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This 48 message thread spans 4 pages:  < <   1  [2]  3   4  > >  
  Re: Quarter Tones  MartinY at 07:35 on 16 August 2009

Our discussions on current British music lead me to thinking: we all ought to be using microtones in our music in 20xx. However I never do, and the reason is this.... Am I right in thinking that it is possible to get grade 8 in every instrumental exam without ever having played a quarter tone. I think this is so but I am open to contradiction.

Because of this I am reluctant to write microtonal music, even though I have theories about microtonal harmony because amateur players will not be able to play it and I do not want to write music which only belongs to a small elite.

I know it is possible to do anything on a computer but I want to write music which can be played by anyone with a bit of skill using instruments they could have bought in a junk shop and no electronic assistance.

I have long known the unfretted strings are the answer because of their great flexibility but where is the training to come from?

(Of course this is not to forget the recorder, un-keyed holes also allow you to do anything... sorry to recorder players.)

  Re: Quarter Tones  MartinY at 07:57 on 16 August 2009

My comments about the junk shop, reminded me that I was a little disappointed that my post about opposites in instrumental colour did not provoke any discussion of instrumental colour. In the renaissance it was common to have families of instruments of equal colour: a full set of viols, recorders, trumpets going down to bass trumpet etc. etc. Many pieces sound much better on a homogeneous ensemble rather than a heterogeneous ensemble. (As an opposite things like trio sonatas and Morley consort are only at their best with the specified instrumentation, e.g. flute, violin and continuo.) This is one of the reasons hyper-romantic composers used octuple woodwind. Every chord can be played with the same colour so big blocks of homogeneous sound can be contrasted with tiny chamber like ensembles of different colour.

Contrasting colour seems to be dominant idea in recent years, even starting back with Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp. (A cheaper version is treble recorder, violin and guitar.) This leads on to the ultimate in the cheapest sensible orchestra, descant recorder, kazoo and ukelele, less than 10 pounds at a car boot sale and you have two microtonal instruments.

Is anyone going to beat me to write for this ensemble as I think I will have to do it now.

P.S. I have heard crumhorn music played on kazoos and it was rather good.

  Re: Quarter Tones  Nicolas Tzortzis at 10:36 on 16 August 2009

the reasons you explain why you do not use microtones are highly understandable and rather logical.
do not underestimate amateur players.if they can play a "false" note (on a violin),then they can play a quarter tone.
and keep in mind that for the woodwinds for instance,quarter tones could be done just by using specific fingerings.no extra difficulty there.
it is how you use them and in what context.if they make sense,players will get them right.

  Re: Quarter Tones  MartinY at 16:54 on 16 August 2009

Thanks Nicholas,

you have inspired me to canvas the violin family instrument players this summer to find out who will and who will not play microtones. Similarly with the wind players because I know there are some who have learned the fingerings and have little to do with their knowlege other than play solo demonstration pieces in their bedrooms.

Viols, lutes and guitars are a different kettle of fish (incomprehensible English expression). Frets mean you have to use scordatura: (I do not do scordatura, even for Biber). One day I will write a demonstration guitar duet with quarter tones. Has anyone already done it?

  Re: Quarter Tones  Nicolas Tzortzis at 22:02 on 16 August 2009

on the guitar you can write microtones just by "bending" the string.
look at Maurice Ohana's guitar pieces that are use them brilliantly!
and let's not forget that natural harmonics are not tempered intervals...

  Re: Quarter Tones  Nicolas Tzortzis at 22:03 on 16 August 2009

on the guitar you can write microtones just by "bending" the string.
look at Maurice Ohana's guitar pieces that are use them brilliantly!
and let's not forget that natural harmonics are not tempered intervals...

  Re: Quarter Tones  scott_good at 23:06 on 16 August 2009

Martin, don't be a purist! Scordatura can be used very effectively.

Chris Paul Harman, a Canadian composer, composed an incredible piece called Iridescence in which the string orchestra is divided in two groups, tuned a 1/4 tone apart from each other. Something like this could be quite effective for an amateur group.

Also, the works of Glenn Branca use extensive microtunings through de-tuning the electric guitar.

  Re: Quarter Tones  MartinY at 08:54 on 17 August 2009

Scott you misunderstand, I do use scordatura, some days all the time. That is a 'quote' which I have heard several players say. They play the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante without retuning the viola and if they play Harmonia Artificioso they play it from the modern notation parts in normal tuning, which somewhat defeats the point of the whole collection, that is what Artificioso means!

This is not to mention all the trouble we have over playing at 415 versus 440, 460 seems to have been only a little problem so far but it might come. I know of several recordings where the singers sing at 460 and the violins are playing at 415 with parts transposed up a tone. Whatever you do, that does not seem fully satisfactory though it makes for good strong sung solo arias.

Must be careful because it is not the first time I have made a quote and people have thought it was my opinion. Say to myself bold for emphasis, italics mean whatever they mean......
Ha - I now see we have a
quotation box
facility. I will use it.....

  Re: Quarter Tones  ruska02 at 13:18 on 17 August 2009

But why do you always are such a j... At least keep your comments to your self...So all the work from Nono to Haas , including some of the Gregorian Chant , is rubbish for you...I really don't understant why you consider yourself not only a composer but also a good one and a publisher...may be in you illusional naive world you are for me you are only a lost of time but I cannot avoid defending the work of real professional on this site that is seeing an open revisionist movement...what do you say misuc-silverman this is real artistic fascism or not?

