The line of fifths and the co-evolution of tonal pitch-classes


In this study, we determine the fundamental role of the line of fifths for the organization of tonal material by applying dimensionality reduction to a large historical corpus of pitch-class counts (ca. 1360–1940). We observe a historically growing trend in the exploitation of the fifths range, i.e. the size of segments that pitch-class distributions cover on the line of fifths. Moreover, we introduce the novel concept of pitch-class (co-)evolution, which traces the changing co-occurrence of pitch classes over time and likewise reaffirms the centrality of this linear tonal space from a historical angle, allowing us also to distinguish between historical periods in terms of the usage of pitch classes.

Journal of Mathematics and Music
Fabian C. Moss
Fabian C. Moss
Research Fellow in Cultural Analytics

Fabian C. Moss is a Research Fellow in Cultural Analytics at University of Amsterdam (UvA). He was born in Cologne, Germany, and studied Mathematics and Educational Studies at University of Cologne, and Music Education (Major Piano) and Musicology at Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Köln. He obtained is PhD in Digital Humanities from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Working with large symbolic datasets of musical scores and harmonic annotations, he is primarily interested in Computational Music Analysis, Music Theory, Music Cognition, and their mutual relationship.