Project 1

The computer program Project 1 (PR1) was born in 1964 of the wish to test the compositional rules of serial music – rules which were the subject of lively discussion in those days. However, it soon became apparent that rules based on lists of parameters and permutations of rows cannot be described without concrete plans for a composition; at any rate the systematic combination of all conceivable points of departure would have led to an incalculable amount of results which could not have been evaluated without a concrete plan for a composition. It was thus necessary to limit the procedure to a compositional model containing important elements of the serial method, and to test that model under various conditions with different musical goals in mind. This is a departure from the innermost domain of serial music, a generalization, “rows” being replaced by “stockpiles” and permutations by random decisions.

The model on which the program is based proceeds from a pair of opposites, “regular/irregular” (the RI principle), inspired by the non-repeatability of serial elements (“irregular”) and by group-forming multiplication rows. Between these extremes there are 5 intermediate stages, so that the composer can choose from a total of seven “processes”. 

In PR1 the RI principle is applied to the parameters instrument, entry delay, pitch, octave register and dynamics. Each parameter is assigned a list in which the composer enters the desired parameter values.

  • Instruments are indicated by numbers which the composer can interpret while working out the score.
  • Entry delays refer to “metric units”, i.e. note-lengths (minim, crotchet, quaver etc.) for which a metronome value has been prescribed. For each entry delay a (maximum) chord size is defined. Breaking up the chords into single parts is done during evaluation of the score table (see below).
  • For pitches a system was developed with which three-tone groups are formed on the basis of two intervals designated by the composer. Automatic transposition of the three-tone groups results in twelve-tone rows. 
  • Octave registers are indicated by numbers to be interpreted by the composer in the same way as the instrument numbers.
  • The composer may insert any values he/she pleases in the dynamics list.

During the composition process “sections” are produced, in each of which the composer can determine a “process” for each parameter.

The result of the composition process appears in the form of a score-table containing all the data. The score-table can be read on a monitor, printed or stored. A Midi option produces a standard Midi file which when connected to a Midi instrument (soundcard) conveys an aural impression of the result.

It is now up to the composer to interpret the score-table with a view to producing a score for any instruments he/she pleases.