Sudoku breakdown…

Since I premiered my piece at the FONT performance in Ny, I’ve been getting a lot of questions concerning how I went about writing the suite, so now I shall make a feeble attempt to explain it in typing:

First of all just an explanation about sudoku if you haven’t heard of the game.  It’s basically a numbers game that’s based on logic and reasoning.  I equate to being a crossword puzzle for numbers.

The object of the game is to fill in each 3×3 box with the numbers 1-9.  The numbers can’t repeat.  The complete columns and rows must also include the numbers 1-9 and not repeat as well.  The more number given in the beginning of the game, the easier the game should be for you, but that isn’t always the case.

Now for the music part:

I started out by assigning each 3×3 block a key (tonal center).  Since there are only 9 3×3 boxes I had to arbitrarily eliminate 3 of the 12 keys.  So I decided to eliminate the keys of Bb, D, and F because they are a major 3rd apart and I’ve written many tunes in those tonal centers thus far.  So the first block was assigned the key of Eb, the 2nd one was Ab, and so fourth through the circle of 4ths.

Each number in the 3×3 block now represents a tone in the key of the block.  So 1 equaled 1, 5 equaled the fifth, 9 equaled an octave above the 2nd degree.

The suite is broken down into 3 sections.  Each section is a mini song cycle with each 3×3 block becoming its’ own short (or long) song.  For the first section, I took the numbers that the puzzle maker gave me as notes that I could use for the bass line and the numbers that I had to fill in to complete the puzzle as notes that I could use for the melody. For the second part of the suite, I took the numbers that the puzzle maker gave me as notes that I could use of the melody and the numbers I had to fill in as notes I could use for the bass line.  For the third part of the suite, I took the numbers from the completed puzzle and used them all for the melody and assigned the key of the 3×3 block as the tonal center for each given section.

The rhythm and harmonic progression of the entire piece was left up to my discretion.

There were a few extra rules that I created for myself to aid in the composing of this piece.  When writing out the melodies, the intervallic sequence had to adhere to the first nine numbers in the order in which they appear.  For example the first 3×3 block had the numbers 1,9,2,8,3,7,4,6,5 then the notes in the melody had to be in that order.  After that, I allowed myself to use octave displacement for the melodic material.

Each note can be repeated as many times as needed.

To aid in a severe case of writer’s block for the 2nd and 3rd sections, I decided to allow the use of flats and accidentals for notes in the melody.  So instead of only having one choice for each number, I had 3 choices…whooopeeee.

The duration of this piece when played live is between 1:30 and 2 hours.  It was alot of fun to rehearse and to perform in public for the first time as well as to condense it into one cd’s worth of material!


Thanks to my band for their input and generosity.

With music in mind,

Jason Palmer



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