Since I started working with music as an ecosystem, I ran into a problem: How can I keep track of all the different variations/spinoffs/mutations?

I needed a kind of coding system, and after some thought, I came up with the following.

Color codes as a naming system

The thought of giving the improvisations a number seemed unelegant – and boring, so I decided to use the hexadecimal system, in a way similar to the way digital colors are coded.

In the hexadecimal color code system a color is represented by 6 numbers/letters. Choosing at random, let’s take the code #11FFA6. This would give a greenish color like the one you see here :

I needed a system, where I could give a unique code to each improvisation/composition that would make it possible to

  1. Track where it comes from. IE which composition does this improvisation stem from?
  2. Tell it apart from other improvisations with the same source. IE the ‘sibling’ level.

In order to do so, I ended up with something similar to the way names are given in human societies.

The first to ciphers represent the generation. First generation is ’00’. The compositions based on anything from a generation ads a number here, and becomes next generation. Second generation thus has ’01’ here. There are 256 possible numbers in 2 hexadecimals (16×16), and that makes up for quite a few ‘generations’. In each generation, further, there are 256 possible ‘members’. Hopefully 65.536 (256×256) possible improvisations is enough for my lifetime 🙂

The next two ciphers are there to give each improvisation it’s own id, for its generation Let’s call it the ‘first name’. And the last two ciphers take the ‘first name’ from the composition it is based on, and it becomes its ‘last name’.

This naming system results in a kind of genealogical tree, as you can see here:

Here, you see four ‘generations’ of improvisations, where three impros are derived from one ‘mother’ composition, and each of the three have two ‘offsprings’ each with their unique generational ‘first name’ (00 – 06). In the last row, “generation 03”, I have put an improvisation, which is supposed to be the hexadecimal 11th, ie 17th improvisation over the composition #020100.

If you look VERY closely, you might see, that the boxes are shaded differently; I wanted to make this post just A LITTLE entertaining, so I made the boxes the color that their name would give, were it a color code. (This is why I added the 17th generation 03 impro…, so it would be just A LITTLE different in its greenness 🙂 )

This system allows me to identify

  • which composition an improvisation is based on (its ‘parenthood’),
  • when it is done (generation combined with ‘first name’)

Creating a system, a format, to order different elements in a practice, like I am trying to do here, will inevitably also influence the way these elements are being created.

There are aspects of the practice that are not taken into account in the naming/ordering system. In my case, what the system doesn’t allow to know, is for example which part(s) of a composition has been used for the impro, and to what extend. This can however be shed light upon through an analysis of the involved compositions.

What it also doesn’t allow to know, implicitly, is if an improvisation has more than one parent. This is somewhat more problematic, since it will nudge me to NOT use different compositions, side by side, for example, as a basis for one improvisation. I actually had the idea of taking only endings of various compositions, and use for an improvisation. I think the naming problem sort of deterred my from going forward with this idea. A possible workaround would be to give 1 impro more than one name, that is one, for each ‘parent’.

What this naming system DOES allow is for a practice, where I relate compositions to each other in way, that I have described here, and it thus helps me stay faithful to the conceptual framework of music as an ecosystem, an organic, interdependent, developmental, experimental, and at the same time open, improvised and free approach.

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