Dissertation Index

Author: Sampaio, Marcos da Silva

Title: The Musical Contour Relations Theory: inconsistencies, solutions and tools

Institution: Universidade Federal da Bahia

Begun: March 2009

Completed: December 2012


Contour is the profile, shape or format of an object. In Music, contour can be extracted from any parameter, such as pitch, density, rhythm, timbre and intensity. The study of musical contour relations is important because these relations are easily aurally recognized by musicians and non-musicians, and because, as well as pitch sets and motives, they can help giving coherence to a musical piece.

The Musical Contour Relations Theory was developed by authors such as Michael L. Friedmann, Robert D. Morris, and Elizabeth W. Marvin and Paul Laprade. This theory provides concepts and operations that promotes precision increasing in the study of musical contour relations.
I have found that the equivalent contour class prime form algorithm is inconsistent. Based in this inconsistency, I raised two hypothesis: the Contour Theory has other inconsistencies beyond this algorithm; and the inconsistency in this algorithm implies in errors in theory ramifications and in analysis of musical pieces based in this theory.

The methodology of inconsistencies verification consisted in MusiContour development and functional tests. Thus, I programmed and tested a set of 37 Contour Theory concepts and operations.
I could verify that my first hypothesis is true, and the second one is false. The Contour Theory has other inconsistencies, but Marvin and Laprade algorithm inconsistency doesn’t impact one ramifications of piece analysis based on the theory.

The main results of this work are the new equivalent contour class prime form and contour reduction algorithms, the concepts and operations review, the new operations, the MusiContour software, the didactic organization of the text about the theory, and the composition and public presentation of seven musical pieces.

Keywords: Music Theory, Music Composition, Music Contour, Musical Contour Relations Theory, Music Computer Software


Introduction to Musical Contours
Musical Contour Relations Theory
MusiContour Implementation
Discussion about Contour Theory
Contour Relations in Music Composition


Marcos Sampaio

     Return to dissertations