This is the german title of a minimalistic piece for piano I composed recently. The translation of the title reads "Mr. Morse visits Thule". The melodic and rhythmic material of this composition is based on the Thue-Morse sequence.

This is my first posting in this forum and I'm curious about your comments and critics.

Herr Morse besucht Thule.mp3

Herr Morse besucht Thule.pdf

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  • Hi Franz-Josef, I found this interesting. It begins with what to me is a novel idea and has some unusual approaches to melody and harmony. Ultimately I did find my attention wandering and would have liked to see some more variety in it, some kind of contrasting middle section perhaps - Thanks for posting -

  • Hi Gav, thanks for your comments. The piece is a bit boring, especially the middle section. But this was my intention. And the title reflects this because I image Thule as a place where not much happens.

  • Hi Franz-Joseph, please tell me it was not your intention to be boring!

  • Hello  Franz-Josef Elmer ,

    I find it interesting, in the first instance, that a piece of music could be based on that sequence.  (See our discussion on the piece of music based on "pi," and on the Fibonacci Series.

    Could you explain how the sequence was used.  What is the sequence, how was it converted into notes, how were these chords chose?

    I think a more complex chord structure as the piece proceeds would improve it.  Variations in rhythm, variations in tempo, notes with more and with less duration.   Variations in dynamics, and so on.  

    This definitely has possibilities, if the sequence is worked upon  (suck every drop out of it, paying attention to all the elements of music).

    This is why I ask the questions I do above.  

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • The Morse-Thue sequence is just an endless sequence of 0's and 1's... I see how you're mapping that into 8th notes and quarter notes, but how did you derive the melody? The idea of binary complementation in the definition of the Morse-Thue sequence certainly has interesting consequences if translated to the musical world, but I feel that your interpretation didn't quite convey that in a way that's attractive to the audience. You could do so much more with this basic idea of complementation in the world of music. Indeed, much of musical structure comes from some kind of complementation (though, admittedly, not in the binary sense) of motifs, rhythms, and other musical elements, in order to form some kind of aesthetic symmetry. The basic idea behind the Morse-Thue sequence would fit right in, if you would only exploit it more!

    For one thing, I would double the tempo so that the continuously varying rhythm would become more obvious. Then I would do something more interesting with the melody than just an ascending/descending sequence.  I wouldn't restrict myself too much by a literal mapping of the sequence to melody (though that is perhaps one of your goals, I'm not sure), but focus more on the idea of self-complementation inherent in the definition of the sequence. So you could start with some catchy motif for melody, and then repeatedly "complementing" it using various melodic devices, like retrograding it, inverting it, playing it backwards, etc., in a symmetric way that reflects the underlying sequence. Then put that to the rhythm you currently have, at double the speed, and you could potentially have something really interesting to listen to. :-)

    (I suspect I may have just totally ruined your original idea, though. You'll have to decide for yourself what you want the piece to be. I'm just throwing out some ideas that might help make it more musically-compelling; you probably have your own take on how to do that.)

  • Thanks to all of you for your comments. Here are my responses of some of the comments:

    1. How I used the Thue-Morse sequence? As already mention by H. S. Teoh the 0's and 1's correspond to a group of two eighth notes and a quarter note. The various melodic lines are determined by mapping the two symbols of the Thue-Morse sequence onto two intervals. For example, the bass line starting at measure 25 is a sequence of thirds and seconds in accordance with the Thue-Morse sequence. The lines which having only quarter notes are derived from the lines with the eighth notes by dropping always the second eighth.

    2. My intention for this piece wasn't to use the Thue-Morse sequence for every musical aspect. Here I did it only for two parameters, which makes it easy to recognize. But my intention is, to compose something larger and more complex where I use the Thue-Morse sequence for more structural elements of the composition.

    3. I've tried twice the tempo but the piece changes its character completely. I wanted it to be calm and boring. Ok, not actual "boring" in the sense of making the listener boring but to reflect, especially in the middle, a boring feeling.

  • Maybe "boring" is the wrong word to use, then. :-)  I guess you want to convey the mood of being commonplace, or being calm or uneventful.  There are certainly ways of doing that, musically speaking, I'm just not sure how to derive it from the Morse-Thue sequence. :-) Perhaps, if you'll allow some artistic leeway, you could have long, sustained notes in the foreground (if this were written for an ensemble, I'd say use sustained strings for this), while the Morse-Thue rhythm chimes away in the background -- that would convey being calm and uneventful, or even commonplace: the rhythm is still there, but it's tucked away in the background, in the back of the mind, the way a person normally tunes out repetitive, ordinary things.

    As for mapping onto intervals, again I'm not sure what your intention is, but if I were writing this piece, I'd allow myself a bit of leeway in terms of the direction of the intervals. So if the sequence maps to a second and a third, for example, I could have at least 4 varieties of melodic lines: ascending by a second then by a third, or ascending by a second then falling by a third, or the respective inverses of these two cases. By allowing this room to maneuver, you can then shape your melody into something more interesting, while still being faithful to the MT sequence as your source material.

    Another thought for the "commonplace" or "uneventful" idea, is to put the rhythm completely in the background, and insert some filler material in the foreground. Or at least, start out this way, but then the background rhythm becomes more and more persistent (and louder) until it pierces through into the foreground, almost like it's persistently knocking on the listener's door until it finally gets attention.

    Sorry for throwing out these wild ideas, that are probably very far from what you intended... I'm just trying to think of ways to make this piece more interesting to listen to, since currently, if I weren't such a math geek, I would have a hard time finding a reason to continue listening to it. It doesn't engage the listener enough to hold his attention for the duration of the piece. It needs something to catch the listener's attention, something to keep his interest, whatever that something is (probably none of what I suggested -- you're the composer, and you'll have to find something that matches your vision of the piece).

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