Steven Maheu’s Elements of Creative Force – Part 5

Hi All,

Here is another image from Steven Maheu’s Elements of Creative Force.  This explains how different elements can be contrasting or complementary to one another.

Complimentary Relationships

We use the relationships between each number and another number to define if the two numbers are contrasting, or complementary.  This only applies when using the same color.  (We will discuss combining colors below.)

For example, numbers 1 and 5 in the Progressions (blue) are diametrically opposed–so they are contrasting to each other.  But, 1 and 6 are also contrasting (the Opposite Spectrum notes this by writing (16 –not sixteen, but read “one and six”).

The same applies to the Emotions (red) elements.  For examples: numbers 2 and 6, 3 and 8, and 5 and 3, contrast with each other; numbers 1 and 4, and 7 and 6, complement each other.

It is worth noting that in the green/Mechanics element, only diametrically opposed qualities are contrasting (eg. 26), and all other relationships (eg. 25) are complementary.  This means that most green/Mechanics elements complement each other.  There are only 4 ways to contrast green/Mechanics elements (15, 26, 37, 48).

To what does this boil down?  By now, you are likely familiar with each of the 3 sets of qualities (Progressions – blue, Emotions – red, and Mechanics – green).  Each set has 8 elements, and we can use these elements to describe and notate the music we wish to compose.  By showing how some elements contrast with others, and how some elements are complementary with others, we can explore our sonic material, how it relates to itself, and its ultimate result/musical realization.

For example, if I compose something that uses blue elements 1 and 5, I know that the material/sonic content will contrast with itself.  If I use red elements 6 and 7, I know those will sound cohesive, or at least enhance one another.

We can take these contrasting and complementary elements from each color (blue, red, and green) and combine them even further by mixing the colors.  This creates complex relationships of contrasting and complementary material.  (Numbers mixing with numbers of different colors neither contrast nor complement explicitly, but rather interact in unique ways.)

In all, by explaining the relationships between each element’s qualities as contrasting or complimentary, we can inform our decisions when we compose, to resolve issues of:

  1. Tension
  2. Release
  3. Flow
  4. Time
  5. Emotion
  6. Perception
  7. Ease of playing/singing
  8. Cohesiveness
  9. Concept
  10. Expression

(and many more).

This is a lot to swallow.  I would recommend you check out the full sheet (the featured image on this post) and the previous part (part 4) if you would like to review some prior material, or if you don’t quite yet feel confident in using this system.  Nevertheless, try this out and let me know in the comments how it went!

Happy composing and wrapping your brain around things (it took me a while, but it was very much worth it),




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