in

The Definition and Applications of Microtonal Guitar Music (Part 1)

The Definition and Applications of Microtonal Guitar Music (Part 1)
The Definition and Applications of Microtonal Guitar Music (Part 1)

Definition of Microtonal Music

According to some, microtonal musicis music which uses intervals of less than an equally spaced semitone, or smaller than the white and black keys on a piano. Sometimes microtonal music also refers to music which uses intervals not found in the Western system of 12 equal intervals to the octave. The term implies music containing very small intervals but can include any tuning that differs from the western 12 tone equal temperament. By this definition then any scale in any mean-tone tuning; the traditional Carnatic system of 22 Sruti; the Indonesian gamelan music; as well as music using just intonation, mean-tone temperament, or other alternative tunings; and Thai, Burmese, and African music which use 7 tones in each (approximate) octave can be considered microtonal music.

One reason microtonal composers explore alternate tunings is that each unique even or uneven division of the octave or non-octave or octave + fifth etc. gives a new world of intervallic connections, exotic timbres, and thereby new musical content. Another reason is that such extensive modulation in a variety of tuning systems, which differs from a 12-note-per octave instrument, sounds “wolf” fifths and other exotic musical intervals not found in traditional Western music.

Pioneering Applications of Microtonal Music in the West

Julian Carrillo (1875-1965) who discovered the sixteenths of tone, while experimenting with his violin. In other words, sixteen clearly different sounds between the pitches of G and A emitted by the fourth violin string. He named his discovery Sonido 13 (the thirteenth sound) and wrote on music theory and the physics of music. He invented a simple numerical musical notation that can represent scales based on any division of the octave, like thirds, fourths, quarters, fifths, sixths, sevenths, and so on (even if Carrillo wrote, most of the time, for quarters, eights, and sixteenths combined, the notation is able to represent any imaginable subdivision). He invented new musical instruments, and adapted others to produce microintervals. He composed a large amount of microtonal music and recorded about 30 of his compositions.

Ivan Wyschnegradsky, used third tones, quarter tones, sixth tones and twelfth tones, non octaving scales, as well as the term ultra-chromatic, for micro-intervals, and infra-chromatic, for macro-intervals.

Ivor Darreg, who proposed the term xenharmonic (from the Greek xeno, foreign, and Greek harmonic, hospitable) for any scale other than 12-tone equal tempered scale. He also built the first fully retunable electronic synthesizer capable of any division of the octave, just or equal or non-just non-equal and built an orchestra of instruments all in his home to include guitars refretted in equal temperaments 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, and 31, as well as the magalyra series of sub-contrabass steel guitar instruments.

Claude Debussy, who heard a Balinese gamelan performance and was exposed to their non-Western tunings and rhythms. Some scholars have even ascribed Debussy’s subsequent innovative use of the whole-tone (6 equal pitches per octave) tuning in such compositions as the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra and the Toccata from the suite Pour le piano to his exposure to the Balinese gamelan at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. Others believe that this exposure gave him the confidence to assert his rebellion “against the rule of equal temperament” marking his fully mature piano works, with their many bell- and gong-like sonorities, exploiting the piano’s natural resonance. Still others have argued that Debussy’s works like L’Isle joyeuse, La Cathédrale engloutie, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, La Mer, Pagodes, Danseuses de Delphes, and Cloches à travers les feuilles are marked by a more basic interest in the microtonal intervals found between the higher members of the overtone series, under the influence of Hermann Helmholtz’s writings.

Berliner’s introduction of the phonograph in the 1890s allowed much non-Western music to be recorded and heard by Western composers, further spurring the use of non-12-equal tunings.

Major microtonal composers of the 1920s and 1930s also include Alois Hába (quarter tones, or 24 equal pitches per octave, and sixth tones), Julian Carillo (24 equal, 36, 48, 60, 72, and 96 equal pitches to the octave embodied in a series of specially custom-built pianos), and the early works of Harry Partch (just intonation using frequencies at ratios of prime integers 3, 5, 7, and 11, their powers, and products of those numbers, from a central frequency of G-196) (Partch 1979, chapt. 8, “Application of the 11 Limit”, 119-37).

