Tabby weave of sound

I’m Alex McLean and this is my first post to this project blog, greetings! If you are curious about who I am, you can read my profile.

I’m here to share a quick, sound-based exploration of woven pattern, using the TidalCycles live coding environment. I simply wondered what would happen if I took a musical scale, and ‘wove’ it together using a tabby (or plain) weave. By this I mean, filling a 2D grid with a weft (going left to right and back, down the grid) and a warp (going top to bottom and back, across the grid), with a structure that alternates between weft and warp. This is a little difficult to express in words of the English language, so here is a video to explain how this works, which first plays a weft, then a warp, then plays them woven together.

We here agree that the nicest part is between 0m55s and 1:25s – to me it sounds like a folk melody.

What is unexpected for me though is that this is a kind of ‘bistable illusion’. If I focus on the repetitive ‘warp’ tune going down and up, I can also hear the ‘weft’ tune separately, and the whole thing sounds repetitive and dull. However if I instead focus on the whole ‘gestalt’, the warp and weft unify into a much more lively, meandering tune. Then it is a bit of effort to separate them again into the parts, although it is easier towards the end of this section when I separate the warp and weft to play on left and right speakers.

I find this quite astonishing really, that two quite dull melodies can come together to make a much more interference pattern. I’d be interested to hear whether or not you have the same experience!

Here follows a bit more information about how this tabby weave is applied. Given an eight step scale as in the above discussed example, the steps repeat as follows for the weft, going across and back:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

and transposed for the warp, going down and back:

1 8 1 8 1 8 1 8 
2 7 2 7 2 7 2 7 
3 6 3 6 3 6 3 6 
4 5 4 5 4 5 4 5 
5 4 5 4 5 4 5 4 
6 3 6 3 6 3 6 3 
7 2 7 2 7 2 7 2 
8 1 8 1 8 1 8 1

A tabby weave has a simple “up – down” structure, as follows:

- X - X - X - X
X - X - X - X -
- X - X - X - X
X - X - X - X -
- X - X - X - X
X - X - X - X -
- X - X - X - X
X - X - X - X -

This weave is then applied to pick between the weft (‘up’) or the warp ‘down’. For example the first two rows would result in:

1 7 3 7 5 7 7 7
2 7 2 5 2 3 2 1

A very simple approach, but with an interesting result.


You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Hi there! Very interessting approach to ‘weave’ music. At the moment in our Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (Weltkulturen Museum), we are still running the exhibition “The Common Thread. The Warp and Weft of Thinking”. One topic was also the question whether there are analogies in textile and musicla thinking, finally we used to textiles from our ethnographic collection – by incident both from Indonesia – which were then turned into compositions by two aspiring composers. Plesase check out our website and our soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/weltkulturenmuseum for further information…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *