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Source: Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Winter, 2007), pp. 154-183

Published by: Perspectives of New Music

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The History of Set Theory

from a European Point of View

L__7fa

L-? ?

Luigi Verdi

developments in speculativeset theory theory

compositional in music is usually identified with

in the United

States since the early 1950s. However, before 1950 composers in both

America and Europe invented various forms of pitch theory that are

clearly early manifestations of the later "set theory." In Europe versus

America, the pioneering stages of what has become known as "set

theory" is a good deal more complicated and diverse. In this paper, we

trace the development of European set theory in some detail.

One of the typical features of early European set theory is its asystematic

nature, consisting of empirical research often mixed with extra-scientific or

even esoteric elements. No single school emerged as definitive, and the var

ious theories remained isolated in different geographical locations. Thanks

to research groups connected with universities or cultural centers such as

the IRCAM1 Music Representation Group, recendy some common lines

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 155

ing in a more complete and integrated understanding.

The use of simple arithmetic to define and describe musical processes is

typical of Western culture. With the dissolution of the tonal system, the

use of numbers for defining pitch and time relations in music substan

tially increased. On the one hand, arithmetic was used to identify syntac

tic rules to model the development of the past musical language. On the

other hand, arithmetic implemented a search for new compositional rules

to guide the music of the future.

Very early in the twentieth century, several European theorists and

composers were simultaneously considering issues such as the structural

equivalence between minor and major chords under inversion or the

construction of scales dividing the octave into equal parts. For example,

see Vincent d'lndy (1851-1931), Cours de composition (1909),

Hermann Schroder (1843-1909), Die symmetrische Umkehrung in der

Musik (1902), or later, Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933), Polaristische

Klang- und Tonalitdtslehre (19 31). The basic methodology was to iden

tify geometrical patterns that could provide insight into the features of a

musical language.

A pioneering work by the Ukrainian theorist Boleslav Javorsky (1877

1942) analyzed Scriabin's music and pointed out that many of the Russian

composer's most innovative works were based upon patterns dividing the

octave into equal parts. The use of whole numbers proved particularly

effective to the identification of the properties of such scales and therefore

the intervals of the octatonic (tone/semitone) scale began to be indicated

as 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2. Those of the whole-tone scale were identified as 2

2-2-2-2-2, and so on. This is one of the earliest examples of the use of

interval strings to describe the structure of sets of tones. The study of the

division of the octave into equal parts was of such considerable interest in

the Ukraine that it stimulated the work of two renowned Ukrainian com

posers, Nicolas Slonimsky and Joseph Schillinger. The work of these

authors, however, is purely empirical. In the case of Slonimsky, scale sym

metry is almost treated as a curiosity. Schillinger's theories were based on

esoteric elements that are completely arbitrary and lacking scientific basis.

Both authors moved to America early in their careers and became out

standing personalities in American musical culture. Yet their influence as

theorists remained limited. Their most important theoretical works are

Schillinger's The Mathematical Basis of the Arts (1948), and Slonimsky's

Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns (1947).

However, the work of Slonimsky and Schillinger was the result of a

European variant of set theory; this is confirmed by many early

twentieth-century Russian avant-garde composers who segmented the

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156 Perspectives of New Music

1897, d. Paris 1970), Nicolas Obuchov (b. Moscow 1892, d. Paris 1954)

Nikolaj Roslavec (b. Duschatin, Ukraine 1881, d. Moscow 1944),

Alexander Mosolov (b. Kiev 1900, d. Moscow 1973), and Ivan

Wyschnegradsky (b. Saint-Petersburg 1893, d. Paris 1979) were the

"avant-garde pioneers" (Gojowy 1972). A similar trend to the

Ukrainian-Russian development arose in Italy, particularly by Domenico

Alaleona (1881-1928), whose study J moderni orizzonti delta tecnica

musicale is unanimously recognized as a forerunner of dodecaphony.

Alaleona wrote: "Our theory starts from the mathematical division of the

octave into any number of equal parts (n-phony). With instruments

tuned in 12-tone equal temperament, this division can be achieved in five

ways: into two (biphony); into three (triphony); into four (tetraphony);

into six (hexaphony); and into twelve (dodecaphony). Each octave divi

sion into equal parts forms an autonomous system with a particular com

plete aesthetic individuality of its own" (Alaleona 1911). Among

Alaleona's most original contribution is his correspondence between

scale and arpeggio and the precise definition of procedures for combining

various divisions of the octave. For example, "octophony" is derived

from the simultaneous use of two "tetraphonic" chords. "Tetradodeca

phony" is dodecaphony derived from the use of three tetraphonic chords,

and "bihexadodecaphony" is dodecaphony resulting from the use of two

"hexaphonic" chords. These chromatic divisions are more or less equiva

lent to the modes of limited transposition later independendy developed

by Messiaen (1944). The theory of the division of the octave into equal

parts led Alaleona to the construction of a new and strange instrument

dividing the octave into five equal parts, which was used in his work

Mirra. Alaleona's theory was continued by Vito Frazzi (1930) and later

by Giuseppe Savagnone (1956), two composers for whom scientific anal

ysis was of secondary importance and whose theories did not find any

fertile ground even though they contained some aspects of interest.

The idea of the subdivision of the octave into equal parts was formu

lated in 1944 by Olivier Messiaen, whose theoretical synthesis, even at an

incomplete and early stage, was balanced by his music's originality. The

result is that today the French composer is considered to have discovered

or constructed previously unknown new sound worlds. But as we have

seen, he was not the first.

To return to the beginning of the twentieth century, there was an

increasing interest in cataloguing all the possible scales available within

the chromatic scale. In Russia in 1919, Sergei Taneev (1856-1915), in

his Convertible Counterpoint in the Strict Style, wrote: "it is possible to

establish a precise and clear practice only upon a mathematical basis" by

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History of Set Theory from a European Point ofView 157

unison (Michailenko 1993).

About 1910 in Italy, Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was completing

his famous scale list. He wrote in his Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music:

"That some few have already felt how the intervals of the Series of Seven

might be differently arranged (graduated) is manifested in isolated pas

sages by Liszt, and recently by Debussy and his following, and even my

Richard Strauss. Strong impulse, longing, gifted instinct, all speak from

these strains. Yet it does not appear to me that a conscious and orderly

conception of this intensified means of expression had been formed by

these composers.

"I have made an attempt to exhaust the possibilities of the arrange

ment of degrees within the seven-tone scale, and succeeded, by raising

and lowering the intervals, in establishing one hundred and thirteen dif

ferent scales. These 113 scales (within the octave C-C) comprise the

greater part of our familiar twenty-four keys, and, furthermore, a series of

new keys of peculiar character" (Busoni 1907).2

According to Busoni, every scale was intended to represent a new tonal

ity equal to the traditional major and minor scales. Thus, the concept of a

"synthetic" scale was born, as opposed to the major and minor scales that

were considered "natural." The manuscript of his list of scales is housed at

the National Library in Berlin and dates back to circa 1910 (Raessler

1982). Busoni's scales were derived empirically and are often inconsistent,

full of errors and naiveties; nevertheless, they mark the beginning of a

trend to deepen research in the taxonomy of scales. Busoni's confusions

stem from an unclear understanding of the difference between scale and

mode. Many of Busoni's scales are actually the same series of notes

arranged starting from different fundamental notes and are therefore rota

tions of each other. In other words, his scales are not equivalent to a "set

of pitch classes," a concept to be formulated later.

Scales dividing the octave into equal parts are invariant no matter

what tone one begins with because the intervals between the tones are

identical. In contrast, each of the seven-tone scales under rotation give

rise to different cyclic permutations of their series of adjacent intervals

(traditionally known as "modes"); moreover no transposition of a seven

tone scale is the same as itself. The identification of the complete list of

seven-note scales, while fostered by Busoni's intuitions, developed many

years later. For example, musicologist James Murray Barbour (1897

1970) studied the problem in depth, and by the 1940s identified 66 dif

ferent series of seven pitches (Barbour 1949). These are equivalent to

the 66 seven-pc set classes in a system that recognizes transposition

without inversion.

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158 Perspectives of New Music

Bernhard Ziehn (1845-1912) is also remarkable (Neff 1991). After he

emigrated to Chicago, Ziehn published many works. Manual of Har

mony (Ziehn 1907) and Five- and Six-Part Harmonies: How to Use Them

(Ziehn 1911) comprise a starting point for early American set theory.

Among Ziehn's American pupils, Ernst Bacon (1898-1990) was the first

to identify 350 different "harmonies" (largely by trial and error) in his

article "Our Musical Idiom" (Bacon 1917). Bacon's approach remained

isolated, but his influence is felt in the works of several theorists and com

posers, such as Donald Martino and Otto Luening, a pupil of Ziehn's

disciple Wilhelm Middelschulte (Neff 1985).

Busoni's influence is also evident in Alois Hdba's theoretical work.

Although it is characterized by a very simple empiricism, Haba's Neue

Harmonielehre (Hdba 1927) provides some early systematic cataloguing

of all chords. Haba's catalog does not have any principled foundation,

but he does recognize relationships between note groups such as inver

sion and complementation. The number of chords of each cardinality

provided by Haba are almost always wrong. Only the trichord (acordes

triadas) number is correct; 55 trichords are identified to within transposi

tion. The most interesting part of Haba's work is an early, if sketchy,

attempt to catalog microtonal scales.

Many interesting observations about microtonal note groups are con

tained in the theoretical work of Russian-French composer Ivan

Wyschnegradsky. Starting from the division of the octave into equal parts

in the dodecaphonic system, he tried to construct equal-tempered micro

tonal systems. To this end Wyschnegradsky develops the concepts of set

class and interval circles in a idiomatic way, due to some mystical ele

ments (Wyschnegradsky 1971).

While Busoni was interested in cataloguing scales of seven pitches as an

extension of traditional scales, the division of the dodecaphonic into two

complementary six-note hexachords was the basis of Josef Matthias

Hauer's theories. In the European pioneering context, Hauer's contribu

tion appears to be among the most significant. In surveying the structure

of the chromatic aggregate, he arrived at the identification of 80 different

hexachords that could be paired to complete the twelve-tone aggregate.

However, among the 80 hexachords, 8 combined with transpositions of

themselves to complete the aggregate, while the other 72 combined in

pairs. This meant that there were actually 44?that is, 8 + (72 / 2)?fun

damental hexachordal pairs. Hauer named these 44 hexachord pairs

tropes and listed them, describing their musical functions in his 1924

article "Die Tropen" that appeared in the journal Die Musik (Hauer

1924-25). The distinctive feature of tropes is their indifference to note

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 159

succession, in the sense that they are conceptually unordered without ref

erence to temporal or scale succession. This is substantially distinct from

Schoenberg's practice, in which the order of hexachordal note succes

sions was fundamental in the construction of the twelve-tone row

(Simms 1987).

We see that Hauer originated two important set theoretic concepts:

"complementarity," wherein a note group combines with another one to

complete the chromatic aggregate without intersection; and "harmonic

field" or "Klangzentrum" (Lissa 1935) a set of notes that transcends the

features of scale and chord such that the horizontal or vertical note order

is unordered. Of course, Debussy and Scriabin had already musically

exemplified this concept in their compositions.

Hauer then further classified the 44 tropes by dividing them into 5

classes. It is noteworthy that the 8 tropes composed by only one hexa

chord combining with its transposition belonged to the first 4 Hauer

classes, while the other 36 tropes all belonged to the fifth class. A similar

classification would be devised later by Milton Babbitt in the identification

of the four orders of "source sets" (Babbitt 1955), as later pointed out by

George Rochberg (Rochberg 1959). Hauer's ideas spread in America

after Karl Eschman's study Changing Forms in Modern Music (Eschman

1945). And with the development of Schoenberg's dodecaphonic prac

tice, via the Austrian emigre Ernst Krenek and his pupil George Perle,

they were assimilated and worked out in a complete and unified way by

Milton Babbitt, one of the founders of American set theory.

In Europe, Hauer's ideas did not have an immediate following partly

because certain esoteric aspects pervaded his research. Unfortunately, his

compositions based on tropes (Zwolftonspiel), did not compare with

Schoenberg's music and contributed to the initial marginalization of

Hauer's theoretical work. In German-speaking countries, however,

Hauer's influence remained. His proclivity for mysticism has influenced

other scholarly works such as Hans Kayser in his Lehrbuch der Harmonik

(Zurich, 1950), Franz Alfons Wolpert in Neue Harmonik: Die Lehre von

der Akkordtypen (Regensburg, 1951), Hermann Pfrogner, in Die Zwolf

ordnung der Tone (Zurich, 1953), and primarily Heinrich Simbriger (b.

Usti nad Laben 1903, d. Rezne 1976), in his formulation of "Komple

mentare Harmonik" (Simbriger 1969) dating from the 1960s.

According to Simbriger, complementary harmony consists in studying

partitions (Brgdnzungsgruppe) of the twelve-tone aggregate (Gesamt

komplex). From aggregate partitions, Simbriger arrived at the individual

fundamental structures he called "Grund-Typen," i.e., all the pitch sets

that are equivalent by transposition. There are 351 structures, each of

which is numbered and represented by a unique note succession and a

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160 Perspectives of New Music

tation of the twelve pitches. In Simbriger's catalog, Grund-Typen are

ordered according to the Dichtstufe, so that the shortest intervals are

placed towards the left. Even the symmetrical properties of Grund-Typen

are perfecdy identified, particularly regarding hexachords, which are

divided into four groups: self-complementary hexachords (8 cases)

belong to group 1, correlated-by-inversion and mutually complementary

hexachords (13 pairs) belong to group 2, symmetrical-by-inversion and

mutually complementary hexachords (7 pairs) belong to group 3, and all

the other hexachords (16 pairs) belong to group 4. All of these distinc

tions can be found in Hubert Howe's 1965 article, "Some Combina

tional Properties of Pitch Structures" in Perspectives of New Music.

This partitional approach is similar to the one adopted by Donald

Martino, another pioneer of American set theory, according to whom the

twelve-tone aggregate can be divided into two complementary hexa

chord types sorted according to four different P, I, RI, and R relations

(Martino 1961). Martino also defined similar relations among trichords,

tetrachords, pentachords and their complements However, unlike

Simbriger and Howe, Martino's system uses both transposition and inver

sion?not transposition alone?to define set equivalence. Martino's set

system was was part of his researches into combinatoriality, a subject first

proposed and studied by Milton Babbitt (Babbitt, 1955) and later

expanded by Babbitt (Babbitt 1961 and 1973), Robert Morris and

Daniel Starr (Starr and Morris 1977-78), and Andrew Mead (Mead

1984), and others. Using different methods, Mead arrived at some con

clusions similar to Simbriger's. Simbriger's analysis of the concept of par

tition is also interesting. Through it he identified 77 different ways to

partition the dodecaphonic aggregate into as many as 12 parts. These

results are similar to those that were realized by Milton Babbitt, Andrew

Mead, and Robert Morris (Morris 1987). A subtopic is the formation of

trichordal mosaics, an important topic in American twelve-tone theory of

the late 1950s (Rouse 1984-85).

The importance of Simbriger's work in European set theory is undeni

able, even if most of it had been independendy developed in America in

the 1950s and 1960s. It is interesting to speculate about the reason for

the limited knowledge and diffusion of his works. The isolation, together

with some mystical and esoteric motivations, probably has obscured the

originality of Simbriger's research, which nevertheless appears to be accu

rate and reliable. Simbriger published very little; some of his autographs

and writings are kept in the Usti nad Laben Library, on the border

between Germany and the Czech Republic. The presence of mystical and

esoteric elements perhaps stems from a need to introduce factors into the

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 161

theory which could elevate it from seeming otherwise too dry and imprac

tical. This concern is not found in the positivistic American approach.

Original and sometimes eccentric approaches occur frequently from the

1960s to the 1980s in Europe. For example, consider the Tone Clock Sys

tem (1984) proposed by Peter Schat. The tone clock is an original elabo

ration of the concept of trichordal mosaics found in earlier American

theory. Since there are 12 trichord chord types in a system that recognizes

transposition and inversion as identity operations, they can be assigned to

the 12 hours of the clock face and be correlated to the 12 signs of the

zodiac. Schat's theory presents some analogies to the theory proposed in

La musica tricordale by Italian composer Francesco Valdambrini.

