Wednesday, May 5, 2010

two sonx in orwell nine

Hi friends! Yesterday, in a mad frenzy (hooray!) I wrote, practiced, recorded & uploaded two songs for voice & 22-tone guitar. They are:

I've come with a bucket of roses
one drop of rain

By 22-tone guitar, I mean this thing:

Last year, inspired by th work of Dante Rosati (who I had th rare pleasure of getting to meet & see perform!) I modified a steel-string acoustic guitar that I've had since high school to play in a tuning system of 22 equal divisions of th octave (a.k.a. 22edo, a microtonal scale. You'll notice th bendy frets; this came from my attempt to find, by ear (matching to a synthesizer), th exact in-tune spot for each string. (Straight frets are never perfectly in tune due to irregularities in th size & type of strings & other factors.) I discovered that th irregularities & imperfections of my ears & handiwork kind of canceled out that attempt. In some places on th fretboard, this instrument is very much in tune, & in other places it isn't. For what it's worth, I've learned a lot & have done a much better job this year on a mountain dulcimer which is tuned to a just-intoned scale of overtones. More on that another day...

These two songs use a nine-note subset of 22edo called Orwell. In 22edo, there are potentially 22 orwell scales (just as in 12edo, th standard tuning of guitars & keyboards in th Western world, there are potentially 12 diatonic scales). For these two pieces I use exactly one orwell scale -- no transpositions. This is partially because th orwell scale is such an unfamiliar sound to most ears (mine included, at this point), that I wanted to start simple.

I posted these on th Xenharmonic Alliance -- a networking site for microtonal composers -- with some ideas to provoke interesting responses. I quote myself:

It is my hope that these little songs will generate some conversation. I'm up for hearing any response that they inspire, including th "constructively critical" & th simple.

Food for thought: I made these intentionally ambiguous, & I don't have a set of "answers" to all th "questions" these songs may pose. In fact, I have very few of th "questions," & would love to hear what questions these songs inspire, whether or not I'm in any special position to answer them (I may be & I may not be). Sometimes questions are more needed than answers.

Try this: Imagine that these songs come from a society that you're not familiar with. They are clearly related to modern post-industrial US of World (all th words are in English, some of th rhythms are clearly borrowed from familiar music, not to mention th guitar-voice combo) but you know that a different people (maybe in a different time -- th future? th past? or an alternative present?) made them. So consider this image: a musicologist comes to this society (let's call th place a city), sees someone with a modified guitar, walks up to him & says, "Play me a song of your people." Th musicologist presses play on th field recorder, & th musician plays two songs. During th performance of one of th songs, he sings a call & others from his city who are nearby sing a response.

I give this scenario to orient you toward my compositional intentions. When I write a piece, I don't want to give you something you already have. It's a gift, but to enjoy it, you may need to put yourself in another frame of mind. I don't mean that to sound condescending; I am sincere about this & want to help you hear my songs (& help my songs get heard).

As I've only posted that 35 minutes ago, I have not yet received replies.

So what do you think?