Xen Radio, Episode 4

This week’s Xen Radio program was dedicated to microtonal piano music. It featured a few generations of piano music, ranging from the early quarter tone music of Ives and Wyschnegradsky to Kyle Gann’s 2011 work, Echoes of Nothing.

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Intabulations

The Renaissance practice of ‘intabulations’ was the arrangement of consort music – instrumental or vocal – for keyboard. An intabulation was the making of the impossible possible: a single person could now render a performance only possible by a consort. Late last year I began work on a series of new intabulations in just intonation. Created using notation software and with sampled sounds of classic electric pianos, they are in a some respect the impossible made possible. I recently published the first three of what will be a larger and longer set of works.

Stuff costs money 

Recently someone made an interesting observation about paying money to have art made:

Yeah—lots of “art” doesn’t make sense from the standpoint of return on investment. But then again, we have this:

https://twitter.com/SharknadoSYFY/status/893864563480940544

And I’m reminded of the claims that we need gatekeepers (i.e., contemporary patronage) to ensure the quality of art doesn’t degrade away.

june (madrigal)

My march of “madrigals” in just intonation continues into June. This time, the material is loosely organized into three “studies.” And this time however, the pitch material is fixed—e.g., a particular A flat will always vibrate at the same frequency—and the pitch material is in non-repeating octaves—e.g., the different octaves of A flat do not line up as perfect octaves. Some of this material will be developed into a series of short works for re-tuned fender rhodes electric piano.

may (madrigal)

First things first, I missed April’s madrigal—so I’m sorry that I failed to achieve my goal of a madrigal in just intonation every month this year. That being said, may is based upon material I originally composed for a piece called Fox – Wolf – Hound for harpsichord in 1/4-comma meantone; may is a reimagining of that material in just intonation. Unlike the previous “madrigals” this one is in a faster tempo.

march (madrigal)

The third of my 12 “madrigals” in just intonation, march, is based upon tones rows that are derived from the partials of the overtone series. The explanation of the tone rows, and how they relate to the kind of just intonation I’m using, is pretty esoteric; so I’ll save that for after the preview text.

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New Cantata

Portions of a secular cantata I’m working on were recently performed at The National Opera Center as part of a concert produced by Composers Collective (a group of composers that self-produce concerts, of which I’m a member). The cantata, The Red Blaze, is a selection of Emily Dickinson poems loosely connected by references to times of day and night. The selection below, “I had no time to hate,” is an exception — it’s not about the daytime or nighttime — instead Dickinson speaks to the limits that life places upon our ability to love and hate one another, and the choice of love over hate.

This performance features Elise Jablow (soprano) and Mila Henry (piano), as well as Hai-Ting Chinn, Tomas Cruz, and Jeremy Hirsch (who are waiting patiently during Elise’s solo).

february (madrigal)

The second of my “madrigals” for 2017, february, is similar to last month’s; it explores different chords and sounds based upon the harmonic series. (Of course, all of these works have many different “harmonic series” occurring throughout each piece. In one moment, a chord might be based upon a series derived from a particular E-flat. In another, it could be based upon A.) All my works utilize the G = 1/1 system that Harry Partch used, but I go far beyond 42 notes — which is the great value of computer music. I look forward to composing more of these “madrigals.”