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Book I. The Theory of Rhythm

Chapter 1. Notation System

This is a very short chapter and as such will be a relatively short post. The first chapter really only defines a few terms and where he got the idea.

Essential to Schillinger’s system is the element of rhythm. Perhaps in no other work, with the exception of “The Rhythmic Structure of Music” by Cooper and Meyer does rhythm play such an integral part of the idea of composition as it does in the Schillinger System of Musical Composition.

Schillinger’s problem with modern notation is it’s lack of precision, and proposes the concurrent use of three systems of notation:

  • Numbers
  • Graphs
  • Musical Notes

The numbers are simply used in their normal mathematical sense, addition subtraction and the like, The graphs are where Schillinger really starts to pull apart from the rest of the pack. Schillinger begins his theory of graphing music using the basic principals of graphing any sort of data, differing greatly from the likes of Schenker. In this case the abscissa, or horizontal (x) axis expresses time, with durations indicated by the number of units (i.e. if one unit equals the duration of a quarter note, a half note would equal two units, it is best to use the smallest term of any given rhythmic pattern as your unite of measurement)  and the ordinate, or vertical (y) axis stands for phase, or in this case “the moment of attack” (this is greatly expanded upon later).

Schillinger draws his inspiration for the graphical representation of music from the natural movement of a pendulum, explaining that if one were to attach a writing utensil of some sort to the end of a clock pendulum, and run a piece of paper underneath it at a steady pace, the result would be a simple sine wave, the simplest form of Periodicity. 

This idea of Periodicity is the fundamental tenant of not only Schillinger’s theory of how rhythm works, but of his entire System of Musical Composition. The interaction of different numbers of Periodicity lays the foundation for his work on melody, harmony and even orchestration. Without a full understanding of this underlying concept further study, and appreciation, of Schillinger’s methods is whole unsatisfactory. 

Up next a further explanation of Schillinger’s notation system and its uses in “Chapter 2. Interferences of Periodicities”. 

Copyright © 2012 Brian DeLaney. All rights reserved.

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