Author Topic: In-Between: The Microtonal Universe  (Read 31154 times)

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snyprrr

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In-Between: The Microtonal Universe
« on: October 26, 2009, 10:32:57 PM »
There was a microtonal thread around here somewhere, but I can't find it, though I searched the pertinent composers. Wyschnegradsky, Partch, Carillo, and Sims were mentioned, amoungst maybe one or two more. I believe at the end of the thread we hadn't reached any conclusions about microtonal music's place in history blahblah, and...

So, I've been listening to CRI 784, the Ezra Sims' American Masters cd, and was reminded of the thought of microtonal music. I got it for the Third SQ (1962), and, though it's very hard to describe, it most certainly is of the microtonal, 19-tone, type music. It reminds me hazily of that Lutoslawskian buzzing-around-a-tone, along with some of that Henry Cowell absolute dissonance early music, but Sims is verrry "sounds of the summer field" mellow, and, ultimately, my most profound sensation is of lostening to distant music of uncertain variety wafting in the window on a very lazy summer afternoon. It is all very beautiful in the non-obvious way.

The SQ alternates bowing and plucking, and uses a pretty narrow bandwidth of material. The faster sections sound like semi-classifiable music, busy and tense, but the slow sections sound like music from a bog pond on a summer day. It absolutely baffles me, and is a singularly unique piece of music as I have heard in modern SQs. I don't know how much I actually like it, and there maaay be some ear fatigue for some members, but overall this is quite something. It inhabits a world all to itself, and, written in 1962, is well light years beyond anyone else in terms of sheer,... pluck?

The mixed ensemble piece written for Boston Musica Viva, "String Quartet No.2 (1962)" (1974) (fl, cl, vln, vla, vnc) is even more drawn out to the point of stasis, and begins to sound a little like Morton Feldman in the chromatic saturation. The bandwidth seems extremely limited here,... I just don't know what's going on, ha, but it's very static and saturated slow moving, almost (truly) impressionistic textures. There is a little rhythmic interest in the fast sections, but other than that, this 30min. piece is a befuddlement to me.

The Rilke Elegie (1976) ,for soprano (Elsa Charlston) and the above mentioned Boston Musica Viva line-up, is easier to understand because of the singing (fairly typical, nice-ish modern serial singing type), but the music flows beneath the singing in the same undulating fashion as it does in the other piece.

The desolate, alien landscape painted by Sims' microtonal palette is tough for me to get a handle on because of the placidity of much of the surface,... but, I kinda like it, if only because it's mellow-ish, but, its trippy '60s drug-induced type vibe is pretty hip sounding, and truly kind of alien; but, believe me, it's all very delicate and understated. It will take me a few more listens to figure this one out!

As I remember the previous thread, the talk seemed to veer toward the music sounding like it does on this album: hazy, unfocused (of course, duh!), and following a rhythmic plan of its own inexorable unfurling, by its own logic. Sims said that the SQ kind of wrote itself.

Well, I've listened twice, and I'm scratching my head. I don't know how to report this stuff??!!?? It's slightly dull, and slightly bizarre, at the same time! This must be what a heroin addict hears in their head!?! Ennui! It just seems like a lot of work, and I don't know how great the pay off is.

Perhaps Cato knows? Hmmm...
« Last Edit: July 19, 2014, 05:57:21 AM by snyprrr »

Offline milk

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2014, 06:58:05 AM »
I'll see if I can revive this. I've actually been playing around with the Partch instruments here (one finger at a time):

http://musicmavericks.publicradio.org/features/feature_partch.html#

Fun website!!! You can play!!

I have to check out the Sims. Is there anything of late in the microtonal world?

Offline milk

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2014, 07:00:17 AM »
I am not stalking Snyprrr (whenever I look for something lately there is Snyprrr having started it!)!

snyprrr

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2014, 08:01:24 AM »
I am not stalking Snyprrr (whenever I look for something lately there is Snyprrr having started it!)!

I have the Sims disc with some String Quartets and some other ensemble pieces. Mmmm... I don't know how you'll feel about it, it's that kind of dreary microtonal stuff that really seems to just wallow in that 'mood', as if you're caught in amber. There's certainly nothing XXXTREME here- it's all pretty laid back sounding (though, in a dreary laid back way- ennui?)

If you can find that CRI disc for a dollar, it's worth checking out, but I'm not a big fan of this type of microtonal noodling- it just sounds like grinding, somewhat tonal listlessness like a weary afternoon going nowhere- so, IF YOU LIKE CAGE- HAHAHA!!! (just kidding!)

Unlike Partch, there are no cool instruments here...


MICROTONAL- what a crock! Used to be called 'inflection'- I wonder if Sims was a Leftie?? This is usually what happens at the end of my Posts- as Sarge can attest! I have a "filter" problem for which I have been seeking regular treatment for!! :laugh:

Offline milk

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2014, 12:45:36 PM »
I must be seeing things. Why did I think this was a general microtonal thread and not just for Sims. Maybe I can't read. Do we have a general microtonal thread? I meant to find one after looking at the Branca thread. Yes, the samples didn't enthrall me for this. I have to stop buying so many things. Did anyone check out my link? Or maybe it's already known. OK. I'll put it in the Partch thread. It's really interesting.

