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The Dollar/Yen Cross
3 September 2001 - 30 September 2003

A Transcription for Bassoon, Piano, and Organ
with Trumpet Voluntaries
and an Orchestral Interruption

The notion that planetary orbital motions produce harmonious vibrations on interstellar ears - the so-called "Music of the Spheres" - is a venerable one in the Western tradition, traceable back through Kepler, Aristotle and Plato to Pythagoras, to name but a few. Modern acoustical science believes sound cannot penetrate the vacuum, of course. But the theory may yet hold some credence on subtler levels.


MP3 file, 8.68 MB
6'19" duration

The current study suggests evidence that natural phenomena do, in fact, produce musically coherent patterns in time.

One of the most actively traded pairs in the trillion-plus-dollar-per-day international currency exchange market, the US Dollar/Japanese Yen cross (USD/JPY) enjoys a wide reputation among traders as a devilishly intransigent and willful instrument. It frequently overshoots carefully measured targets, refuses to make obviously necessary technical corrections for many hours or even days at a time, and is forever subject to sudden billions of dollars worth of interventions by the possibly intervening-est government central bank of all time - the Bank of Japan. The author has long believed the Dollar/Yen cross contains within itself numerous songs of surpassing strength, guile and passion.

USD/JPY, 9/3/2001-9/30/2003
Click image to enlarge
The period from 3 September 2001 to 30 September 2003 shows several distinct patterns on longterm USD/JPY charts: a fast and furious six-month rally from around the 115 area to 135, followed by an equally rapid and precipitous fall back toward 115 again; a year-long consolidation in a tight range on the 115 base; and finally a fresh two-month decline to the 110 area. Subtracting the 110.39 low from the 134.83 high and dividing the result by the divisions of the piano keyboard suggests 88 roughly 28-pip-wide bands within which prices may be allowed to gravitate to a specific musical frequency. In this manner not only the tones themselves, but also the particular octave each tone inhabits, is definable by the market - not "the Composer."

Taking the opening, low and high prices for each day suggested a triple time division for the composition, with each measure embracing a single day. Letting each day's opening price occupy the first beat of every measure, the low and high then claimed second or third beats according to the sequence determined by the hourly histories of each individual day's trading. To ensure rhythmic variety, adjacent tones of the same frequency were amalgamated into single notes having durations equal to the sum of the durations of the joined tones. Thus the production of an inner melodic line for the composition - assigned to the bassoon in lower registers and the piano in upper - proceeded strictly according to rule and market history, without embellishment or direction from "the Composer."

The bass line - given to the organ as a continuous series of pedal points - followed exactly the same principles using the monthly opens, highs and lows. Each note's attack fell to the measure representing the day when it printed; and the beat to the relative hour (morning, afternoon, or evening) the price first appeared in the charts on that day. Here, again, we see a complete two-part harmonic structure arise through strict transcription from the financial charts by rule-based structure alone.

Considering the results calculated to this point, the salience and cheek of one particular 67-measure passage in the piano part of the dailies' melodic line recommended itself. (Those who actually trade the Dollar/Yen cross will not be surprised to learn the market composed this extended melody - with its distinctive initial descending minor seventh - during a roughly 10-week period beginning 7 March 2002, the very day the 126.35 swing low printed following the disastrous first leg of the final collapse from the near-135 highs of January and February that year.) The author seized upon this passage and, determining to use it for the trumpet voluntaries rounding out the composition's structure, immediately set it as a canon against its own original appearance in the piano part (measures 165-234).

Having calculated the inversion, retrograde and retrograde inversion of this same melody, the author must admit making some small efforts right about here to assist the Dollar/Yen cross in realizing its song. A human ear and eye placed each of these permutations of the original melody (the complete retrograde form actually appears in two different locations, measures 70-137 and 361-428) into the trumpet part: the principal criterion frankly being avoidance of measures where the bassoon and/or piano parts seemed most worthy to be heard alone. The discerning listener will also realize fragments of the original melody's opening notes are found in the trumpet at the very start and end of its career, by way of introduction and summary conclusion.
Full Score
.PDF (164 KB)

The only other notable exception to strictly Dollar/Yen-determined composition also occurs near the very beginning (measures 9-15) - during the "Orchestral Interruption" the title describes. This interruption is ... 11 September 2001, which - on the theory that time stopped for many, many on that day - is given six measures (rather than only one) and radically broader tempo to realize itself. Even so, the three notes fleshing out the passage - D, D# and F - are the three market-assigned notes for that day, though given free play among the octaves in this passage. The six great chords marking the section stand in roughly the same rhythmic relation to one another as the six great tragedies of that day: the striking of Towers 1 and 2 at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m.; the attack on the Pentagon at 9:38; the collapse of Tower 2 at 9:59; the Pennsylvania crash of Flight 93 at 10:06; and the collapse of Tower 1 at 10:28.

In all humility reluctant to call myself "the Composer" of this piece, I must nonetheless (since the Dollar/Yen Cross is not a person fit to claim rightful authorship) declare the composition and all contents of this website copyright its Transcriber, Chartist, Database Manager, Copyist, MIDI Sequencer, Author and Webmaster,

(the undersigned)

Marshall M Kerr
Springfield, Virginia USA
25 October 2003

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