Many thanks to Bruce Hamilton for including one of my works on this album! I am happy to be heard amongst my colleagues.
“Possible Worlds Volume Two continues Spectropol’s showcase of contemporary microtonal/xenharmonic music and sound art from around the world.
“There are many approaches to pitch use outside non-12-tone equal temperament on display here, conveyed through a wide variety of musical styles. Artists in this collection, which include well-established experts in microtonal practice, explore just intonation, the harmonic series, free & mixed tunings, extended playing techniques, invented instruments, and an emphasis on various equal divisions of the octave.”
About the scale used in Fifteen Short Pieces:
There are different ways to describe this. It is a 15-note, symmetrical subset of 30ed2 (30 equal divisions of the octave), or of a 1/5th-tone scale. I arrived at this by taking the augmented triad of D-F#-A# and transposing copies of it by 40 cents and 80 cents higher and lower. There is a near-just minor third, and a very sharp fifth.
I travelled down to Bavaria last August to participate in the inaugural Composers’ Commune, a new initiative of the venerable Festival Junger Künstler Bayreuth. The host organisation has always had a political mandate to bring artists from the ‘east’ and the ‘west’ together to make music. There were ensembles from different corners of the world and I was encouraged to attend many of their concerts in some very sublime venues. I especially liked a show of blistering drums, movement and electronics by Joss Turnbull, percussionist, and Kaveh Ghaemi, a contemporary dancer from Iran. Originally, I think, east & west meant post-war Germany; today, it means the Middle East and Western culture. My colleagues were from Serbia, England, Palestine and Syria. Helmut Erdmann had brought us together and we introduced ourselves by playing a sample of our music, live or recorded. Continue reading
For the spring 2013 semester I spent many hours piloting an EMS Synthi AKS analog synthesizer. It’s a solid machine, still made in Cornwall, England, invented in the ’70s, and was a robust instrument for electronic music pedagogy. It was also used in music by Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre and Pink Floyd, as well as for the TV series Doctor Who. My sessions on this vintage instrument took me to the European Live Electronic Centre in the charming village of Lüneburg.
The machine comes in a handy suitcase and can be set up within minutes. There are dials on the face, a pin matrix instead of a patch bay (i.e., using pins instead of wires, as in the American synthesizers by Moog and Buchla). Inside the suitcase lid is a keyboard that responds to the fingers’ natural capacitance.
André Cormier‘s hour-long work En parenthèses. It is a quiet, minimalist piece for variable ensemble. Our rendition included viola, percussion (we chose small cymbal, woodblock and cowbell), two voices mumbling French-Canadian text by poet Herménégilde Chiasson, and one “undefined instrument,” in this case a stone harp.
The concert was held in the round and spacious living room of the organizer’s home in a renovated military tower, Klang im Turm, and attended by about thirty people. The concert organizer, Christoph Nicolaus, is a sculptor and a friend of the Wandelweiser composers’ collective.
He has collected several stone harps and plays them occasionally in concert. They are substantial objects, both as sculptures and instruments. Continue reading
A month ago I was invited to Munich to perform Canadian composer
Since returning to Germany I’ve been able to see a few plays, despite not understanding the language yet, and I would like to describe them to you. These are not reviews or criticisms, merely observations by someone who loves theatre and had to get out and see what was on offer in town. Continue reading
I was in Cologne, beginning of February, and friends took me to three concerts in a beautiful ’50s-era radio hall, as part of the WDR3 Jazz Fest. In one fantastic night we heard the Florian Weber Quartet & Louis Sclavis, Stefano Bollani & NDR Bigband, and Günter “Baby” Sommer, a drummer and household name all over Germany.
WDR and NDR stand for Westdeutscher and Norddeutscher Rundfunk (broadcast).
1st concert: Weber on piano and electric piano, Lionel Loueke on guitar, Thomas Morgan on standup bass, Dan Weiss on drums, and Sclavis on bass clarinet.
2nd concert: Bollani on piano, his melodies arranged by NDR Bigband’s leader Geir Lysne.
3rd concert: Sommer as solo drummer and story-teller. I would like to give a little more detail here since he seems to be a national treasure of Germany, and for those unfamiliar with his art I will attempt to translate the programme notes and hope that you’ll check him out for yourself. Continue reading
Posted in Music, percussion
Tagged Baby Sommer, bigband, Cologne, drums, improv, jazz, Köln, music, percussion, performance, WDR3
I have returned to Germany, for the long-term, and my first professional activity was to participate in a microtonal conference in Cologne at the Kunsthochschule für Medien (Arts Academy for Media).
The first day featured a musical workshop for participants and they presented their outcome at a concert on the second day. Nora-Louise Müller and I arrived in time for this concert. Also on the programme were improvised performances by NTR, Melle Weijters (microtonal guitar) & Étienne Nillesen (percussion), and ensemble chronophonie, Stephen Altoft (19-tone trumpet) & Lee Ferguson (MalletKAT), playing works by Donald Bousted and Philipp Blume.
Weijters plays a 10-string fretless guitar which I will describe below. Altoft’s trumpet has four valves in non-standard proportions, enabling him to play 19 tones per octave. I have seen Michael White’s 24-tone trumpet (Toronto), and Ellwood Epps’s trumpet has an extra slide (Montreal) for producing microtones, but Altoft’s might be unique in its tuning of 19ed2 [see his comment below]. Ferguson had tuned his MalletKAT to the 19-tone scale to match his partner. (In our ensemble tranSpectra Rick Sacks also used a MalletKAT but tuned to the Bohlen–Pierce scale. I will have to put this versatile instrument on my Christmas wish list!)
The next day was about the participants’ research & development, chaired by Donald Bousted, director of Microtonal Projects. Continue reading
Posted in Bohlen-Pierce, instrument building, Music, tuning
Tagged 19edo, 41edo, Bohlen-Pierce, clarinet, clusters, guitar, improv, microtonal, notation, trumpet