Such numerical associations remind us that the number 12 had been

often linked to esoteric symbols in Europe. For example, the theosophist

Gurdjieff wrote: "On Earth we are very far from the will of the Absolute.

We are separated from it by 48 orders of mechanical laws. If we could get

rid of half of them, we would depend only on 24 orders of laws"

(Uspensky 1976). In this way Gurdjieff arrives at 12 laws towards the

Absolute, etc.. But we may see in such reductions to 12 a (perhaps fortu

itous) relation to certain properties of the 12-tone equal-tempered

aggregate. In defining degrees of symmetry derived from the number of

possible operations by which a set reproduces itself, John Rahn lists the

same figures: the most asymmetrical sets have 48 forms, while the other

sets have various degrees of symmetry, yielding fewer than 48 forms:

from 24, 12, 6, 4, 3, 2, to 1 singular form (Rahn 1980).

Turning to set-theoretical developments in France, an early and uncer

tain synthesis of theoretical concepts appears in Edmond Costere's work

Lois et styles des harmonies musicales (1954). Costere developed a contro

versial theory due to its many arbitrary elements, in which fundamental

relations among different series of notes are modelled by a linear graphic

system to represent the 351 possible note combinations to within trans

position. This classification seems to have been among the earliest, before

Howe and Simbriger.

According to Costere, a set is an "entite sonore" or "lieu sonore":

"groupement des sons isoles dans sa purete premiere, hors de tout con

tenu tonal preexistant, de toute impulsion melodique, de toute accentua

tion ritmique" (Costere 1954) which is realized in the echellonement, a

series limited to one octave only, starting indifferently from any of its

constitutive pitches. The echellonement can be represented by a

sequence of black and white rectangles, including in itself the comple

mentary arrangements in relation to dodecaphonic space: "Every graphic

representation begins with the longest succession of white squares, i.e.,

the longest succession of semitones" (Costere 1954).3

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162 Perspectives of New Music

si do ^| re H mi fa ~| s?l ~____ la ~H I

2 1112 11111

EXAMPLE 1: GRAP

211121111

corresponding to the number of contiguous squares of the same color

was new and original. For example, the major scale is 2111211111. Later

researchers have not developed this model. For an example of this kind of

listing, see Example 1.

The identification of echellonements is complete and precise, even if

their order in Costere's tables is unclear. Costere's other concepts are

often relevant and innovative. For example, his "transposition cardinale"

is a sequence of numbers indicating the notes that are common between

every scale and its various transpositions, that is, of the cardinality of

intersection under transposition. Transposition cardinale is therefore

equivalent to interval function, as developed by David Lewin in his semi

nal article in American set-theory (Lewin 1959).

However, Costere's concepts do not seem to be useful tools for analy

sis due to many arbitrary components. Perhaps this is the reason why

Costere did not leave any heirs, although in Brazil he seems to be rather

well known. In 1995 Marisa Ramires Rosa de Lima wrote a thesis on his

theory at the Belo Horizonte School of Music. Costere's main work, Lois

et styles des harmonies musicales, was translated into English by Brian

Ellard(1973).

In the 1970s, original research developed in Eastern Europe. Almost

simultaneously and apparendy without any exchange of ideas, Alois

Pinos's (1925- ) Tonove Skupiny (1971) in Czechoslovakia, Maciej

Zalewski's (1925-1970) Harmonia Teoretyczna (1972) in Poland, and

Anatol Vieru's (1926-1998) Cartea Modurilor (1980) in Romania

arrived at similar results but from different points of view and using differ

ent methods. The research of these authors was primarily speculative, but

theoretically parallels work in American set theory at the beginning of the

1970s. In particular, Vieru's work has been extensively developed and

generalized by the mathematician Dan Vuza (Vuza 1998 and 1991-93).

Circa 1960 in Poland, Maciej Zalewski devised a mathematical mea

surement to provide numerical data defining the "tension grade" of a

chord. By introducing the concept of "deformation" (odksztalcenie), all

chords can be classified on the basis of their degree of tension as an

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 163

nance/dissonance. Earlier, Hindemith had also defined degrees of chord

tension in his theory (Hindemith 1937). Zalewski's methods are inde

pendent of Hindemith's.

According to Zalewski, the "interval structure" (struktura) is of prime

importance. Each set is catalogued on the basis of this structure, and is

represented by the "module" with the use of parenthesis indicating

whether a structure is asymmetrical, symmetrical, or monomorphical. The

module is a list of the successive intervals in a pitch-class set, correspond

ing to the INT in Morris (1987). This is the same classification scheme

used by the American set-theory pioneer Howard Hanson in 1960, with

simple, isometric, and enharmonic sonorities (Hanson 1960), and by

Forte in his 1964 article. In Zalewski (1972), the asymmetrical module

[543] corresponds to Forte's 3-11 (0,3,7). The symmetrical module

[633] corresponds to Forte's 3-10 (0,3,6). The monomorphical module

[444] corresponds to Forte's 3-12 (0,4,8). The interval vector (the list of

the number of each bichord-type included in the set) is termed "widmo

struktury" (Zalewski 1972). Hanson used a similar structure to identify

his set classification, but not the module or prime form of Forte (1973).

DEFORMATIONS

Zalewski defines the deformation of the set (using the label "z") by

operations that become more and more complex with increasing values.

Deformation is unique to Zalewski and not found in any other set

theorist's work. This is the most intriguing part of Zalewski's theory and

it deserves description and elaboration in a separate article. However,

placing structures according to order of deformation makes the listing of

sets rather difficult. For example, the six two-chord deformations are

ordered as shown in Example 2.

