As the Meander developer, I love reading discussions such as this one. I love how The Hand of Man piece starts out with a minimal Meander patch, which generates music theory correct harmony, melody and bass but is boring. The rest of the piece shows how the interesting music emerges as a human uses Meander as a framework and decides how to make the result interesting, while remaining generative.
It is my hope also that Meander can help understand some of the underpinnings of western music theory and common practice. It is fun to see how composers use Meander and how that affects the feeling of the final piece.
I am untrained in music theory and performance. Meander represents my 50+ year journey to understand what makes music work. I’m still not a music theory expert, but I understand portions of it much better than I did when I built my first modular synth 50 years ago in 1973,
I am fascinated by the circle of 5ths in particular from a mathematical symmetry group theory.
The most common harmonic chord progressions in western chordal music involve the I, IV and V chords in the circle of 5ths. Why is that? In my opinion, it is all about tension and release, dissonance and resolution. The “I” chord is the home position. Moving to the “IV” chord creates the most dissonance from the “I” chord amongst the I-VII 7 chords in diatonic scales such as modal music. The “V” chord is the least dissonant of the chords, relative to the “I” chord and begs for resolution by moving back to the “I” chord. So “I-IV-V” progression is continually cycling between no dissonace, maximum dissoncance and almost no dissonance begging to move back to no dissonance. 12 bar blues progressions are almost always built out of I, IV and V chords that sort of hide the approach back to home. Anyway, music theory and practice is fascinating to me.
Interestingly, in “The Hand of Man”, the modes and roots in Meander are being sequenced. In Meander, the modes are presented in order of “modal brightness”, which basically corresponds to how many flat notes there are in the scale such that Lydian is the brightest with no flats but one sharp and Locrian being the least bright (or darkest or most dissonant) with 5 flats, which is the most possible in a diatonic scale. This is all true with C being the root and is harder to see with other root notes, but similar patterns of Lydian having the most sharps and Locrian having the most flats for that root note.
So, The Hand of Man is CV controlling the mode and the root, leading to very distinctive and predictable scales, but, often unexpected as at least popular music does not change the mode or root very often. In addition, The Hand of Man is changing the Meander harmonic progression type via CV. So, there is a lot going on, but the result stays musically pleasing.
Well, I hope I did not bore anyone, but Meander is my passion of 35 years, and I love to see what people do with it, often in ways that I did not expect.
Yes, “the human hand” is where the musical creativity enters into generative music via patch configurations of which there are an astronomically large number of permutations.
Thanks for doing something so fun with my Meander module.