Two years ago I completed my 31 Days project: 31 new pieces in just intonation in 31 days; one piece everyday from July 11–August 10, 2014. The process involved experimenting in different styles and exploring a new plethora of sounds. During the process of composing a piece every day, I found my perceptions of sound had changed and my experience of how I perceive and understand pitch had been fundamentally altered. Now, two years later I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many of the pieces again, and to reflect upon that process. As an homage to that month, I composed a new piece that is very much a product of the challenge I took on in 2014. Cold Air is a 31-limit piece for oboe with clarinet quartet (two clarinets and 2 bass bass clarinets). The audio is rendered using samples from NotePerformer and the Sibelius pitch bend function. Like many of my works for just intonation, the piece explores combinations of tones found in the harmonic series. (I recommend viewing either in full screen, or on YouTube.)
A few articles back, I gave a brief narrative on how the circumstances of my life that led me to decide to create 31 new works in just intonation over 31 days. Once I decided to take on such a project I had to go about actually composing the works—which dominated my life over the next month. All works in the 31 Days cycle were composed using a G = 1/1 system, in which G (or 1/1) is vibrating at about 392 Hz (or powers thereof).
Years ago when I was still an undergrad I was introduced to the music of Harry Partch. After hearing Barstow and attending a lecture on his instruments and tuning system, I wanted to learn more about just intonation. The idea of it fascinated me, despite that I really had no idea what it sounded like.
About a year later I acquired a small, banged up harpsichord and purchased a book by Alain Daniélou, Tableau Comparatif des Intervalles Musicaux. Using the book and a guitar tuner that displayed cents, I tuned an octave of the harpsichord according to the numbers in Daniélou’s book. When I pressed down C, E, and G on the keyboard, I heard something I had never noticed before: a just major triad.