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       M U S I C          T H E O R Y         O N L I N E
                     A Publication of the
                   Society for Music Theory
          Copyright (c) 1995 Society for Music Theory
| Volume 1, Number 3        May, 1995      ISSN:  1067-3040   |
  All queries to: mto-editor@boethius.music.ucsb.edu or to
AUTHOR: Johnson, Timothy, A.
TITLE: The Computer Presentation of Musical Research: A Case Study
KEYWORDS: HyperCard, CD-ROM, John Adams, computer-assisted instruction
Timothy A. Johnson
Mount Holyoke College
Department of Music
South Hadley, MA 01075
ABSTRACT: The traditional format for the presentation of musical
research, the journal article, makes referencing musical passages less
direct than ideally desired.  CD-ROM technology provides a means for
the presentation of written comments and analytical sketches
simultaneously with a recorded performance of the corresponding music.
This article describes a computer project that uses CD-ROM technology
to bridge the gap between analytical or theoretical comments and the
sound of musical passages.  The main goals of the article are to
encourage the development of and provide guidance for similar
ACCOMPANYING FILES: johnson.hqx (a downloadable copy of the program)
[The program, for Macintosh computers, is available at the FTP site 
boethius.music.ucsb.edu in the directory pub/mto/software. Editor]
[1] The traditional format for the formal presentation of musical
research, the journal article, makes referencing musical passages less
direct than ideally desired.  Although much theoretical and analytical
work primarily focuses on the musical sounds themselves, scholarly
views and explanations usually are accompanied only by cryptic
references to these sounds in the form of written musical examples and
references to scores by measure numbers.  The lack of ready access to
the sounds under discussion often makes the theoretical and analytical
concepts presented difficult, if not impossible, to grasp fully.
Despite the high level of ability among musical scholars in producing
imagined aural recreations of such passages or in remembering past
performances, many readers do not have the ability to conceive the
sounds implied by unfamiliar musical examples precisely or will not
take the time and trouble to obtain a score and recording of the works
being discussed.  And even those with exceptional score-reading
abilities or memories likely would benefit from hearing a performance
of the passages discussed.  After all, sounding music--not music
sounding in our heads--is what led most of us to devote our lives to
its study (even if music sounding in our heads is what keeps us
[2] CD-ROM technology provides a means for the presentation of written
comments and analytical sketches simultaneously with a recorded
performance of the corresponding musical passages.  The compact disks
may be accessed with precision, accurate to a 75th of a second.  Using
a programming software package such as HyperCard, an author may create
links to immediately bring the reader/listener from analytical texts
or graphics directly to the relevant passage on a compact disk.  Thus,
the musical sounds are readily available, eliminating the problems
associated with providing only written references to the music.
[3] In this article I will describe in detail a computer project that
uses CD-ROM technology to bridge the gap between analytical or
theoretical comments and the sound of musical passages.(1) First I
will introduce some of the basic aspects of the musical theories
presented in the program [section 4] and present some of the principal
advantages of the use of this technology for the presentation of
musical research [sections 5-6].  A detailed description of the
computer program follows [sections 7-15].  Next I discuss the
development effort required and relate some of the problems
encountered in bringing the project to completion [sections 16-20].
Finally, an exploration of some pedagogical implications of the
technology closes the article [sections 21-24].  The main goals of
this article are to encourage the development of similar projects by
outlining the motivation for and benefits of using this technology and
to provide guidance to those who choose to undertake such projects
through example and by identifying some potential pitfalls.  Although
a number of more polished commercial CD-ROM products dealing with
similar analytical issues have appeared, the project described in this
article represents a more informal model of the use of this
technology, in which someone with little experience may develop a
useful (though certainly less thorough) program.(2) In addition to
providing a detailed description of the computer project in this
article, the computer program itself may be downloaded (see list of
accompanying files above) for exploration by readers of this journal
who have access to a Macintosh computer, preferably with a CD-ROM and
the suitable compact disks.(3) Although CD-ROM is an essential
component of the project and the primary concerns discussed in this
article, the computer program may be examined without access to a
CD-ROM, though unfortunately no music will be played.
1. An earlier version of this case study was supported by the Mount
Holyoke College Technology Seminar, sponsored by a grant from the Pew
Charitable Trusts.
