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Ornament & Crime is packed full of complex and compelling functions, as we’ve seen with the Euclidean Rhythm-soaked Piqued mode. Another area in which it excels, is generating chords and chord sequences using Neo-Riemannian transformations, an esoteric form of music theory. This method of analyzing and creating triads and chord structures has become popular in Eurorack composition, appearing in other popular modules like the Tonnetz Sequent from Noise Engineering.
In the Ornament & Crime mode named Harrington 1200 (a reference to a synthesizer in a must-see episode of the stylized comedy program, Look Around You) a single, external melodic sequence can be used as a root note, creating musical triads above the root, forming harmonic chords. Using the available menu options, we can assign transposition amount (also controllable using the left encoder), triad “species” (major or minor quality) and chord inversions (which can also be controlled via CV routed to the CV 4 input).
Trigger inputs 2 through 4 can be used to alter the chord tones of the generated triads, shifting the tonality of the chord depending on the Neo-Riemannian transform that is triggered.
Paraphrasing from the Ornament & Crime documentation…
The neo-Riemannian transformations themselves are quite simple, and “reversible” i.e. applying them twice returns the original triad. The following basic tranformations are used:
- P (Parallel): Moves the third up or down a semitone, thus P(Cmaj) = Cmin, P(Cmin) = Cmaj.
- L (Leading Tone): Converts a major triad to a minor by shifting the root down a semitone and making the third the root, or from minor to major by moving the fifth up a semitone to become the root.
- R (Relative): Converts a major triad to its relative minor, or a minor triad to its relative major.
We will go deeper into the concepts behind this type of music theory, but there are a few good videos online that attempt to explain it including this one…
We’ll have plenty more on the Ornament & Crime in the coming weeks and months!
How are you generating chords in your Eurorack system? Let us know in the comments!
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