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164 Perspectives of New Music

called "reflexed," and they are termed proper. A structure lacking reflex

(having a unique deformation) is termed improper. Maximum

deformation structures are almost-uniform. This term refers to structures

with all elements of deformation that are equal to each other except one,

for example the hexachord (61111). It is not possible to compare defor

mation of structures of different tension grades except by introducing a

new concept of tension called "Z." This is accomplished by measuring

the tension value of structures in various relationships to each other.

Zalewski indicates that tension (Z) defines the relationship between dif

ferent tension grades (z).

Another interesting concert proposed by Zalewski is the "family,"

involving asymmetrical pairs that give rise to symmetrical structures,

which involve inclusion, reduction and expansion; sets related by inversion

are taken together to form a inversionally invariant set. For Zalewski, such

concepts could explain the perception of dissonance and the way in which

some derived structures can be similarly perceived as equally dissonant.

The reason for Zalewski's limited influence is undoubtedly due to his

isolation, heightened by a general disinterest in abstract music theory in

the Soviet Union, especially from 1950 to 1970. In addition, Zalewski's

original theory remained largely unknown outside of Poland until a few

years ago when his writings were translated into Italian by Carmine

Moscariello (Moscariello 1996-97).

In the complex field of musical analysis, much depends on a writer's

methodological approach, on the novelty and difficulty of his or her ter

rninology, the concepts employed, and on critical reception. Many origi

nal concepts, proposed at an inauspicious time and in an unfamiliar way,

are unable to influence others and evolve. However, they may be eventu

ally recognized but in a different context after many years. For instance,

we now know that Costere and Zalewski reached the same enumeration

for all the set-classes where transposition is an identity operation, using

completely different computational terminologies and systems. With the

development of the computer, combinatorial analysis of pitch-class sets

has received a new impulse, as had been the case in America in the middle

1960s with the work of Howe and Forte. Of course computer languages

and concepts have provided the necessary tools to implement calculation

techniques that are indispensable for a sophisticated development of set

class enumeration. It seems to me, for example, that Peter Castine's recent

contribution in this direction is of remarkable interest (Castine 1994).

Many concepts generally undeveloped in the technical literature of

European theorists appear in American set theory. For instance, the

"prime form" (Forte 1973) or "normal-form representative" (Rahn

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 165

1980) that labels and clearly differentiates set classes (or set types) is

more or less universally accepted today. The success of set theory is also

confirmed by the results of set analysis, which has demonstrated its effec

tiveness and methodological relevance when applied to major twentieth

century authors, initially Scriabin, Stravinsky, Bartok, and Webern, and

more recently, aspects of almost all twentieth-century compositions.

The achievement of American set theory was probably due to the pos

sibility of scholarly discourse within a relatively unified school. But even

in America, there were isolated forerunners such as the above-mentioned

Ernst Bacon who in 1917 "determined to map out exhaustively the

melodic and harmonic possibilities of the twelve-note universe" (Bernard

1997, 21), or similarly independent musicians such as George Perle, who

wrote an article discussing what would eventually be called set classes

(Perle 1954), or Howard Hanson who, in his Harmonic Materials of

Modern Music (Hanson 1960) enumerated all the sets by reducing them

for the first time to 224. Hanson calculated their vector and interval

structure as well as complementary relations among the various subsets.

Hanson also proposed, although it did not enter the theoretic lexicon,

the new term "involution" in the place of "inversion" to avoid misunder

standing with the traditional meaning of "inversion" (in Italian rivolto, in

French reversement).

Other independent research on set theory in Europe includes the

extensive and lucid work by Alois Pihos (1971), which includes the iden

tification of equivalence under the cycle-of-fifths transformation (M or

M5 operation). In Europe, Herbert Eimert had discussed this transfor

mation earlier in his Atonale Musiklehre (1924) and later in Lehrbuch der

Zwolftontechnik (1952). In America, the transformation had been known

in the 1960s at least at Princeton, via Howe and J. K. Randall's teaching.

The relationships among the M5, M7, and inversion (Mn) operations is

developed in Howe 1965. Charles Wuorinen also describes and uses M

operations (Wuorinen 1979).

The M operations (or transformations or mappings) were also studied

in America by Starr, who proposed a set classification identical to the one

suggested by Pinos, which reduces the number of set classes to 158 (Starr

1978). Pinos's classification appears to be accurate and aligns with

American contemporary models.

Pinos used the graphic representation of sets by means of a circle with

marks determining single pitches. Although this graphic representation

was used earlier sometimes by other authors, Pinos developed the tech

nique intensively. Today this pitch-class circle is often used in teaching set

theory. Because of its clarity, it permits visualization of the main features

of an interval structure, its transpositions and inversions. Since Pinos is a

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166 Perspectives of New Music

composer, he has not felt compelled to work out an analytical theory but

rather has used his research in composition. His research has roots in the

many theoretical works written in the Czech Republic in the 1960s, such

as those by Eduard Herzog, Karel Janecek, and Karel Risinger, which

deserve wider recognition.

Anatol Vieru's methodological approach is highly structured and dates

some years after his contemporaries from Eastern Europe. Vieru devel

oped the concept of tropes, derived from Hauer's concept, and so there

are 44 hexachords in his structure list. The concept of tropes, then,

appears to be a European concept and was not originally considered

essential in early American set theory. However, Babbitt and Martino's

research into combinatoriality does involve the equivalent of tropes, but

mainly those that allow equivalence under transposition and inversion.

