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New Music Concepts 2015

A Transformational Grammar Framework for Improvisation

Part of the New Music Concepts book series (NMC volume 1)
ISBN: 978-88-6551-188-6

Author(s): Alexander M. Putman, Robert M. Keller

Abstract: Jazz improvisations can be constructed from common idioms woven over a chord progression fabric. Prior art has shown that probabilistic generative grammars are one effective means of achieving such improvisations. Here we introduce another approach using transformational grammars instead. One advantage that transformational grammars provide is a form of steering from an underlying melodic outline. We demonstrate by showing how idioms can be defined in a transformational grammar and how the placement of idioms conforms to the outline and chord structure. We illustrate how transformational grammars can provide unique and varied improvisations that are suggestive of the outline. We illustrate the real-time application of this approach in an educational software tool.

Keywords: Improvisation, Grammar, Transformation, Substitution, Idiom