Hyperscore (2000-2006)

Design and implementation by Mary Farbood and Egon Pasztor


Hyperscore is a graphical computer-assisted composition program intended to make composing music accessible to users without musical training as well as experienced musicians. The software maps complex musical concepts to intuitive visual representations. Color, shape, and texture are used to convey high-level musical features such as timbre, melodic contour, and harmonic tension.

Screenshot showing a Hyperscore rendering of the exposition of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

Users start by first creating simple melodies or sequences of notes. A library of predefined elements is also provided. These melodies are assigned unique colors. The user then creates a musical sketch composed of colored lines, where the motivic material generated for each line corresponds to the sequence associated with the given color. The contour and position of the line alters the pitch at which notes are played back. Hyperscore also provides users with control over tempo, dynamics, and harmony. General MIDI is used for audio output, but the addition of recording and sample-based audio is currently under development.

Hyperscore has garnered considerable acclaim for its novel and intuitive approach to computer-assisted composition. It has received international media attention and awards and has been featured in numerous news and journal publications, as well as television programs such as Scientific American Frontiers. It has also been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, Casa da Musica in Porto, Portugal, and other locations worldwide.

I'm in the process of adding new features and releasing new versions. Hyperscore is now a commercial product and can be downloaded and purchased from Harmony Line.

Graphical depictions of functional harmony

The software can generate and apply different classes of automated harmonization. Hyperscore has a harmonic tension "line" that can be shaped by the user and transformed into chord progressions that are implied by the contour of the line. These progressions are then applied to the music composed by the user, which is transformed to conform to the generated harmony. The gestural elements in the harmony line imply different functional categories for the chords selected. The texture of the line in a given a sections determines the kinds of chords chosen given the functional category.

An empty Hyperscore sketch window showing the harmony line. The height or depth of the point indicates the key to which the section modulates (indicated by the text overlay).

Recent Examples of Hyperscore Compositions (2005-2006)

Since the earliest versions of the software have been released to the public, users have been creating interesting and diverse music with the software. While some of these composers are musicians, many others have little or no musical background but have been able to successfully compose music in Hyperscore. The examples below are pieces written by users on our community site H-Lounge.

Ove-r-un by FiNiX and vidpat. Orchestral collaboration. [ Listen (1.2MB MP3) ]

Forelsie by Richard Resnick. Funky transcription of Für Elise. [ Listen (635K MP3) ]

Helenenmarsch by Friedrich Lübbert. Transcription of 19th c. march. [ Listen (743K MP3) ]

Mystic Syndrome by Zach Laliberte. Dance/Pop. [ Listen (1.25MB MP3) ]

5pm Slick by Richard Resnick. Funk. [ Listen (828K MP3) ]

Swarm by vidpat. Score for a short film. [ Listen (1.78MB MP3) ]

End of the World by soloban1. [ Listen (611K MP3) ]


Some History

Early versions of the software (2001-2003) allowed users to generate novel compositions from predefined motivic material by sketching lines indicating patterns of musical tension.

Screenshots of three earlier versions of Hyperscore.

The application evolved to play a prominent role in the Toy Symphony. During an international tour of this project, children were given the opportunity to compose orchestral pieces using Hyperscore, which were then performed in concert along with other works utilizing traditional and technologically enhanced instruments and approaches.

Images and audio of Hyperscore pieces composed by children and performed by orchestras.



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Last modified: 2 January 2007