Of course, combinatoriality is originally European; it developed in

Schoenberg's music just before he left for America, and he was probably

influenced by Hauer. The generalization of tropes to partitions and

mosaics or partition classes has been studied by Mead (1988) and Morris

and Alegant (1988).

Vieru arranges structures by complementary pairs that are identified by

their interval structure. In Dan Vuza's formulations (Vuza 1991-93)

Vieru's theories are deepened and developed with advanced mathemati

cal techniques, as has also been more recendy accomplished by Moreno

Andreatta in several of his studies (Andreatta and Vuza 2001).

Some of Vuza's theoretical concepts can also be found in David

Lewin's contemporaneous work (Lewin 1987). In particular, by means of

mathematical group theory, it is possible to achieve greater subdety and

sophistication in the analysis of musical structures. The use of group

theory in music theory was originally advanced by Milton Babbitt in the

early 1960s, and as worked out by Lewin (1987), Rahn (1980), and

Morris (1987), permits a generalization of basic results of set theory.

In Europe, particularly in France, research has definitely accelerated

during the last ten years. One of the first important discussions appeared

in 1989 in the journal Analyse musicale, edited by Celestin Deliege.

Thanks to the fine work by the Music Representation Group of IRCAM,

with the Open Music Program (1999), extremely flexible and effective

tools were developed to represent the various properties of structures.

Guerino Mazzola must be singled out as one of the foremost researchers

in Europe today, whose theoretical elaborations are based on well

known, if advanced mathematical concepts and techniques. In his 1985

book, Gruppen und Kategorien in der Musik (Mazzola 1985), Mazzola

introduced a new catalog of set classes, reducing them to the smallest

possible number (88) by means of equivalence under transposition,

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 167

Mazzola's research has continually progressed towards an increasingly

abstract formalization of models (Mazzola 2002) that goes far beyond

the topic of set theory. But in set theory Mazzola uses Costere's graphic

transcription; he uses the equivalence principle of transformation by fifth

which was already present in Pinos, and the equivalence principle of

Vieru's complementarity. The latter equivalence is found in Starr, and

implied by the two-mosaics of combinatoriality. Mazzola was not influ

enced by American theorists, as the bibliography of his first book confirms

(Mazzola 1985). Nevertheless, Mazzola has not deliberately worked out

particular concepts along previous authors' lines. Although his models

seem to be peculiarly European and differ from American research by

emphasizing aspects that are implied but not worked out in the American

school, his work is actually a synthesis of American and European ideas.

Some more basic features of Mazzola's contributions are: 1) set theory is

only one aspect of his research; 2) his research has been carried out by col

leagues in addition to himself, so it is the result of a scientific research

community, not just one mind, as in America; 3) its mathematical basis

derives from mathematical "category theory," which de-emphasizes the

role of sets and depends upon a geometric interpretation of mathematical

structure (which is somewhat analogous to the move from set theory to

group theory in American music theory research).

There is another direction in set-theory research in France that does

not spring from Costere, but rather from Messiaen and Xenakis, exempli

fied by authors like Andre Riotte (1979) and Marcel Mesnage (1997).

These contributions appear to be the earliest examples of a mature phase

of European set theory, and especially in developing the implications of

certain pitch/time isomorphisms. In fact, every interval structure is at

the same time also a rhythmic structure and "in order to read, at a rhyth

mical level, some structural properties similar to those considered in the

pitch organization, it is necessary to construct an algebraic pattern of

musical rhythm" (Andreatta 2001). Such ideas and research can also be

found in Babbitt's time-point system (Babbitt 1962).

Some important work in set theory has been carried out in other

European countries, particularly by Jonathan Dunsby in Great Britain,

Thomas Noll in Germany, Mario Baroni and Marco De Natale in Italy,

and Nicolas Meeus in France.

My own contributions to set-theory have been stimulated by work on

Scriabin's music as developed by the French researcher Manfred Kelkel

(Kelkel 1984) and by James Baker (Baker 1986). Scriabin's last works are

often based upon a unique chord that is incessantly and continuously

transformed. In investigating the various possibilities of connecting any

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168 Perspectives of New Music

sequence that indicates the number of notes in common between one

particular chord and its own transpositions (Verdi 1998). In substance, it

is the same as Lewin's interval function (Lewin 1977). When a reference

note (fundamental) of the chord is identified, a series of numbers that

repeat cyclically (module) indicate the sequence of transposition levels.

The application of the chord to a deriving cyclical series (base module)

gives shape to a new structure that I termed "kaleidocycle," in analogy

with some graphic themes in M. C. Escher's drawings. A kaleidocycle is

the result of a vertical structure changing into a horizontal structure

(Verdi 2006). It is a type of regular division of sound space. I also have

used the kaleidocycle in the composition of a series of musical excerpts

based on a unique chord that connects with itself according to pre

arranged transposition levels. This chord is often accompanied by its own

inversion or by its own complement, creating a superchord including

both versions.

In my Notturno (1991), for example, the material used was exclusively

based on three four-note chords A = (0,1,5,8), T10B = (0,1,5,9), and T3C

= (0,1,4,8), periodically transposed by a series of numbers that repeat

cyclically so as to complete a dodecaphonic series without doubling.

