Tonal Inversion and the N64

Tonally Inverted Version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Title Screen

What is tonal inversion? Basically, every melody, chord progression, or complete song has a “mirror reality” version hidden beneath itself. In order to discover this alternate version, you take the notes of the composition and flip them upside down, so that every interval becomes inverted. For example, if the melody goes up two full steps and then down a half step, you make the melody go down two full steps and then up a half step. When you apply this process to a major chord, it becomes a minor chord. Ionian (major) scales become phrygian scales. Aeolian (minor) scales become mixolydian scales. And so on and so forth.

The part I find most interesting is that if the original composition is musically coherent, the negative version will always be musically coherent as well. It may not be as moving as the original, or it might be a totally bizarre piece of music overall, but it will always at least work musically.

So what does the Nintendo 64 have to do with this? It turns out N64 games are great for applying this concept because you can directly rip the MIDI files and soundfonts from the games. What this means is that you can create tonally inverted versions that are extremely accurate to the original compositions. The timbres, timing, and note velocities are identical; the only difference is that the notes are upside down. The other benefit to applying this process to songs from N64 games is that, at least for millennials, these songs are fairly universally known and beloved. These types of transformations are much more intriguing than when you hear the concept applied to an unfamiliar piece of music.

Listen to Set 1 here.

Listen to Set 2 here.

Listen to Set 3 here.

More to come.