Anyway to all you neo something this is Shakespeare (William I mean)

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child!
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whether better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O, sure I am, the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.



  Re: Quarter Tones  ruska02 at 13:20 on 17 August 2009

Sorry guys this answer was due toJames Mc Fayden for his comment
"For Mozart 12 tones etc etc."


  Re: Quarter Tones  ruska02 at 13:28 on 17 August 2009

Anyway now a seriuos professional answer to the original question

Six years ago at Impulse 2005 Graz Austria Molinari, incredible Swiss Clarinet Performer previously with Klangforum now soloist,
to the question of a composer , me?, asking gif we are supposed to write
proper fingering for all wind instruments when writing microtones
(quarter and eight tones I mean not real microtones which can be hardly controlled)
said : every professional wind player nowadays has his/her own fingerings for all the 48 grades of the scale and also a lot of alternate fingerings.
Also consider that if he/she does not it is not worth writing good classical contemporary music for he/she.
In the next six years I not only got to completely agree with him but also realize that if a flutist for example does not know
how to properly perform Tongue Ram it is a waste of tile trying to explain it to him (like in a UK performance of mine where a world renowed
flutist did everything with it but not Tongue Ram)

Respect to the ones who deserve it
Roberto David Rusconi

  Re: Quarter Tones  Nicolas Tzortzis at 23:54 on 17 August 2009

Molinari is right an wrong at the same time.
right because a good professional like himself does know these things,but wrong because
because a young composer does not only write for professionals,but also writes for 23 year-old students,his friends or classmates,or even amateur players.
these players will one day have learned the fingerings.but if they are just getting into the microtonal writing (that is still marginal,we have to admit),then a fingering can be very helpful.they might not do it as written,because not all fingerings apply for all instruments,but it will give them an idea where to look at what to look for.

As for the last part,I have to disaree.Once I did "teach" a flute player how to do a Tongue Ram.it depends on the player.If he/she wants to bother doing it,it will be done.if they don't care,then no...but a composer has to be able to show it,even do it on the instrument,at least to prove to the player that he knows what he is doing.

  Re: Quarter Tones  ruska02 at 00:53 on 18 August 2009

Here we are not on the same line , at all I fear. How many instruments do you badly play Nick...do you really know how to show flautando on strings, double harmonica tremolo on strings and flutes, timbers trill on oboe or half pressure on viola and so on...many of these techniques need years of practice so. Molinari is not wrong , at all, every young performer aged 23 not 18 should know contemporary techniques if interested in performing our music. You taught Tangue Ram to a first hand performer and did it worked? Lucky you!


  Re: Quarter Tones  Nicolas Tzortzis at 01:14 on 18 August 2009

18-23 year old players do not know "our" music.
they do not even know "we" exist.
they hardly even know Schönberg,they do not even konw yet what they want to play.they are still learning.
Do you actually believe that Grisey or Lachenmann are standard repertoire?they SHOULD be,yes,they should,in an ideal world,but are they???and how many teachers can actually teach them properly?
you said it yourself "many of these techniques need years of practice".
as do microtones.
If they need years of practice,how can a 23 year old master them?

I believe that the composer should be able to help his players get it right.the more he knows,the better.And I have met many composers my age that have just used "contemporary techniques" without knowing what exactly they are.they saw it on a nice score,and copied-pasted it into their piece.and when the player asks "what exactly do you want here?",they didn't know what to answer.because the notation is not yet standard,it varies from composer to composer.
I have met clarinet players that didn't know what a Slap is and how to do it.that didn't mean that they were bad players,nor did it mean that they didn't want to play my music.you show it and if he can do it,fine.if he can't,then we look for another solution.
Molinari has the luxury of saying what he says,because he is THE master now.but many years ago he too was a young player that needed guidance from someone else.and if this guidance does not come from the teacher,then the composer should help.
How many Molinaris are there,anyway?

  Re: Quarter Tones  scott_good at 01:49 on 18 August 2009

when i played under holliger, he explained that a composer AND conductor should know all of the extended techniques, and be able to explain them, and do them.

i only compose extended techniques that i understand fully.

most of these effects (like tongue ram) can be learned in minutes. then they can be practiced and perfected - and indeed, be individualized like any technique, to fit the music at hand. for instance, there are many colours of the flutter tongue - it can be very subtle and smooth (even air flow, and very fast), or make a ruckus (add some back of the throat "growl")

1/4 tones are a more tricky issue, though. 1st, it requires an innate knowledge of equal temperament, which is somewhat false, and very difficult. 3rds are terrible. then to fit the equal division between the perfectly tempered semi tone...only in arabic music is this a real truth, because it is THE language of the music and executed properly for non-fretted instruments.

there are ways to learn how to hear the specific sonority of a 1/4 tone - it does take much practice - something i continue to develop, even though i have been performing them for years - just not always so accurately. a couple of years ago, after performance of a piece with many 1/4 tones, i asked the composer "so, how were they" - "some were close" replies the composer...back to work.

but, i would highly encourage performers to explore intonation in this way. developing the skills to hear these intervals seeps into skills being able to hear all intervals. in other words, it is great training for perfection of intonation of all kinds - a kind of hyper awareness.

but, it pulls our ears away from the most beautiful intervals - the true thirds and 5ths, which do not fit so nicely into equal temperament - especially the thirds. and these are not pure if out by only a cent or two.

(note: the division of 12, though, is incredibly close, all things considered - it is a "freak" of nature)

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