Contextual Xenharmonics

From Xenharmonic Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Contextual Xenharmonics is a theory that seeks to explain how we hear differently as individuals, why things sound the way they do to some and not others, and how to manipulate these experiences into what we want to tap into a new potential as xen-musicians.

Since this is a new developing theory, not much is known. This page seeks to update whatever we learn until then.


Contexts are situations that affect largely how we hear and interpret musical things. In contextual xenharmonic, this is the main thing we study. This is things such as motifs, songs etc...


These are the things like musical progressions, scales, chords and tuning systems.


Portals are musical situations where you end up in a place different than expected or compared to another system. Usually associated with comma-pumps. For example, 15 edo's chain of fifths contains a portal somewhere between the third and fourth fifth in the cycle. EXPLAIN MORE???[clarification needed]


A break is a mental lapse in intelligibility that occurs in a foreign tuning system when one suddenly moves to an unexpected chord. The brain normally responds to breaks negatively, but some people may like the feeling.


Categories are places where elements relate to one another. For example major third and minor third both sound like thirds not fourths to most people.


Interval Categories: Thirds, Sixths, etc...

Duality: Two types of something exist sounding like it belongs to the same context. Such as major and minor thirds.

Triality: Three types of something exist in the same class.


Fringe Region - An area of categories where adjacent ones blend together. For example 13/10.


Projection means to play something in a tuning system it wasn't written for whether it accompanies it or not.

Context Activator

A short musical segments designed to evoke the listener to interpret something in a specific way or train their ear.


Effects are various situations in which a known context by the listener is altered in some way that is perceivable.


Squash and Stretch: This is the feeling that a familiar element has been perceivably stretched or compressed yet still seems to work regardless of how good or bad it sounds. Examples are 13 EDO which seems to exhibit a fair amount of squash and stretch despite it's fun house familiarity to 12 edo. Oblique Squash and Stretch on the other hand is like Superpyth where the large interval is stretched and the small ones squashed.

Melodic Disjunct: The effect where a melodic element is distorted in a non uniform way such that some sounds become narrower and some wider usually without pattern.

For example if we interpret 000 250 450 500 650 as C D E F G in terms of the major scale, we hear the melodic disjunct as G is narrower yet D and E are super far apart comparatively to F G which are much closer together.

Melodic Overshoot/Undershoot: A melodic element partially works with some pieces missing something expected but landing close to it.

Timbral Roughness: Element works movement wise but is rough in it's timbral quality. For example, using 720 cent as a 3/2 evokes a roughness yet feasibly works in context where it is established as such.

Musical Ambiguity: A particular element seems to work in a given context but the brain interprets it as also working as something else simultaneously forming a confusion.

Depression/Excitement: An element or a context itself sounds recognizable yet is either more relaxed/dead/sad or excited/anxious/hyper.

Out of Tune: A loose term meaning something is wrong in terms of the pitch height or texture.

Out of Post: Similar to out of tune, this is when an element is recognizably wrong but in a quantifiable way. For example, interpreting an augmented chord as a major triad would sound out of post similarly, 15 EDO is out of post in respect to 12 EDO.

Unintelligibility: The context or element is not understandable as what they intended it to be.

Partial Intelligibility: The context is LOOSELY recognizable.