagiarism) and make new music. And then he does the same thing with retrograde inversion and inverting rhythms.

It's basically serialism except he steals material from existing music instead of coming up with his own tone row or whatever. Bach, Schoenberg, and composers in between already did this, except they actually came up with their own melodies/tone rows. That's because they're not plagiarists. The only way this is "revolutionary" is that it condones plagiarism.

The music he writes is completely tonal, and in that case, there really is no reason to confine yourself to this. You waste your time trying to combine pieces of stolen material in a pleasing way instead of simply writing good music. Bach did it here and there to be clever, and he is much cleverer because he only had a few themes per piece to work with (e.g. the subject of a fugue). Here, if inverting something doesn't work, don't worry! You have the library of all existing music to choose from, so steal one that fits, and voila!

Schoenberg did it because: utilizing all twelve rows, atonality, stuff.

Here it is not beneficial at all. What does this give that the simple, coming-up-with-your-own-themes-because-you-have-a-conscience method does not?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, I'm not a big fan of stealing, but I'm wondering if I could use this method when I'm in writer's block. I'm always good at writing the beginning, but not so much the middle, if I take the beginning and play it upside down and backwards, it just might work! (actually, no, I can think of a lot of good reasons why it won't work, but I think I'll give it a shot!)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Treehugger, that's fine. Composers have been doing that since forever. That one does not involve using another composer's melody.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well wait, if he's citing his melodic sources at any point, then what does it matter? It's a variation or whatever. Even if it's not properly sourced, Girl Talk is nifty.

As for groundbreaking or new? It's serialism without the little numbers down here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Woah, I wasn't expecting this kind of huge negative response, I'm sorry for sharing a technique which can generate loads of great new source material! :P

It's not strictly plagiarism, as the technique allows a huge amount of room for personal expression. Often the inverted melody will provide a guide, but signficant modications have to be made to it in order to fit in with the rest of the piece. This is well illustrated with my "Reflections" pieces, which contain a significant amount of my own work, combined with inversions of Beatles melodies.

What's wrong with using other melodies as source material for inversion anyway, or as a guide for a whole set of pieces for that matter? Is Vaughan Williams a plagiarist because he "stole" a theme by Thomas Tallis and the tune "Dives and Lazarus"? Is Bach a plagiarist because he "stole" several tunes for the Goldberg Variations quodlibet? Is Rachmaninoff a plagiarist for "stealing" the Paganini theme?

You would have thought that famous classical pieces such as Clair de Lune, The Lark Ascending, La fille aux cheveux de lin, Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto, etc would have surfaced in their inverted form in other pieces since they were written, but I've yet to discover any (inversions of those pieces appear in my works Cambric Clouds and Egyptian Concerto, Part 2 respectively).

Again, I'm not claiming that I invented inversion or combining melodies from different sources, but I've yet to see evidence of both techniques ever been done before together (and certainly not on a grand scale). I've had positive comments from over 250,000 people on Facebook, and the real magic is that hardly any of them know (or need to know) how the pieces were composed, it just produces great music.

Quit the sarcasm and open your mind to a huge resource of new ideas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, if you had just posted some music with a description of this method which you used to write it, I doubt anybody would react negatively. It is acting as if you have the musical Theory of Relativity that is dumb, just begging for mockery on the internet. I'll stop using hyperbole for awhile. It isn't really plagiarism, although I would definitely be uncomfortable having the majority of what I write derived from other composers' music.

I've had positive comments from over 250,000 people on Facebook, and the real magic is that hardly any of them know (or need to know) how the pieces were composed, it just produces great music.

You see, normal people don't so this. They don't memorize and quote numbers of positive internet comments, as if anybody cares or as if it proves anything at all. They don't call their own music great or magic. Even if you think it is great, you don't say it. You are not the one doing us a favor by sharing whatever this is. We are the ones who are doing you a favor by actually reading it and giving opinions. There are plenty of people who have ideas and music to share, and we don't have to give a scraggy. You have things backwards. Consider the possibility that you are not special and this thing you came up with is nothing innovative.

