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
Assistant Professor for Digital Music Philology and Music Theory

Fabian C. Moss is an assistant professor for Digital Music Philology and Music Theory at Julius-Maximilians University Würzburg (JMU), Germany.