2. Some excellent commercial CD-ROM software products include: Daniel
Jacobson and Timothy Koozin, *The Norton CD-ROM Masterworks*, Vol.  1
(New York: W. W. Norton and Company, forthcoming in 1995); Daniel
Jacobson and Timothy Koozin, *CD-ROM Listening Guides for The
Enjoyment of Music, 7th ed. by Joseph Machlis and Kristine Forney*
(New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1995); William Renwick and David
Walker, *CD-BRAHMS* (Hamilton, Ontario: McMaster University, 1994);
Robert Winter, *Anton Dvorak, Symphony No. 9 in E minor: From the New
World* (Irvington, N.Y.: Voyager, 1994); Robert Winter, *Igor
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring* (Santa Monica, Calif.: Voyager, 1992);
and Robert Winter, *Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9* (Santa
Monica, Calif.: Voyager, 1989).
3. The following compact disks may be used with this program: John
Adams, *The Chairman Dances*, San Francisco Symphony, Edo de Waart,
cond. (Elektra/Nonesuch 9 79144-2); Adams, *Grand Pianola Music*, and
Steve Reich, *Eight Lines* and *Vermont Counterpoint*, Solisti New
York, Ransom Wilson, cond. (EMI CDC-7 47331 2); Adams,
*Harmonielehre*, San Francisco Symphony, Edo de Waart,
cond. (Elektra/Nonesuch 79115-2); Adams, *Harmonium*, San Francisco
Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Edo de Waart, cond.  (ECM 1277); Adams,
*Nixon in China*, Orchestra of St. Luke's, Edo de Waart, cond.
(Elektra/Nonesuch 9 79177-2); *American Piano Music of Our Time*,
Ursula Oppens, piano (Music & Arts CD 604).
[4] This computer program, prepared using HyperCard for the Macintosh,
presents analytical and theoretical comments linked to musical
sketches and compact disk recordings of passages from John Adams's
music.  The theory presented in the program identifies the seven chord
successions used in passages that repeatedly alternate between two
chords.  The seven chord successions correspond to two more general
procedures, called operations.  These operations, taken singly or in
combination, stipulate relationships between two chords based on
either the circle of thirds, alternating between major and minor
thirds, or on notes moving by half step.  The computer program
describes and displays each of the seven typical successions, and
links these theoretical explanations to analytical sketches and
recordings of the corresponding musical passages from a variety of
Adams's pieces.  In addition, a more extensive example from the first
scene of the opera, *Nixon in China*, suggests that these successions
connect different passages by providing recognizable chord root and
quality relationships.
[5] The interactive format of this program allows users to explore the
ideas presented at their own pace and in their own way--spending more
time to examine certain areas or to hear additional musical examples
while skipping over areas of less interest.  This format seems
particularly appropriate for the presentation of theoretical or
analytical material, since many ideas require explanation from a
variety of approaches and in reference to multiple examples, while
other ideas may be immediately grasped with little explanation or
demonstration.  Furthermore, the exploration of the theoretical and
analytical ideas may be focused according to each user's own interests
and background.
[6] In addition to providing direct links to precise musical passages
on compact disks and allowing individualized interactive access, the
HyperCard platform also facilitates the production of animated
sequences that can illustrate complicated theoretical concepts with
ease and with little textual commentary.  Thus, instead of describing
how a collection of notes may be manipulated to produce a related
collection, the manipulation procedure may be shown as a step-by-step
process unfolding upon the screen.  Even familiar concepts such as
inversional symmetry may be shown clearly and succinctly by gradually
inverting a collection of notes to yield the same collection through
an animated process.  Another advantage of CD-ROM technology is the
capability of highlighting specific locations in an analytical sketch
at the same time as the corresponding music plays.  Consequently, the
correlation between specific analytical symbols and the parallel
location in the music are immediately apparent without reference to
location cues such as measure number or section.  Because of this
coordination, even an uninitiated student of music theory cannot fail
to grasp the relationship between elements of the analytical sketches
and the relevant musical passages.