A cycle is based upon groups of intervals periodically repeating them

selves upon the various pitches of the chromatic scale. The group of

intervals repeating itself is the module of the cycle. The module repeats

itself upon a unit interval named the base, given as the sum of the ele

ments of the module; for example, in the case of the module (1-2-3-4-5

6-7-8-9-10-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2), the base amounts to 12(mod

12) = 0 and the subsequent repetitions of the same module are placed

upon interval 0 (Example 3). In order to develop musical chords, every

cyclical repetition (period) placed a canon entry on the transposition

levels derived from the base (sum of the module elements): in this case

12 = 0, unison. (See Example 4.)

The three chords, A = (0,1,5,8), Tl0B - (0,1,5,9) = (2,6,9,10), and

T3C= (0,1,4,8) = (3,4,7,11), complete the total of twelve tones without

any doubling. (See Example 5a.)

In the following Examples (5b-e) the three chords are transformed

according to the base module so that the sum of the three developments

complete the twelve-tone aggregate in different ways, without any dou

bling. In my work Organizzazione dello spazio temperato (Verdi 1998), I

investigated the various forms in which set theory manifested itself in dif

ferent times and places. An interesting result identifies the various classifi

cation modalities of all sets. A universally accepted classification does not

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 169

I module 11-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 I

[base I (0,1,3,6,10,3,9,4,0,9,7,6,4,1,9,4,10,3,7,10) I

module

0

0

10 1010^^ / s^ \ \\

6

6

MODULE" AS DERIVED FROM LUIGI VERDI'S NOTTURNO (199

writings is the most widely used (Forte 1973).

The table in Example 6 shows thirteen different classifications

determined by different definitions of the term "equivalence."

includes all sets, including the empty set (0) and the so-called tr

dinalities 1, 2 (and 10, 11), and the aggregate. The classification

lem posed by the trivial cardinalities was widely discussed in th

(Perle 1954).

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170 Perspectives of New Music

module_

_1_2_3_4_5_

_6__7_

_8_

_9_J0^_

_n_

_jp__

_9_

_8_7_

_6_5_

I I 1 1

base 11+2+3+4

EXAMPLE 4:

FROM THE B

UNISON)

~A^ [0 [1

0,1,5,8 1 1I II I1 [5

1 1I II 1

T81 I1I 1I 1

Tl0B = \ I fl I I I [9 I I TO Tl I

<MA?I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_

T3C= I I I [O fl I I [4 I I I [8

MA?I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_I_

EXAMPLE 5A: THE THREE CHORDS COMPLETE A DODECAPHONIC

AGGREGATE WITHOUT ANY DOUBLING

als, and Howe in America, define equivalence under transposition alone.

(Rahn (1980) proposes this system and one equivalent to Forte.) There

fore the number of set classes is 351. Vieru (1980) lists sets in comple

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 171

~A= |0 |1 |2 |3 |4 |5 |6 |7 |8 |9 110111

(04.5.8)_

J_0_J_5__8_

2_0_J_5__8_

3_0_l_5_S__

4_$_0_l_5_

5_5__8_0 1

6_0_J__5_S_

7__5__8_0_J_

8__8__0_J_5_

9_0_J_5_S_

_H)_5__8__g_j_

H_5__8__0_J_

_12_S_0_J_5_

J3__8_0_J_5_

U_0 1_5___8_

_15_5__8__0_J_

_16_S_0_1_5_

J7__5__8_0 1

_18_0_J_5_8

19 5__8_0_J_

20 1 | 1 j5 1 | 18 | 1

EXAMPLE 5B: DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIRST CHO

MODULE

which is equivalent to Hauer's trope theory (1924).

The consideration of equivalence by inversion seems to be more

American concept. Hanson (1960) and Forte (1964 and 1973) g

the 4096 sets into 224 set classes. Hanson arranges sets on the bas

interval structure while Forte arranges them on the basis of pri

form. Both take the interval vector as an important aspect of set ident

cation. Since the interval vector lists the interval classes in a set

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172 Perspectives of New Music

\T19B= |3 |4 |5 |6 |7 |8 |9 llOlll |0 ll |2

(MA9)__|_L_|__|_:

1_5_! _'2?\?_JLT^_

2 _1_[Z_i_\2l_",_|o~

^3 O 1_\ _5__I __9_1 _

4 9_o [T~_;_\~5_\^2_!

|5_5_9_Ml_

[_ 0_J_|_!

7 _L2-CZ_

is _i_j__ lZ

9_5_9_0_J_

JO_9_0_J_5_

U_9_^_J_5_

J2_9_0_J_5_

_13_0_J_5_9_

J4__5_9_0 1

_15_9_0_J_5_

J6_0_J_5_9_

J7__5_9_0 1_

_18_0_J_5_9_

J9_9_0_J_5_

20 |5 1 1 1 [9 1

EXAMPLE 5C: DEVELOPMENT OF T

MODULE

sense for these theorists to construct a set-class system on equiva

under both transposition and inversion.

Zalewski (1972) also reduces sets (structures) to 224, but for diffe

reasons?that is, not according to equivalence. Zalewski states

inverted sets are to be listed under the same form since they hav

same level of "deformation'' (Moscariello 1996-97).

