Take the DoecMatrix app, for instance. Developed by Dell Angiello Rivas Rivera, this free program functions as a tool designed to educate people (presumably, college students) about twelve-tone serialism. It is a pre-compositional matrix generator for those wanting to write twelve-tone music.
DodecMatrix uses a simple interface, where users can arrange all twelve chromatic pitches (shown at the bottom of the screen) in any way to generate a twelve-tone grid. The matrix is presented in full after the twelve pitches are filled in the blank squares at the top of the screen. Matrices follow the standard twelve-tone practice by showing all of the row possibilities and types (Prime, Inversion, Retrograde and Retrograde Inversion).
Among the positive aspects of the DodecMatrix app (besides the fact that it is free), user can save and load their pre-composed matrices for future use. The app also comes equipped with three built-in matrices from pre-existing twelve-tone pieces by Ernst Krenek ("Dancing Toys, Op. 83 No. 1") and Anton Webern ("Wie bin ich froh!" and "Variations for piano, Op. 27, No. 2"). Despite these points, DodecMatrix nonetheless contains some noticeable problems.
The first problem that one will encounter when using DodecMatrix stems from the absence of tutorials in this program. Because the interface appears “as is” users must figure out how to use the app on their own. This assumes that composers or students who use it have at least a basic comprehension of twelve-tone matrix construction. The app also does not explain why the generated matrices are correct. It does not show the manual process for creating rows in the matrix.
The representation of pitches in DodecMatrix also presents some confusion. They are presented chromatically at the outset, but there is no clear distinction between natural and and sharp/flat pitches (For example, “C-sharp” appears to the right of “C” simply as “C.”) Because of this error, the app does not clearly stress enharmonic equivalence (eg., “C-sharp and D-flat are the same.”).
Each completed grid is represented in pitches. Some people, however, may wonder why DodecMatrix ignores the more common practice of using numerical pitch classes to generate matrices. In a similar manner, the app does not use supplementary tools (like a “pitch class clock” or marker/pen) to help people understand the compositional value and properties of a specific twelve-tone row: discreet trichord or tetrachords, symmetry, hexachordal combinatoriality, etc. The app additionally has a slightly confusing "Last Tone" feature which determines the intervalic positioning of the row based on the last pitch used.
Taking all of these points into consideration, is DodecMatrix worth using for compositional or educational purposes? Well, yes... and no. On the one hand, the app provides a (very) basic understanding of how twelve-tone serial composition works. On the other hand, it automatically generates matrices and rows without providing the steps needed to create them by hand. The convoluted nature of the pitch setup and slightly outdated approach to twelve-tone row creation also hamper the usefulness of DodecMatrix. Perhaps, in the near future, a newer version will be released with more supplementary materials, like the ones that previously described
DodecMatrix is avaible for free on the Google Play Store (Android).