Now I'll tell you why I think this is nothing special. The only thing new about what you have is that you use material from other composers' to build your music. This might be a good idea for several pieces, as a sort of homage to your favorite music, but using this as your primary tool would make me, at least, uncomfortable. You also have not explained how this makes music sound any better, or what it brings to the table that other methods don't. At this point I'm thinking nothing.

This doesn't even come close to deserving it's own fancy name, or a forum dedicated to it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... although I would definitely be uncomfortable having the majority of what I write derived from other composers' music.

... This might be a good idea for several pieces, as a sort of homage to your favorite music, but using this as your primary tool would make me, at least, uncomfortable. You also have not explained how this makes music sound any better, or what it brings to the table that other methods don't. At this point I'm thinking nothing.

So it's good enough for an album/cycle/what-have-you, but not good enough for general usage? What it definitely brings to the table is a subversion of the original intent, especially when you kink up the rhythm. If the source is unrecognizable, what's the issue -- and you have something a little stronger (to me) than "This makes me think of the moon at dusk!"

I dunno. Maybe I'm a sucker for cultural repurposing, as I'm always looking for a clean markov chain to play with when it comes to chosen notes. Maybe I'm just tired of cries of (admittedly muted) plagiarism when I've yet to hear music that was particularly innovative given the surrounding arts and sciences of the time (not to say anything too over-arching, just to say that "stealing" never really was "stealing").

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Exactly.

And any hear of quidlibet? Combining two melodies to create a new piece? Been done for a long time and few famous examples from Bach.

So to recap, quidlobet, with a variation technique (solely inverting the melodies) then using counterpoint to c onstruct. Again nothing new.

And, let's go back further - what about the Parody Masses and Masses of the late Rennaissance? Desprez and Dufay?

And finally, read up on David Cope and algorithmic composition. He would provide parameters to a computer to produce a work by Rachmaninoff and say Purcell and then program the computer to combine these styles.

Nevertheless, if it produces "good" music, well that's great. Just don't assume what you are doing is so new - you sound like your selling a Ponzi scheme.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris I am curious what knowledge of music theory you actually have. For example you wrote this:

2dt1c.png

^^^ this is inane. You just have a very simple arpeggio pattern, outlining a major chord. You don't need to derive chords by "inverting" other chords! A minor and D major were around a long time before you or Radiohead!

I feel this criticism can then be enlarged to encompass the rest of your music. Your melodies are simple and tonal. Anyone could write similar music without going through the process of finding other simple tonal melodies and inverting them. Also towards the end of your spiel you talk about modifying your inverted fragments to fit the music the way you want. This begs the question, why not independently write what you want to hear? Are you incapable of composing on your own?

You clearly have some kind of marketing scheme here (cute pun title, logo, forum, social media) based on promoting your "innovative" way of writing music. I don't know, maybe it works, maybe you are fooling musical ingenues. Why not slap a "gluten free" label on your website while you're at it.

But why don't you tell us composers: what value does it add for a listener to know that your music comes from inverting other music?

Can a listener tell, without being told, the source of your melodies? No, because you don't use fugal techniques, like quoting the original for comparison and picking a melody that has distinctive characteristics (like an odd intervallic leap or a recognizable rhythmic pattern). The "melodies" (really motifs) you "invert" are just diatonic scale and arpeggio patterns. And what do you get out of it? Hey, more diatonic scales and arpeggio patterns!

At my most cynical: I think you just want the cachet of saying that your music uses a groundbreaking technique and is "sourced" from Radiohead and the Beatles. Well good luck grifting the musically ignorant I guess?

Take a look at this, I think it is musically far ahead of you:

When the composer fragments and inverts the fugue's theme it is instantly recognizable.

Also it took real skill to write that fugue, not just copy paste. By writing the fugue the composer

1. is poking fun at Lady Gaga (for the simplistic top-of-the-pops style of her compositions) as well as

2. making an in-joke (rewriting Gaga's Bad Romance in the style of Bach, after Gaga quoted Bach at the beginning of that very song) as well as

3. showing how the simple motif Gaga uses, could be mined in a musically creative way to create an interesting set of variations.

