Major and Minor Exploration

Week 8 Updates
  • prototype 3 brainstorming
  • paper prototyping of p3

After a nice, long weekend, the team regrouped on Monday (10/18) to begin brainstorming our third prototype. We went into the brainstorming session cognizant of the learning lessons of our last prototype. We knew that we wanted this new prototype to be very simple, with the music in the front and foreground, coupled with instantaneous musical and visual feedback. 

We were jamming around with the acoustic guitar in our room when a serendipitous moment occurred that sparked inspiration. We were playing a B minor to A Major to G Major to F# Major Progression. We began conducting an experiment to see how it felt when we changed one chord in the progression from major to minor, or minor to major. When keeping the F# Major, the progression ended on a feeling of hope, optimism, and excitement. When we switched the F# to minor, the progression felt polar opposite – melancholic, morose, and mournful. We were using this analogy or metaphor, that when the F# was major it felt like the protagonist was knocked out in battle but got back up. On the contrary, when the F# was minor, it felt like the protagonist was defeated and slain in battle. 

We found this discovery exciting because really, when changing a chord from major to minor, only one note is being changed – the 3rd of the chord is moving up (major) or down (minor) a half step. 

C Major Chord
C minor Chord

We had found that changing the tonality, or flipping a chord from major or minor, resulted in a gargantuan emotional and atmospheric shift in the music. It was especially bewildering because really, only one note was being altered. 

The team was very excited by this discovery so we continued experimenting and applying the flip to other progressions. While playing a progression and flipping chords from major to minor, we found that each version produced a unique environment or atmosphere. For example with an E minor to D Major progression, we felt feelings of sand, atmospheres of a market, and something about a journey. When we switched the E minor to E major, and played an E Major to D Major progression, we felt feelings of joy, sun, fishing, and relaxation. When we switched both chords to minor, so an E minor to D minor, we felt feelings of mystery and tension. Practicing this exercise, we felt like we were onto something. We pondered and cogitated. 

What if we made an experience where guests learn about major/minor via an interactive narrative, where they have the ability to manipulate chord progressions by flipping their tonality from major or minor, and said manipulations influence or advance a rudimentary narrative? This concept fulfilled our desire to strip back the interaction and place the emphasis on the music, while also providing immediate feedback. We could have a lever or gear with the different variations of the chord progression visually broadcasted, and then allow the guest to simply shift the lever to shift the progression. We could have all variations of the song playing at the same time, and modulated volume so that when guests shift the lever, concurrently shifting the variation, the transition to the variation is immediate and smooth. We could allow the guest to audition and hear each variation, and upon locking in a variation, the image or atmosphere that the variation represents is added to a sandbox like environment. After several stages of this, they end the experience with a toybox like environment or narrative based on the musical choices that they made. 

With a concept in mind, we then turned to paper prototyping to help gather intel and data on how progression variations could make the guest feel; what they highlighted as the difference between each variation; and what kind of environment they matched or imagined with each variation.

Paper Prototyping
Variation 1
Variation 2
Variation 3
E minor to D Major
E minor to D minor
E Major to D Major

We quickly wrote and recorded three different version of an E to D progression. Next, as a team, we listened to each variation and came up with a list of images that best matched how each variation made us feel. As a team, we then picked our favorites, or ones that we deemed most fitting. With an amalgamated list of visual options, we were ready to bring in some naive guests for surveying. 

Our goal with this paper prototype was to identify and see how each variation made the guest feel, and which images they picked as visual representations for each variation.

We found that guests were able to detect and hear the differences with each version. We expanded and iterated the prototype by taking the most popular and picked images, and using those as options. Guests remarked that the minor to major version sounded like a market, or somewhere in the dessert, grounded by feelings of going somewhere. Typically, the minor to minor version was described as mysterious with a small hint of danger. while the major to major version elicited feelings of joy, relaxation, and oasis to the guests. 

We concluded the week by taking three images into the bullpen, the creative space where the first years dwell, and played them the three variations. We had them match each variation to an image. About 90% of the students responded identically:

Minor to Major

Minor to Minor

Major to Major

Now that we have a better understanding of a) how the guests emotionally respond and react to these pieces of music, and b) that they are able to discern the differences between each variation, we are ready to rotate and implement our design in virtual reality. 

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