The Never-Ending Chess Project


This wasn't for a client but for our own fun and so it isn't finished yet! In fact, we cannot even call this one "in progress" as it's been in the works for so many years (2005??? Egads!!!) that someone else has already done it. Despite that, we will finish it one day, if only to say that we did.

Schach Musik was inspired by a story of two brothers, one a musician and the other a professional chess player. The musician brother plans to compose a piece of music in honor of his sibling's attainment of FIDE World Champion (when and if), and the piece itself is intended to be an audio representation of the moves in the final game of the tournament.

We decided to try it in real life, but as an RIA instead of a singular composition…

Step one: calculating the tonal map of the chess board. The standard chess record is algebraic notation, which identifies each of the 64 chess board squares with a letter-number combination. Files are the vertical measure, and they are labeled a through h. Ranks are the horizontal measure and are labeled 1 through 8.


 Our initial thoughts were 1) we're mad if we try to do this without German musical notation (which uses the note H) and 2) if we also use scientific pitch notation, we might actually be able to make a tidy map without thoroughly confusing ourselves!


After that easy beginning, we had other questions: should every piece have its own disctinct instrument, a la Peter and the Wolf? And what about castling? What about a piece taking a piece? Should there be an alto and tenor version of the doubled pieces (to represent King's Knight for example)?

But first things first…if it sounded awful, there wouldn't be much point (or fun) in continuing! So we tested the first ten moves of the Game of the Century, Donald Byrne vs. Bobby Fischer (notes only, no separate instrumentation).

It looked something like this:


which is a translation (mostly) of this:

1. Nf3 Nf6  2. c4 g6  3. Nc3 Bg7  4. d4 O-O  5. Bf4 d5  6. Qb3 dxc4  7. Qxc4 c6  8. e4 Nbd7  9. Rd1 Nb6  10. Qc5 Bg4    

And it sounded like this: