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Thread: Piers Hudson - 'Suite in 31edo' for Fokker Organ

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    Junior Member Piers Hudson's Avatar
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    Default Piers Hudson - 'Suite in 31edo' for Fokker Organ

    Last month, I completed a 36-minute microtonal Neo-Baroque dance suite in three movements, which was written for the Fokker organ, an instrument tuned to 31-tone equal temperament.

    The Allemande is very serious, the Sarabande is more serene, and the Gigue is a good bit of fun!

    What do people on this forum think of microtonality? I'd be interested to know.

    Anyway, here's the score video of my piece:


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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    It's not my thing this Piers. I'm too set in 12tone ET but can understand how you and others are enthused by and attracted to other temperaments. It's a double negative for me too this piece, as I'm not a huge organ music fan neither....my bad.

    That said, I did give it about 10 minutes though and then started to spin through a bit (sorry, I know how that sounds, my bad again), because the C pedal was beginning to bother me. The Sarabande was interesting but somewhat predictably I suppose, it was the gigue that was much more entertaining to my conservative ears and I loved the rapid moments at b65 and similar. I found the change of pace very welcome and personally would have preferred more change of pace sooner in the work which would have retained my interest longer.

    Like I said, the organ tone is something I find too overbearing a lot of the time, even with register
    and stop changes in pieces (I love Messiaen, but there is a distinct lack of organ work recordings in my collection). Yours did not alter in timbre at all, nor venture much outside a limited register and that was a drain on my attention unfortunately. This is not a criticism you understand - the notes are what you wanted after all - it's just this listeners reaction to them.

    Given the complexity of your harmony and the vastly expanded range of pitch, what organising principles did you work with?

    There are a few members here who are into differing temperaments and some are incredibly knowledgeable (BabyGiraffe springs immediately to mind as an expert), so hopefully they'll pass by and have a listen. Btw, I personally didn't find the microtonality off-putting in any way but do prefer it to be used within a 12tone ET setting and in a more sparse way, more of an emotional effect rather than in a completely emancipated and functional way.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Aug-13-2020 at 14:54.
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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    In contrast to Mike, I felt it was not functional in the microtonality enough. Most was a note here and there for added colour. The part I sampled that was most functional was around 30:20- 31:30 with more than one note at a time in the microtonal region. I felt the sound too similar to the effect of playing chromatically adjacent notes. I'd be more interested in larger intervallic or chord changes in microtonal.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    I'm interested in how 31edo is generally notated. I know of its existence and have heard a multiple pieces for the Fokker-organ (a couple of my schoolmates were really into this stuff)but I have never really seen scores of such pieces. I can see that apart from occasionally resorting to quarter-tone accidentals, you mainly use regular accidentals (In the allemande, which I listened). Is 31edo used here not as a 31-note scale but in a more traditional chromatic scale which spans in multiple octaves and the 31edo just alters the temperament of those notes? Also, without taking too much space from your piece, I've been recently listening a lot of 24TET-pieces of the UK composer Kris Lennox. Apart from them being excellent music, he has in my opinion a really nice way of notating the music into 12-line staves. The pitch is relatively easy to recognise once one gets used to the 12-line staves. He uses microtonality differently than you, more in a way of having two tonal worlds a quarter tone apart and maybe this kind of notation would not work in 31edo.

    https://youtu.be/pkFMQ6LiWlw

    Here's another, where he more strictly operates between the two 12ET-scales a quarter tone apart:

    https://youtu.be/Aow_xZmmnYA
    Last edited by pkoi; Aug-13-2020 at 15:24.

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    Junior Member Piers Hudson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    It's not my thing this Piers. I'm too set in 12tone ET but can understand how you and others are infused by and attracted to other temperaments. It's a double negative for me too this piece, as I'm not a huge organ music fan neither....my bad.
    I can understand your viewpoint; it takes a great deal of exposure to really 'get' the syntax of other temperaments (i.e. without it seeming 'wrong' or merely deviant). It's something I've considered a lot (I'll expand on this in response to your last point.)

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Like I said, the organ tone is something I find too overbearing a lot of the time, even with register and stop changes in pieces (I love Messiaen, but there is a distinct lack of organ work recordings in my collection). Yours did not alter in timbre at all, nor venture much outside a limited register and that was a drain on my attention unfortunately. This is not a criticism you understand - the notes are what you wanted after all - it's just this listeners reaction to them.
    My music often focuses on a narrow set of parameters, usually the pitch content (harmony, melody, counterpoint), whilst treating the other parameters in a more constant manner, like a bed upon which the more active material sits.

    Think about Max Richter's music for example: his 'On the Nature of Daylight' has a single looping chord progression throughout, and several melodic figures which constantly repeat, but developmentally speaking, the piece prioritises an increase in dynamics and an expansion of the frequency spectrum with the entry of the sub-bass and the high solo violin part:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVN1B-tUpgs

    Whatever you make of his style is a subject matter in itself, but while my piece wasn't directly influenced by Richter, I do identify with his aim of creating a 'paired down' sound with a limited focus.

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Given the complexity of your harmony and the vastly expanded range of pitch, what organising principles did you work with?
    It goes something like this: diatonic harmonies beget augmented/diminished harmonies, which beget complex harmonic series chords, which involve the 11:8 and 7:4 harmonic ratios, amongst many others. Intuition, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    There are a few members here who are into differing temperaments and some are incredibly knowledgeable (BabyGiraffe springs immediately to mind as an expert), so hopefully they'll pass by and have a listen. Btw, I personally didn't find the microtonality off-putting in any way but do prefer it to be used within a 12tone ET setting and in a more sparse way, more of an emotional effect rather than in a completely emancipated and functional way.
    Personally, I believe I have used it in a way that is not totally emancipated; each movement sets out with a clearly defined key area (C minor, E major, F major) and steadily expands from there. The Allemande sets out with a Baroque style of minor tonality, to which it periodically returns when the harmony is 'reeled back in', including the ending no less. The Sarabande, as well as establishing the tonal centre from the beginning, frequently emphasises diatonic melodic patterns in the upper voice, even whilst the underlying harmony becomes more chromatic; bars 7-9 are a good example of this, where the melody in the top stave remains completely diatonic whilst the harmony becomes microtonally altered. Voice leading helps, too; my style is very contrapuntal, and even in the most chromatic moments of my music, I'm constantly aware of the line which each voice follows, and the intervallic relationship of that voice to other voices.

    Nevertheless, I appreciate your feedback, and I can understand why it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. I've actually been shifting away from a previously arcane musical approach to one that is more transparent and corporeal, which connects to the emotions more readily (the Gigue is the most obvious indication of this trend). But it's a lengthy (and daunting) process to make that shift, and the organ piece just happens to signify the most advanced stage of that change in my output, so there's still some way to go.
    Last edited by Piers Hudson; Aug-13-2020 at 17:21.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    My usage of the term 'emancipation' was misleading I guess, as you and Phil picked up on it. I meant that it (the microtonality) was freely available as a foundational/functional option on its own terms and not just as a resource in 12tET, as I tend to view it. I understand what you are getting at when you talk about narrowing parameters as is ably demonstrated by the Richter (which I know and have liked very much since seeing 'Arrival'). There is much music to be found within limitations, not least of all unity and inevitability.

    I also agree along the lines that Phil has suggested. The expressive resource and potential one could find by expanding interval spacing and heading into chordal structures that go beyond the hand/pedal technique of the Fokker is obvious.

    My interest has been piqued thanks to this. I've had a DAW and the facility to play with other tunings for many years but somehow have never not got around to thoroughly investigating it - work and all that you understand. We composers and musicians need more than one life.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Aug-14-2020 at 09:48.
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    Junior Member Piers Hudson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    My usage of the term 'emancipation' was misleading I guess, as you and Phil picked up on it. I meant that it (the microtonality) was freely available as a foundational/functional option on its own terms and not just as a resource in 12tET, as I tend to view it.
    I think I know what you mean now. As I mentioned before, all the harmony from the simplest to the most complex exists on a continuum, but there are considerable episodes where the most alien material functions on its own accord (before being reined back in).