Offline 7/4

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2014, 03:41:16 AM »
Interesting to me, but I don't listen to the CRIs them often.

Offline Dax

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2014, 10:28:06 AM »
Sims has a website: perhaps he lives next door?

http://www.ezrasims.com/

and here's his Sextet (1981)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP6-sFdYsQs

I've not been particularly struck by what I've heard of Sims: Easley Blackwood's Microtonal etudes, on the other hand . . .
try this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odTIoRzbDhA

snyprrr

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2014, 10:46:52 AM »
Sims has a website: perhaps he lives next door?

http://www.ezrasims.com/

and here's his Sextet (1981)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP6-sFdYsQs

I've not been particularly struck by what I've heard of Sims: Easley Blackwood's Microtonal etudes, on the other hand . . .
try this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odTIoRzbDhA

GReeeat Blackwood! Sounds Like the '70s!! haha

(also that microtonal metal guitar in the margin!)



SHOULD I SCRAP SIMS'S NAME AND JUST MAKE THIS THE 'MICTONAL UNIVERSE' THREAD???????

Offline 7/4

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2014, 10:48:47 AM »
Easley Blackwood's Microtonal etudes are pretty twisted, as I remember. I haven't heard that one in ages!

Offline torut

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2014, 12:55:13 PM »
I listened to String Sextet, Violin Cello duo, Violin Viola duo, Violin solo, Viola solo. They sound weird, even eerie, to me. I have a similar feeling with Wyschnegradsky. Hába is more accessible. They use particular pitches selected from a 72 equal temperament.

I like music of Young, Riley, Michael Harrison, Schweinitz, who use just intonation.

The music using equally divided microtones and the music based on just intonation seem very different kinds to me, although ultimately both can generate any pitches, with finer divisions or higher orders.

What are the intentions of composers who use equally divided microtones? Just as an approximation to just intonation or Pythagorean tuning? Or to obtain weird effects? My impression is that the aim of equal temperament microtonalists is extension of 12-tone serialism, more abstraction of music, while just intonation composers are searching for new beauty of harmonies that have not been heard before.

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2014, 03:08:58 PM »

The music using equally divided microtones and the music based on just intonation seem very different kinds to me, although ultimately both can generate any pitches, with finer divisions or higher orders.

What are the intentions of composers who use equally divided microtones?
Just as an approximation to just intonation or Pythagorean tuning? Or to obtain weird effects? My impression is that the aim of equal temperament microtonalists is extension of 12-tone serialism, more abstraction of music, while just intonation composers are searching for new beauty of harmonies that have not been heard before.

That depends on the composer!  Certainly Wyschnegradsky comes across more as a descendant of Scriabin, and do not forget Julian Carrillo with works like the Mass for Pope John XXIII and the Christopher Columbus Prelude.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/NCiw77HAmtw" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/NCiw77HAmtw</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/lOihGnn6HoE" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/lOihGnn6HoE</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/WCvSkmIMRMY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/WCvSkmIMRMY</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/6E5mrmIwAOY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/6E5mrmIwAOY</a>
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Offline torut

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2014, 07:08:32 PM »
That depends on the composer!  Certainly Wyschnegradsky comes across more as a descendant of Scriabin, and do not forget Julian Carrillo with works like the Mass for Pope John XXIII and the Christopher Columbus Prelude.

Thank you for the clips, Carrillo is new to me. It is interesting but a bit uncanny. I purchased Wyschnegradsky's Etudes and Preludes a long time ago but rarely listen to it.

Ken B

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2014, 07:19:59 PM »
I listened to String Sextet, Violin Cello duo, Violin Viola duo, Violin solo, Viola solo. They sound weird, even eerie, to me. I have a similar feeling with Wyschnegradsky. Hába is more accessible. They use particular pitches selected from a 72 equal temperament.

I like music of Young, Riley, Michael Harrison, Schweinitz, who use just intonation.

The music using equally divided microtones and the music based on just intonation seem very different kinds to me, although ultimately both can generate any pitches, with finer divisions or higher orders.

What are the intentions of composers who use equally divided microtones? Just as an approximation to just intonation or Pythagorean tuning? Or to obtain weird effects? My impression is that the aim of equal temperament microtonalists is extension of 12-tone serialism, more abstraction of music, while just intonation composers are searching for new beauty of harmonies that have not been heard before.

Well put, and I think I agree. Partch and Lou Harrison are looking for new ways to be beautiful. Many microtonalists are not, at all.

Offline 7/4

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2014, 03:39:06 AM »
Oh yes, the equal temperaments get ugly.

I like the beauty of Just Intonation, but it too depends on how it's used.