Prominent microtonal composers or researchers of the 1940s and 1950s include Adriaan Daniel Fokker (31 equal tones per octave), Partch again (continuing to build his handcrafted orchestra of microtonal just intonation instruments). In the 1960s and 1970s experimenters included John Eaton (who created his own microtonal synthesizer, the Syn Ket, to produce microtonal intervals), Harry Partch, Easley Blackwood (who composed and performed the well-known Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media with compositions in every equal division of the octave from 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 equal pitches per octave); Augusto Novaro, the Mexican microtonal theorist who composed studies in 15 equal; Barbara Benary, who formed Gamelan Son of Lion around this period; and Lou Harrison, who created American gamelan orchestras at Mills College.

And in Europe, the “Spectralists” in Paris created their first works from 1973 on with an extensive use of microtonal harmony. The main composers from this period are Hugues Dufourt, Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, Michael Levinas, and György Ligeti.

Microtonal Music by Inventors and Instrument Builders

Inventors and instrument builders are also becoming increasingly interested in creating new instruments and altering established instruments to gain access to even further subdivisions of the octave. I’ve provided a link at the end of this article introducing you to some of these inventors, what they’ve done to traditional instruments, and what unique instruments they’ve designed and built, which they’ve even performed on live.

Microtonal Music Concepts by Pioneers of Electronic Music

Even hardware such as digital synthesizers and inexpensive software synthesizers have expanded the ease and popularity of exploring microtonal music. But before they existed experimenters did what they could with what was available. In 1954, Karlheinz Stockhausen built his electronic Studie II on an 81-step scale starting from 100 Hz with the interval of 51/25 between steps (1964). And in Gesang der Jünglinge (1955-56) he used various scales, ranging from seven up to sixty equal divisions of the octave.

Wendy Carlos, in her 1986’s Beauty in the Beast we find her experimenting with many microtonal systems including just intonation and other alternate tuning scales she invented for the album: “This whole formal discovery came a few weeks after I had completed the album, Beauty in the Beast, which is wholly in new tunings and timbres” (Carlos 1989-96).

To read the full-length version of this article with images and video along with Part 2, click here.

Definition of Microtonal Music

According to some, microtonal musicis music which uses intervals of less than an equally spaced semitone, or smaller than the white and black keys on a piano. Sometimes microtonal music also refers to music which uses intervals not found in the Western system of 12 equal intervals to the octave. The term implies music containing very small intervals but can include any tuning that differs from the western 12 tone equal temperament. By this definition then any scale in any mean-tone tuning; the traditional Carnatic system of 22 Sruti; the Indonesian gamelan music; as well as music using just intonation, mean-tone temperament, or other alternative tunings; and Thai, Burmese, and African music which use 7 tones in each (approximate) octave can be considered microtonal music.

One reason microtonal composers explore alternate tunings is that each unique even or uneven division of the octave or non-octave or octave + fifth etc. gives a new world of intervallic connections, exotic timbres, and thereby new musical content. Another reason is that such extensive modulation in a variety of tuning systems, which differs from a 12-note-per octave instrument, sounds “wolf” fifths and other exotic musical intervals not found in traditional Western music.

Pioneering Applications of Microtonal Music in the West

Julian Carrillo (1875-1965) who discovered the sixteenths of tone, while experimenting with his violin. In other words, sixteen clearly different sounds between the pitches of G and A emitted by the fourth violin string. He named his discovery Sonido 13 (the thirteenth sound) and wrote on music theory and the physics of music. He invented a simple numerical musical notation that can represent scales based on any division of the octave, like thirds, fourths, quarters, fifths, sixths, sevenths, and so on (even if Carrillo wrote, most of the time, for quarters, eights, and sixteenths combined, the notation is able to represent any imaginable subdivision). He invented new musical instruments, and adapted others to produce microintervals. He composed a large amount of microtonal music and recorded about 30 of his compositions.

Ivan Wyschnegradsky, used third tones, quarter tones, sixth tones and twelfth tones, non octaving scales, as well as the term ultra-chromatic, for micro-intervals, and infra-chromatic, for macro-intervals.