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 173

T3C= |9 -110111 |0 ll |2 |3 |4 |5 |6 \l |8

(<MA?)_-_

J_0_J_4_8_

2_8_0_J_4_

3_8_0_J_4_

4_4_8_0_J_

5_0_J_4_8_

6_8_0_J_4_

7_0_J_4_8_

8_8_0_J_4_

9_0_J_4_8_

\0_0_J_4_8_

JJ_4_8_0 1

U_4_8_0_J_

JJ_8_0_J_4_

\4_%_0_J_4_

J5_0_J_4_S_

J_5_S_0_J_4_

J7_0_J_4_%_

J8_8_0_J_4_

J9_4_8_0 1

20 I 10 11 I I

EXAMPLE 5D: DEVELOPMENT O

MODULE

Perle (1962) and later Rahn (1980) furthermore reduce this numb

209, considering both equivalence by inversion and equivalence by

chord complementarity. While it is possible that Rahn was influen

Forte, Perle's system is independent, although the set number is the sa

For Martino (1961), the set number would amount to 209, b

considers the definition of only 114 sets as sufficient since the oth

complementary and may be deduced from them. Martino liste

according to their interval vector, as did Forte (1964), who also i

fied Z-related sets under the same number, which reduces the num

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174 Perspectives of New Music

A+B+C\ I I I I I I I I I I I

1 ~~VT~~5~~6~~T~~9~~4~~S~~d~l~'8~

2_801501594807

3_078015015948

4_948078015015

5_501594807801

6_078015015948

7_015948078015

8_807801501594

9_015015948078

JO_015948078015

JJ_594807801501

_12_948078015015

J3_807801501594

J4_801501594807

__5_015948078015

J6_807801501594

J7_501594807801

J8_078015015948

J9_594807801501

20 \5 |0 |l |s \9 [4 |8 \

EXAMPLE 5E: THE THREE CHORDS ARE DEVEL

BASE MODULE SO AS TO COMPLETE THE TWELV

DIFFERENT WAYS, WITHOUT DOUBL

Forte decided to abandon this convention in h

lists the Z-related sets at end of the list for ev

own numbers; therefore his sets are not listed

Czech composer and theorist Alois Pinos (19

pendendy accepted equivalence by the cycle-of

the number of set classes was reduced to 158

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 175

Costere Simbriger Vieru Hanson Zalewski Forte Perle Rahn Martino Forte Pinos Starr Mazzola

(1954) (1969) (1980) (1960) (1972) (1973) (1962) (1980) (1961) (1964) (1971) (1978) (1985)

*0 "(0) "(0) "5 W) ~W) 7?) W) ~W) ~W) "(0) 7?) W) ~&

1 1 "1 i TT) 71) TT) 1 0) U) 71) 1 TT) "i

1 1 "6 ~6 "6 ~6 7^ ~6 76) "(6) "6 1 1 1

1 19 19 19 \2 ll 12 12 12 12 12 ~9 "9 1

1 "43 "4l "43 "29 "29 "29 "29 "29 "29 _8 Ti I

1 "66 "66 "66 ~38 38 ~38 "38 _8 ~38 "35 _5 _5 _5

~6 8b" *80 "44 "50 "50 lo ~35 "35 35 35 34 ~34 "26

1 "66 "66 766) "38 "38 ~38 ~38 ~38 738) ~35 15 ~25 725)

1 "4l "43 743) "29 _9 _9 "29 _9 "(29) ~28 H H "(21)

-9 19 1S> "(19) 12 12 12 ll 12 IJl) 12 ~9 1 "(9)

_____ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ __

__ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _.

151 "351 180 1-0 122 151 _07 193 U4 197 157 154 "88

(352) (352) (316) (224) (224) (224) (209) (209) (209) (201) (158) (158) (150)

DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS OF THE TERM "EQUIVALENCE"

reduced by Mazzola (1985) to 150 structures, by grouping complemen

tary hexachords with the same interval content together. Thus the total

resulted in 88 main structures.

The variety of approaches confirms that research has developed in

many independent ways and that a universally accepted set-theory sys

tem, comparable to the tonal system, is still being processed, even if there

are rival theories of tonality. Yet the basic concepts remain substantially

the same.

Recent exchanges of views between and among theorists across the

Adantic and in Eastern Europe will undoubtedly lead to what I call a

"meta-set theory, a theory of set theories" (Verdi 2003). Such a theory

has already been suggested by Morris (1987 and 2002), Lewin (1987),

and Mazzola (1985 and 2002).

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176 Perspectives of New Music

Notes

dedicated to research and contemporary musical creation.

2. "Che alcuni abbiano sentito come gli intervalli della serie delle sett

note possano venir ordinati (graduati) in modo differente, s'e g

visto in momenti isolati in Liszt e, piu. esplicitamente, nel movimen

musicale progressista di oggi. La spinta, l'anelito, l'istinto intelligent

vanno in questo senso, ma non mi sembra che di questi nuovi mez

espressivi superiori si sia formata una visione cosciente e ordinata. H

tentato tutte le possibility di graduazione della successione delle sett

note, emii riuscito di fissare 113 scale diverse abbassando e inn

zando gli intervalli. Queste 113 scale (nell'ottava do-do) compre

dono la maggior parte delle 24 tonalita conosciute e, in piu, una ser

di nuove tonalita di carattere proprio." Ferruccio Busoni, Entwu

einer neuen Asthetik der Tonkunst (Trieste: C. Schmidt, 1907

English translation by Th. Baker, Sketch of a New Esthetic of Musi

(New York: G. Schirmer, 1911), 29. Italian translation by Laur

Dallapiccola, Abbozzo di una nuova estetica della musica, in Lo

sguardo lieto: Tutti gli scritti sulla musica e le arti (Milan: II

Saggiatore, 1977), 65.

3. "Toute presentation graphique d'un echellonement deboute par

plus grande suite des rectangle blanc qui y sont incorpores, c'est a

dire par la serie la plus longue des demi tons." Edmond Costere, Lo

et styles des harmonies musicales (Paris: Presses Universitaires de

France, 1954), 39.

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History of Set Theory from a European Point of View 177

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