Skimming through Google Play reveals plenty of (Western) music theory and composition applications (apps) for smartphones. Many of them concentrate on the basic educational elements of tonality in classical music: understanding notes, chords, keys, harmonic progressions, and ear training. They are primarily designed as tools that supplement learning some of the components of music theory and composition for audiences both inside and outside of academic settings. However, Western music theory can be an acquired taste and often requires years of training, which grows more complicated when considering some of the classical music written after 1900.
12 Tone Matrix and Matrix Maker function as tools for writing serial music from the twentieth century. That aspect serves as both a strength and weakness. Developed by datapluscode and Dead Hand Media respectively, both apps offer a 12x12 grid where users can pick the pitch classes (musical notes) to create a row of twelve tones. The apps give users the options to create the main row (“Prime 0,” or “P0”) via the musical alphabet or pitch class numbers and abbreviations. The application automatically fills in the rest of the grid when all twelve tones are chosen to complete the “P0” row. The rows can be written forwards (“Prime”), backwards (“Retrograde”), through “Inversion,” and through “Retrograde-Inversion.”
12 Tone Matrix and Matrix Maker serve primarily as tools for music composition by automatically generating tone rows. They assume that people already understand the concepts behind analyzing twelve-tone music, which is not always true. The applications are not intended to provide theoretical contexts for how to create the tone rows and pitch class sets. They also do not offer historical context for how Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) devised the twelve-tone system, nor do they play back the tones for each row or feature musical examples from composers who use serial music techniques: perhaps, for copyright reasons. It would benefit both composers and Music Theory students to have an application that uses an interactive “pitch class clock” and provides background information about symmetry and set relations. Adding these components to future programs would prove useful. 12 Tone Matrix and Matrix Maker are currently available for free on Google Play.