[7] The following detailed description of the key features of the
computer program (sections 7-15) will provide an account of the
program to readers without access to a Macintosh and will offer
commentary on the essential aspects of the program.  In addition to
their descriptive purpose, these remarks are intended to serve as a
guide for the development of similar projects by identifying potential
problems and suggesting possible solutions.  Those who have the
facilities to examine the program may wish to read this section while
observing the relevant screens in the program, skimming over the
descriptive material in this part of the essay and focusing on the
[8] The title page, in addition to providing descriptive information
about the program and its developer, invites the unassisted user to
try the software program.  The instruction, "click the mouse anywhere
to begin," indicates the only knowledge necessary to get started--the
recognition of a mouse and the initiative to press the button.  After
several informational screens and an opportunity to hear a sample from
Adams's music, another introductory screen attempts to alleviate fears
of computer novices through humor while clearly providing necessary
information to more experienced users.  The technologically aware user
is instructed to click the mouse in a button to select the level of
help, while the novice is advised to "click the mouse anywhere else if
computers scare you!"  Three levels of help are offered, ranging from
no-help to virtual hand-holding, to provide flexibility for the
different backgrounds of potential users.
[9] The importance of getting users started and providing sufficient
help cannot be overestimated in developing interactive programs.
Unless the first screen is sufficiently inviting and uncluttered, many
potential users may stare blankly at the screen hoping someone else
will come along and demonstrate the program.  The help provided for
those who venture into the hyperspace created in the program is even
more essential, since furnishing too much help will bore and annoy
sophisticated users (which, judging by the recent exuberant activity
on the music theory list, are becoming more and more common among
music theorists), and too little help will leave many users confused
and unable to continue.  Instructions on the use of the software that
are provided should be simple and gradual, and opportunities must be
provided for the user to try the maneuvers necessary to run the
program, accompanied by descriptive guidance.
[10] The main menu screen serves as a home base for the user and
supplies an outline of the entire program.  However, unlike the table
of contents in a book, clicking the mouse on any particular entry in
the outline provides immediate access to that section of the program.
Each button on the main menu screen provides access to different areas
in the program, and all screens in the program provide a possible
direct link back to the main menu.  In this program, the seven typical
chord successions are listed in the right column of buttons and are
connected via lines to the buttons containing the corresponding
operations listed in the left column.  An overview button heads the
list, centered at the top of the screen, and a button linked to a list
of musical examples and the quit button appear centered at the bottom
of the screen.  The main menu functions as a familiar location from
which to explore the entire program.  Whenever the user becomes
disoriented, a click of the mouse on any of the "return to main menu"
buttons produces this recognizable screen from which a new course of
exploration may be contemplated.
[11] Choosing "Overview" from the main menu reveals background
information about the theory as well as essential aspects of how the
main menu is constructed.  Relationships between the operations and
the chord successions emerge graphically while theoretical commentary
on some crucial aspects of the theory appears in text boxes.  The
overview, in addition to providing a brief synopsis of the musical
theory, aids the user in understanding the construction of the program
and suggests possible areas to explore.
[12] Choosing one of the operations from the main menu provides a
detailed description of that operation and its connection to the
corresponding typical chord successions.  Similarly, choosing any of
the chord succession buttons from the main menu, in addition to
showing its link to an operation, produces a graphical representation
of the abstract idea and supplies a link to some musical examples that
illustrate the theoretical device.  For each typical succession, the
user may choose to examine and hear any of the examples listed on the
buttons in the center of the screen or may choose to return to the
main menu or repeat the graphic portrayal of the chord succession.
Choosing one of the musical examples reveals a screen that clearly
displays the title and measure numbers of the selected passage and the
theoretical construct under investigation at the top of the screen.
The main portion of the screen is devoted to a sketch of the harmonic
content of the passage.  And the bottom of the screen provides an
opportunity to learn about the sketch technique used in the project,
displays the duration of the example, and gives the option of playing
the example or exiting to the previous screen.  A box highlighted in
reverse video, indicating the section of the sketch being played,
moves through the sketch as the recording is heard.
[13] Check marks appear next to all example buttons after the
corresponding example has been examined and heard.  This signal allows
the user to keep track of which examples have been explored and which
remain, though these place indicators do not prevent users from
returning to any of the examples for further study or replays.
Similar check marks on the main menu help the user to keep tabs on
progress on a grander scale.
[14] The master list of musical examples, comprised of working
buttons, provides alternative access to each of the examples in the
program.  Thus, users may choose to approach the theoretical and
analytical information through the operations or chord-succession
types listed on the main menu, as described above, or they may explore
the examples according to individual piece titles and measure numbers.
The check marks indicating progress appear on this screen even if the
example was entered from the chord-succession screens.  A
Discography/Bibliography, presented using the analogy of index cards,
gives the usual information a familiar feel despite the unfamiliar
technological mechanism.  A user may move through the entries in the
bibliography by using the arrow buttons at the bottom of the screen or
by "thumbing" through the index cards by pointing to the top right
corner of the cards and clicking with the mouse.
[15] Whereas most of the examples in this program are brief excerpts
from a number of different pieces, a more comprehensive view of the
first scene of *Nixon in China* appears as a separate example.
Instead of a graphical representation of the various passages, this
extended example simply lists the many typical chord successions and
their associated chords that appear in repeated alternation in the
scene.  The entire scene may be played while tracking the various
typical successions as shown by a highlighted box, or individual
passages may be played by clicking on the various selections in the
list.  This example serves as a summary, where the typical chord
successions may be considered in a broader context.
[16] This profile of the computer program and its essential
theoretical components identifies the key features of the project.
Although many aspects described above are unique to this project, the
general concepts are applicable to other future projects.  Offering an
inviting initial screen, providing appropriate help, linking all areas
of the program to a central screen, and indicating progress through
the program are all essential components of successful interactive
computer programs.  In addition, providing effective metaphors for
familiar concepts, such as the bibliographic index cards described
above, helps the user to become acclimated to the program more
[17] The development of this project required a rather substantial
initial investment of time and effort.  Developing additional
projects, however, would take far less time since familiarity with the
software and with design strategies would accelerate the process
considerably.  This project took approximately two and a half months
of full-time work to complete--beginning with *no* knowledge of
HyperCard or CD-ROM technology, almost no Macintosh experience, but
considerable experience working with IBM-compatible computers.
Included in this time period was a four-day music-technology workshop
at the University of North Dakota.(4) After the workshop, continual
reference to a valuable resource by Daniel Goodman,(5) and
considerable trial and error guided the advancement of this project.
In the final stages the Academic Computing Staff at Mount Holyoke
College provided invaluable assistance.(6)
4. Although there are a number of fine workshops on HyperCard and
CD-ROM, I chose this one for the opportunity to work with Tim Koozin
and Dan Jacobson, a music theorist and a musicologist who both have
had substantial experience in developing applications similar to this
5. The Complete HyperCard 2.2 Handbook, 4th ed. (New York: Random
House Electronic Publishing, 1993).
6. I especially would like to thank Jurgen Botz, Vijay Kumar, and
Kevin Prime.  
[18] The development of this project required a Macintosh Computer
with a CD-ROM drive, headphones or speakers with an amplifier, a full
authoring version of HyperCard, a CD sound-driver, Voyager Audio
Stack, and compact disks of the music under investigation.(7) The
project initially cost approximately $1170 ($750, music-technology
workshop including travel; $50, books; $120, compact disk recordings;
$75, CD-Caddies; $150, Voyager Audio Stack software; $25, audio
wiring), not including computer and CD-ROM hardware.(8) Completing
additional projects, however, would require only the cost of the
compact disk recordings.
7. Similar projects may be produced using an IBM-compatible computer
and a comparable software product to HyperCard such as Toolbook.  For
Macintosh computers a *full* version of HyperCard must be procured
since, although Macintoshes are customarily shipped with HyperCard, a
full authoring version is not always supplied.  A CD sound-driver is
software that allows CD-ROM to be used for sound production rather
than just data storage, the Voyager CD AudioStack is a software
program for the Macintosh that facilitates access to compact disks,
and the compact disks used for this application are standard
commercial CD recordings.
8. The development of this project was supported by a faculty research
grant from Mount Holyoke College.
[19] This program was initially presented as a "poster" at the Annual
Meeting of the Society for Music Theory, Kansas City, 1992.  A major
obstacle in presenting this project at a national conference was
transporting computer equipment to the site.  Although a laptop would
have be ideal for this application, test runs on a Powerbook revealed
a "bug" in Powerbooks making their use problematic and causing
substantial levels of stress for the developer (the computer would
"freeze" during relatively lengthy animated processes since the
keyboard was not in use).  Other problems involved the disparate
speeds at which the animated sequences ran on different computers,
negating the effects of working out precise timing for certain
animated processes.  This timing problem has become more of a factor
as computers constantly increase in speed; therefore, the program has
been revised to rely on clock time rather than the computer's internal
processor speed.  Fortunately, none of the problems encountered were
insurmountable, and the presentation took place without incident.
