Musical ciphers have been used by Western composers for centuries.
They are a means of transforming text (usually a name) into a musical motif using
logical relations between letters and pitches. Since Western notation uses letters
for pitch-names, the most obvious method is to map each letter onto its corresponding (or parallel) pitch. However,
this only works for the letters A to G, as Western notation only uses the pitch-names A to G. As a result, composers have had to find workarounds to accommodate for other letters.
For example, in one piece
, the Romantic-era composer
Robert Schumann created a melody out of his wife Clara's name, transforming the letters into the musical pitches C(#)BAG(#)A.
For the letters c and a, Schumann used the logical pitches C(#) and A. For the letters l and r, he simply
assigned the pitches B and G(#), as they make melodic sense of the surrounding pitches.
Clarallel builds upon this method used by Schumann. In addition to the letters A to G, some other letters have default and logical corresponding pitches:
k, x and q map onto C; and i and y map onto E. From this, the algorithm assigns the resulting letters to the pitches that will result in the most beautiful melody. Furthermore,
all instances of a letter in a name will have the same corresponding pitch.
For example, Clarallel converts the name Hannah to the pitches GABBAG. Here, h and n consistently map onto G and B respectively.
Thus, applying the Clarallel algorithm to your name results in a beautiful and personal melody that is completely derived from your name.
For more information, see the Wikipedia page
on musical cryptograms.
The algorithm is written in Python
ABC notation is converted to sheet music and MIDI by abcjs
MIDI is played in browsers using MIDI.js
The web framework is Bottle
The site is hosted by PythonAnywhere
If you have any queries or feedback, feel free to email