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    I also agree along the lines that Phil has suggested. The expressive resource and potential one could find by expanding interval spacing and heading into chordal structures that go beyond the hand/pedal technique of the Fokker is obvious.
    It is possible to play wider intervals on the Fokker organ than those I use in my piece (certainly an octave, and possibly slightly beyond in one hand), I just happened to write it that way because of my contrapuntal style.

    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    My interest has been piqued thanks to this. I've had a DAW and the facility to play with other tunings for many years but somehow have never not got around to thoroughly investigating it - work and all that you understand. We composers and musicians need more than one life.
    I'm really pleased to hear that you're interest has been piqued! I'm in a similar position to you when it comes to software; I've had FL Studio for years now, with Scala tuning files which can be applied to VSTs with microtuning capabilities (as well as Kontakt, which has its own microtuning scripts). One day, something will come to fruition from my production endeavours.

    I wish you all the best for your microtonal investigations in this life. I found a great place to get started was the Xenharmonic Wiki, which has lots of resources on microtonal theory and practice:

    https://en.xen.wiki/w/Main_Page

    I found myself reading on the theory at length when I started to take microtonality seriously three years ago (although I've been generally aware of the practice of microtonality for about ten years now).

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    Quote Originally Posted by pkoi View Post
    I'm interested in how 31edo is generally notated. I know of its existence and have heard a multiple pieces for the Fokker-organ (a couple of my schoolmates were really into this stuff)but I have never really seen scores of such pieces. I can see that apart from occasionally resorting to quarter-tone accidentals, you mainly use regular accidentals (In the allemande, which I listened). Is 31edo used here not as a 31-note scale but in a more traditional chromatic scale which spans in multiple octaves and the 31edo just alters the temperament of those notes? Also, without taking too much space from your piece, I've been recently listening a lot of 24TET-pieces of the UK composer Kris Lennox. Apart from them being excellent music, he has in my opinion a really nice way of notating the music into 12-line staves. The pitch is relatively easy to recognise once one gets used to the 12-line staves. He uses microtonality differently than you, more in a way of having two tonal worlds a quarter tone apart and maybe this kind of notation would not work in 31edo.

    https://youtu.be/pkFMQ6LiWlw

    Here's another, where he more strictly operates between the two 12ET-scales a quarter tone apart:

    https://youtu.be/Aow_xZmmnYA
    To understand the notation I used, read Paul Rapoport's article 'About 31-tone equal temperament', specifically section 3, titled '31-tone equal temperament: the nomenclature', which has some diagrams to make things clear:

    http://www.huygens-fokker.org/docs/rap31.html

    In principle, all notes in 31edo could be notated with the familiar sharp, flat and natural accidentals exclusively; here are a few examples:

    The distance of one scale step can be referred to as a diesis, which is the distance between C sharp and D flat.

    The distance of two scale steps can be referred to as a chromatic semitone, which is the distance between C natural and C sharp.

    The distance of three scale steps can be referred to as a diatonic semitone, which is the distance between C natural and D flat.

    You can essentially extrapolate the rest of the intervals in this tuning by using these intervallic modifications as your building blocks, and when you're deep into composition like I was, I even becomes intuitive.

    However, for practical purposes it is not always viable to just use familiar accidentals; sometimes you have to use 'semi' and 'sesqui' accidentals (although the latter aren't as common); these accidentals 'fill in' the space between other more regularly spelled notes, showing the voice leading more intuitively, for example (rather than the uncanny situation of D double flat being flatter than C sharp). Also, would you prefer to see a double augmented unison (C natural and C double sharp) or a neutral second (C natural and D semi-flat)? I know which one is more intuitive..

    The only difference between my approach and Paul's is that I use different quartertone symbols, but the semantics of the note-spelling between the two of them are identical.

    Also, that Kris Lennox stuff was cool! I'm now following his pages, and have just finished listening to his 'Byond The Piscean Sea' on his '24-Tone' SoundCloud account:

    https://soundcloud.com/user-16690148...he-piscean-sea

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