[20] Another important consideration in the development of this
project was the desire to discuss pieces appearing on different
compact disks.  Since automatic CD-ROM changers are currently rare and
prohibitively expensive, users of this program must frequently change
from one compact disk to another--an awkward and somewhat confusing
process.  Placing all pieces on a single compact disk would be ideal
but would require either permission from disparate recording companies
or new recordings of the pieces under discussion--both of which would
be too time-consuming and expensive for non-commercial projects such
as this model.  The ability to utilize standard, existing compact
disks is one of the most compelling features of this technology,
making its wide use among music theorists imaginable and making many
pedagogical applications feasible, as discussed below.
[21] The model described in this case study, though designed as a
vehicle for the presentation of musical research, easily may be
adapted for use with students.  This project has a variety of
instructional implications including interactive programs for students
to explore individually (similar to the project described in this
article), courseware for classroom presentations, and computer
projects for students to prepare on their own.
[22] Software may be developed for students to use at their own pace
that would directly link sound materials with text and graphics.  The
interactive nature of the software would engage the student in a
rather different way than traditional assignments, since the student
would have more control over her or his learning pace and sequence.
Furthermore, many students, when pressed for time, often seek to
streamline their studies by ignoring the audio components of
assignments, choosing instead to rely solely upon the written
representation.  The development of this software would virtually
eliminate the potential for students to listen to the assigned aural
material at a different time than when they studied the corresponding
graphical images and text or for students to ignore the aural material
altogether.  In addition, such programs would assure the instructor
that students will at least have access to all of the course materials
at the same time.  Furthermore, the use of an interactive format
allows students of widely divergent backgrounds and interests to be
actively engaged in their own education.  The students choose which
aspects of the material to study first and in what order to proceed.
When a particular aspect of the material sparks their interest, they
are free to explore it in detail before returning to more general
[23] Creating interactive programs may be the most compelling
application of the material presented in this case study; however,
course material may be developed quickly by instructors that would
give them immediate access to specific locations on any compact
disk--providing more class time for discussion rather than just
searching for the proper track and time segment.  Sound examples may
be further enhanced in a classroom presentation by linking the
examples to simple graphical images scanned from any source or created
by the instructor using the simple drawing tools provided with
HyperCard.(9) The expandable nature of HyperCard allows classroom
materials to be assembled gradually from year to year, spreading the
preparation time over a number of years.  The coordination of
graphical images with sounds further improves the quality of classroom
presentations; instead of hastily drawing examples on a blackboard, a
copy of the original image may be projected on a screen at precisely
the right moment.
9. The sketches in this program were prepared using the drawing tools
and the Petrucci type font.
[24] A third potential instructional application for this model is for
students to design their own software programs.  Instead of a term
paper with written examples representing sounds pasted into the text,
the students may link their ideas to the actual sounds of the music
discussed.  This method of presentation would give students access to
sounds, graphics, text, and animation to describe their research
results.  This application of the technology would allow students with
different abilities in expression to clearly present their ideas.
Furthermore, more creative students would have an essential outlet for
their creativity in courses that traditionally provide few such
opportunities.  In addition, in analytical assignments, students would
be forced to grapple with the actual sounds they are discussing rather
than taking them for granted from written representations, since at
times some students complete their analytical projects without ever
hearing the sounds implied by the scores provided for them, as
mentioned above in connection with interactive programs.  They simply
apply the rules and conventions they have learned, ignoring the effect
of the music in their analyses, and consequently miss the most
compelling aspects of pieces by focusing instead on the mundane.
[25] In summary this article has shown some of the advantages of
developing interactive computer programs with CD-ROM, has described
the development of one such project, and has discussed some
pedagogical implications.  This technology has a number of possible
uses ranging from the formal presentation of musical research to a
variety of pedagogical applications.  Although developing similar
projects requires considerable time and effort at first, the resulting
coordination between theoretical/analytical ideas and the music upon
which they are based suggests that this technology has the potential
to surpass many traditional methods for the presentation of musical
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