Ivor Darreg, who proposed the term xenharmonic (from the Greek xeno, foreign, and Greek harmonic, hospitable) for any scale other than 12-tone equal tempered scale. He also built the first fully retunable electronic synthesizer capable of any division of the octave, just or equal or non-just non-equal and built an orchestra of instruments all in his home to include guitars refretted in equal temperaments 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, and 31, as well as the magalyra series of sub-contrabass steel guitar instruments.

Claude Debussy, who heard a Balinese gamelan performance and was exposed to their non-Western tunings and rhythms. Some scholars have even ascribed Debussy’s subsequent innovative use of the whole-tone (6 equal pitches per octave) tuning in such compositions as the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra and the Toccata from the suite Pour le piano to his exposure to the Balinese gamelan at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. Others believe that this exposure gave him the confidence to assert his rebellion “against the rule of equal temperament” marking his fully mature piano works, with their many bell- and gong-like sonorities, exploiting the piano’s natural resonance. Still others have argued that Debussy’s works like L’Isle joyeuse, La Cathédrale engloutie, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, La Mer, Pagodes, Danseuses de Delphes, and Cloches à travers les feuilles are marked by a more basic interest in the microtonal intervals found between the higher members of the overtone series, under the influence of Hermann Helmholtz’s writings.

Berliner’s introduction of the phonograph in the 1890s allowed much non-Western music to be recorded and heard by Western composers, further spurring the use of non-12-equal tunings.

Major microtonal composers of the 1920s and 1930s also include Alois Hába (quarter tones, or 24 equal pitches per octave, and sixth tones), Julian Carillo (24 equal, 36, 48, 60, 72, and 96 equal pitches to the octave embodied in a series of specially custom-built pianos), and the early works of Harry Partch (just intonation using frequencies at ratios of prime integers 3, 5, 7, and 11, their powers, and products of those numbers, from a central frequency of G-196) (Partch 1979, chapt. 8, “Application of the 11 Limit”, 119-37).

Prominent microtonal composers or researchers of the 1940s and 1950s include Adriaan Daniel Fokker (31 equal tones per octave), Partch again (continuing to build his handcrafted orchestra of microtonal just intonation instruments). In the 1960s and 1970s experimenters included John Eaton (who created his own microtonal synthesizer, the Syn Ket, to produce microtonal intervals), Harry Partch, Easley Blackwood (who composed and performed the well-known Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media with compositions in every equal division of the octave from 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 equal pitches per octave); Augusto Novaro, the Mexican microtonal theorist who composed studies in 15 equal; Barbara Benary, who formed Gamelan Son of Lion around this period; and Lou Harrison, who created American gamelan orchestras at Mills College.

And in Europe, the “Spectralists” in Paris created their first works from 1973 on with an extensive use of microtonal harmony. The main composers from this period are Hugues Dufourt, Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, Michael Levinas, and György Ligeti.

Microtonal Music by Inventors and Instrument Builders

Inventors and instrument builders are also becoming increasingly interested in creating new instruments and altering established instruments to gain access to even further subdivisions of the octave. I’ve provided a link at the end of this article introducing you to some of these inventors, what they’ve done to traditional instruments, and what unique instruments they’ve designed and built, which they’ve even performed on live.

Microtonal Music Concepts by Pioneers of Electronic Music

Even hardware such as digital synthesizers and inexpensive software synthesizers have expanded the ease and popularity of exploring microtonal music. But before they existed experimenters did what they could with what was available. In 1954, Karlheinz Stockhausen built his electronic Studie II on an 81-step scale starting from 100 Hz with the interval of 51/25 between steps (1964). And in Gesang der Jünglinge (1955-56) he used various scales, ranging from seven up to sixty equal divisions of the octave.

Wendy Carlos, in her 1986’s Beauty in the Beast we find her experimenting with many microtonal systems including just intonation and other alternate tuning scales she invented for the album: “This whole formal discovery came a few weeks after I had completed the album, Beauty in the Beast, which is wholly in new tunings and timbres” (Carlos 1989-96).

To read the full-length version of this article with images and video along with Part 2, click here.

http://ezinearticles.com/expert/Marc_Avante/343175

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Quick and Healthy Pasta Salad Recipes For Your Next Brunch

Herbs and Spices: 4 Healthy and Delicious Soup Recipes