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Microtonal music

From Academic Kids

Microtonal music is music using microtones -- intervals of less than a semitone, or as Charles Ives put it, the "notes between the cracks" of the piano. The term is also used to refer to any music whose tuning is not based on semitones, such as western just intonation, Indonesian gamelan music and Indian classical music. An alternative term explicitly covering such possibilities is xenharmonic music.

The Italian Renaissance composer and theorist Nicola Vicentino (1511-1576) [1] (http://www.hoasm.org/IVO/Vicentino.html) experimented with microintervals and built for example a keyboard with 36 keys to the octave, known as the arcicembalo. However Vicentino's experiments were primarily motivated by his research (as he saw it) on the ancient Greek genera, and by his desire to have acoustically pure intervals available within chromatic compositions.

Some Western composers have embraced the use of microtonal scales, dividing an octave into 19, 24, 31, 43, 72 and other numbers of pitches, rather than the more common 12. The intervals between pitches can be equal, creating an equal temperament, or unequal, such as in just intonation or linear temperament.

Pioneers of modern Western microtonal music include:

Microtonal scales that are played contiguously are chromatically microtonal, those which are not use the various contiguous pitches as alternative versions of larger intervals (Burns, 1999).

The American hardcore punk band Black Flag (1976-86) made interesting vernacular use of microtonal intervals, via guitarist Greg Ginn, a free jazz aficionado also familiar with modern classical. (During their peak in the late '70s and early '80s, long before American punk was mainstream, the band was considered, not unwarrantedly, a thuggish and hostile street unit, although time has given their work a considerable measure of musical acclaim.) A worthwhile song is "Damaged II," from 1981's Damaged LP -- a live-in-studio recording in which intentional use of quarter- and eighth-steps suggests a guitar in danger of detonation. Another is "Rise Above," from the same album, which ends with a cadence played a quarter-tone sharp, to similar effect.

Contents

See also

Source

  • Burns, Edward M. (1999). "Intervals, Scales, and Tuning", The Psychology of Music second edition. Deutsch, Diana, ed. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0122135644.


External links

General

Discussion of tuning theory and microtonal music

Theory pages

Discography

Microtonal music on the web

sv:Mikrotonal musik

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