It's kind of genius actually. I don't get that from your music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I actually read the whole thing and I was like..... lolwut?

My favorite was thus:

As far as I know, inversion synthesis has never been used before 2009. Even just the inversion part of the technique I described in part 1 only has the Rachmaninoff vs Paganini as the one well known example, which I still find stunning that inversion alone hasn't been done on a large scale before.

No one ever?!?!?! You, sir, need to learn your classical music. Inversions have been used since....well, the beginning of time.

Study up on The Art of Fugue by Bach to get a good example of how inversion has been used for centuries. He crafts entire movements out of inversions.

BTW, Weca brings up an excellent point. All your stuff is strictly diatonic. Throw in even some moderate chromaticism and your "theory" falls apart.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to take a bunch of different classical pieces and invert the whole thing, a full retrograde invert. Meaning Beethoven-flipping-the-sheet-music-upside-down style, then transpose all the parts to their registers. From there you may need to make a few bass adjustments, but you have all kinds of new upside down music awaiting you, and lots of it is good. I think Beethoven did some of that too, in his symphonies. His 3rd for example, has a number of melodies the same upside down. The rules are different in the parallel universe though :)

Yeah, the physical flipping method (and staying in the same key signature) results in counterpoint-style inversion which was also used extensively by Bach amongst others, and is a good way of generating more ideas in a similar style.

The strict harmonic inversion method I'm using is a more powerful general-purpose approach for generating new ideas, since it completely alters the mood and feel of the source melody/chord sequence.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The strict harmonic inversion method I'm using is a more powerful general-purpose approach for generating new ideas, since it completely alters the mood and feel of the source melody/chord sequence.

Again, nothing new. Like you have in fugal counterpoint for the second entry both an harmonic entry (meaning the theme is slighly adjusted to fit in the harmonic scheme) and a melodic variant (meaning litteral transposed), the same applies for inversion, retrogrades.

If you are proud that the mood can be altered by regular counterpoint techniques, please study some older guys (ranging from Bach, via Brahms, to Schoenberg, and countless others) before bragging it's your invention.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice, you ignored every post criticizing your technique. You didn't even bother to adress them this time.

Anyways, not only that, but whatever mood/chords/melodies you get could have been written without your silly method. You can get a falling F minor arpeggio by inverting a rising C major arpeggio, or, you know, just writing an F minor arpeggio.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The strict harmonic inversion method I'm using is a more powerful general-purpose approach for generating new ideas, since it completely alters the mood and feel of the source melody/chord sequence.

Wrong.

Theory 101? Any major interval (M3, M6, M7) when inverted turns into a minor interval (m6, m3, m2) and vice versa? "Inverting" a major chord turns it into a minor chord.

You are not generating a new idea: your "fresh" material is just diatonic scales and chord patterns that you could have sat down at the piano and played yourself. They have no aurally recognizable relation to the source material either.

Saying that your approach "generates new ideas" is like saying if I take a Shakespeare play and mix up all the words in it, and rearrange them on a refrigerator, some of the worlds will form sentences, and I can use those sentences to write my own play.

JUST WRITE YOUR OWN PLAY! You don't need to pretend that each word somehow comes from Shakespeare!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, I'm not a big fan of stealing, but I'm wondering if I could use this method when I'm in writer's block. I'm always good at writing the beginning, but not so much the middle, if I take the beginning and play it upside down and backwards, it just might work! (actually, no, I can think of a lot of good reasons why it won't work, but I think I'll give it a shot!)

For sure yeah, anything which can help you get out of writer's block has to be a good thing :)

Even if you don't use actual portions directly based on inversions in the final piece, it can still provide some very useful inspiration and ideas. Let me know if you do decide to use it, I'd be interested to hear your results.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've found that if you dump a viola player just before the premiere of your quartet, you get a very altered mood indeed...

I call it relational inversion and I've written a paper about it, if anyone's interested.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He edited the OP.

Now our responses look too harsh.

Well yeah I only changed one word - "revolutionary" to "interesting", as it seems to have stirred up a lot of negative and sarcastic people into posting...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...