Offline escher

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2014, 04:01:27 AM »
I listened to String Sextet, Violin Cello duo, Violin Viola duo, Violin solo, Viola solo. They sound weird, even eerie, to me. I have a similar feeling with Wyschnegradsky. Hába is more accessible. They use particular pitches selected from a 72 equal temperament.

I like music of Young, Riley, Michael Harrison, Schweinitz, who use just intonation.

The music using equally divided microtones and the music based on just intonation seem very different kinds to me, although ultimately both can generate any pitches, with finer divisions or higher orders.

What are the intentions of composers who use equally divided microtones? Just as an approximation to just intonation or Pythagorean tuning? Or to obtain weird effects? My impression is that the aim of equal temperament microtonalists is extension of 12-tone serialism, more abstraction of music, while just intonation composers are searching for new beauty of harmonies that have not been heard before.

I perfectly understand your doubts. Maybe they choose that because in that still completely unexplored field that is microtonality it's easier to experiment with equal temperaments, especially considering acoustic instruments.
In fact I think that if there's a future for microtonality (and I hope so) is especially in electronic music.
And by the way, Wendy Carlos and her Beauty in the beast deserves to be mentioned:

Offline 7/4

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2014, 05:39:04 AM »
I perfectly understand your doubts. Maybe they choose that because in that still completely unexplored field that is microtonality it's easier to experiment with equal temperaments, especially considering acoustic instruments.
In fact I think that if there's a future for microtonality (and I hope so) is especially in electronic music.

What make's it easier? The beating of irrational intervals make it more difficult to play in tune.

I'd still have to get a guitar re-fretted.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2014, 05:41:40 AM by 7/4 »

Online Cato

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2014, 05:52:07 AM »
Thank you for the clips, Carrillo is new to me. It is interesting but a bit uncanny. I purchased Wyschnegradsky's Etudes and Preludes a long time ago but rarely listen to it.

Give the latter another chance!   0:)

Oh yes, the equal temperaments get ugly.

I like the beauty of Just Intonation, but it too depends on how it's used.

Always true with any system: e.g. Schoenberg   0:)  vs. Hauer   ???.

Well put, and I think I agree. Partchand Lou Harrison are looking for new ways to be beautiful. Many microtonalists are not, at all.

Also true: Alois Haba invented a "non-melodic" style, which can be off-putting.  However, in spite of that, his opera The Mother has some fascinating melodies.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/127K6DGpbhc&amp;list=RD127K6DGpbhc#t=4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/127K6DGpbhc&amp;list=RD127K6DGpbhc#t=4</a>


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Offline escher

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Re: Ezra Sims' Microtonal Universe
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2014, 09:32:43 AM »
What make's it easier? The beating of irrational intervals make it more difficult to play in tune.

I'd still have to get a guitar re-fretted.

easier in the sense that if you change "tonality" you don't have to think about it, like in the normal equal temperament.

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Re: In-Between: The Microtonal Universe
« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2014, 09:48:52 AM »
For just intonation, what about Ben Johnston? I didn't see his name mentioned yet, but I may have missed it. He wrote some really nice SQs. One of them I heard in particular (3rd or 4th, I think) had such a lush sound that it reminded me of a microtonal Ravel SQ.
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Re: In-Between: The Microtonal Universe
« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2014, 10:10:55 AM »
Thinking of electronic music right now .. where the creative possibilities of tone division really expand, where we can get right down to the sound atoms. And there is more control on a forensic level too.

True!  Back in March I wrote the following under "Electronic Music: The First 70 Years" :

Quote
40 years ago, I had great hopes for the Motorola Scalatron, an electronic synthesizer capable of playing mircrotonal music, all the way up to 31-tones per octave.

e.g. Imagine a 24-note quarter-tone scale with 7 1/3 tones, or vice versa!  Or an "equal" 31-tone scale: the Motorola Scalatron could handle it.

That is, if you could handle the keyboard!  It resembled the left-hand of an accordion, but had hexagonal push-buttons for all the notes.  A composer named George Secor, with whom I corresponded for a while, since I myself was rather heavily into inventing my own quarter-tone scales, had consulted with Motorola on the design, (i.e. talked them into using his design   8)   ) and then the company sent him forth to play his own compositions to demonstrate the possibilities and the sounds and to sell the thing.

$7,500 got you the synthesizer and assorted tuning "programs" plus a black-and-white T.V. set for checking the sine-waves as the machine got tuned!

According to a source on the Internet, after advertising it in music journals and other magazines for a year or two, the company ended up building precisely two machines, and one of them was the demo used by George Secor.

(I was a little bit sour about this, because the man made it clear to me that he had no interest in performing anyone's music but his own, and let's just say I found his stuff less than impressive.   ;)  )

Update:

Go to this page, and you will hear one of Secor's most recent - and still rather primitive and boring - compositions: take away the microtonal scale and you don't have much of interest at all!  Listen to the left-hand part especially!

http://www.sagittal.org/

On the other hand, maybe you will like it! 



See:

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,16741.msg784715.html#msg784715
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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