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DDPascalDD View Drop Down
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    Posted: September 10 2016 at 14:42
I've been trying to find helpful information on the internet, but couldn't understand how exactly one can compose microtonally. How it is possible to record microtonal melodies and chords is pretty doable, but how you can get really nice sounding harmonies is unknown to me.
It seems more than just playing some weird combination of tones and then resolve the dissonances to a 'normal' chord.
So is there any general theory about how to get something out of this?

Edited by DDPascalDD - September 10 2016 at 14:43
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Polymorphia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 10 2016 at 19:52
All my experiments with microtones are mainly inspired by things like gamelan music where its really that the music adheres to modes that don't necessarily adhere to equal temperament rather than an extension of equal temperament. That can be quite pretty sometimes (check out Music From the Morning of the World: The Balinese Gamelan from the Nonesuch Explorer Series).

A lot of times I'll use it for embellishment. I'll bend a note up a quartertone instead of a semitone, which is a device used by bands like Sonic Youth and Deerhoof. A lot of early blues guitarists used to bend up between the minor and major third. I've also heard it make a regular melody or chord progression sound more tense or "unhinged."

Also, a lot of composers use it to create masses of sound. They use it to make even denser clusters or slides which the brain registers as a single mass of noise. This is fun to do too. The Darmstadt composers were all over this, but for a reference in popular music think the mass of strings towards the end of "How to Disappear Completely" by Radiohead.

Pay in mind that timbre is important in all of these cases.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 12 2016 at 08:57
Well. Listening to a shed load of Arabic music helps first.

Apart from that, the normal rules apply. Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Asund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 04 2017 at 00:53
Microtonal even-temperament and (mostly vocal) Just Intonation are harmonic. Everything else isn't - though Kyle Gann will argue differently.
 
Sounds like you're starting off on the wrong foot. What's your interest in alternate intonations?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DDPascalDD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 04 2017 at 02:04
I'm interested in making chord origressions in another way/on another level. Put to use microtonal harmony like something as this:


Here it's just chords that sound beautiful, but using this as basis for a song could sound very fresh I thought and I wonder how she actually makes these microtonal chord progressions work, that's my interest.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Asund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 04 2017 at 02:11
It's easy to alter a voice, sometimes two, over tertian even-temp tones, especially if the adjusted are quarter tones. Take the altered pitches out and it sounds pretty anyways. Or paraphrasing Elliot Carter, 'does one need to change intonation?', he didn't. I recommend Wiki'ing things like intonation, and tonality, and click through the hyperlinks. You'll be at least a few days.

Edited by Asund - January 04 2017 at 02:12
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 02:13
Or. You could pop over to Maqam world. 

Good website, it goes through some Arabic maqams - the basic building block of Arabic music. Most are microtonal. A lot of Islamic music tends to be repetitions of traditional phrases which are learnt by rote. Mind you, that's something of a generalisation, given the size of the subject. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thatfabulousalien Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 03:20
Are you interested in microtonality in classical music?
Classical music isn't dead, it's more alive than it's ever been. It's just not on MTV.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DDPascalDD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 03:26
I am, unless maybe when it is as unlistenable (after a few listens of course) as atonal music, I hope the approach is making beautiful and renewing music.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Asund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 04:25
Originally posted by DDPascalDD DDPascalDD wrote:

I am, unless maybe when it is as unlistenable (after a few listens of course) as atonal music, I hope the approach is making beautiful and renewing music.
 
 
Hehn hehn hehn, dude, you're trippin. Two names. Cowell. Ives.
 
f**k, Harry Partch if you're feeling....wild....and groovy. Sorta.


Edited by Asund - January 10 2017 at 04:27
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 05:30
It's somewhat difficult for Western ears to pick up sharp sharp and flat flats. 

If you find a recording of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer on the internet, you'll certainly hear a few sharp sharp and flat flats in there. Microtonal is interesting when you get into it. Messed around with it a bit on a fretless bass. I can't say I have an immediate use for it, but that's not to say it's useless, of course. Using the pitch bend slightly on a synth would give you (badly implemented) microtonal sounds.

Incidentally, microtonal keyboards are available but the price can be pretty staggering, and unless you're planning albums of microtonal works, the expenditure probably isn't justified. 

Edited by Davesax1965 - January 10 2017 at 05:31
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 05:33
Here's a link to Maqam world. Microtonality-R-Us.


http://www.maqamworld.com/
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thatfabulousalien Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 15:38
Originally posted by Asund Asund wrote:

Originally posted by DDPascalDD DDPascalDD wrote:

I am, unless maybe when it is as unlistenable (after a few listens of course) as atonal music, I hope the approach is making beautiful and renewing music.
 
 
Hehn hehn hehn, dude, you're trippin. Two names. Cowell. Ives.
 
f**k, Harry Partch if you're feeling....wild....and groovy. Sorta.



Ligeti's orchestral and ensemble works are often very beautiful, also Scelsi may be of interest?
Partch is one of my favorite composers, so is Ives. 

What about the whole (so called) spectral movement? Grisey, Murail, Dufourt, Harvey, Haas and Lindberg? 
All of their music utilities microtonality and the whole spectralism thing is based around the harmonic series, another thing for the OP to look into Smile 


Edited by Thatfabulousalien - January 10 2017 at 15:40
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Asund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 16:47
Well that's the whole point, he need some schoolin.
 
I like a lot of Murail. Have heard some of the others, but not a lot. Cowell and Ives, especially Cowell, were the first Am boys going outside conventional tonality and intonation, so best to start there. If not for Cowell, there would've been no Cage. (Of course, Arnold had his hand in there, too.)
 
I like Ligeti's 60s stuff. Beyond that I think he kind of cheesed....like Penderecki similarly. Xenakis stayed interesting.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thatfabulousalien Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 10 2017 at 17:02
Originally posted by Asund Asund wrote:

Well that's the whole point, he need some schoolin.
 
I like a lot of Murail. Have heard some of the others, but not a lot. Cowell and Ives, especially Cowell, were the first Am boys going outside conventional tonality and intonation, so best to start there. If not for Cowell, there would've been no Cage. (Of course, Arnold had his hand in there, too.)
 
I like Ligeti's 60s stuff. Beyond that I think he kind of cheesed....like Penderecki similarly. Xenakis stayed interesting.

Cage also took a lot of ideas from Satie and Webern too.

I love Ligeti's later works far more than his 60s actually and I don't like Penderecki's later works LOL

Xenakis is my favorite composer (so surprise), his best work though I think starts from 1974. Many of his works actually do utilize microtonal elements but it wasn't a focus of his. The early works are amazing too but once his music fully matured and grew, he became something incredible and unique. 

There is quite a bit of "beautiful music" from the spectral composers and I would also recommend Wyschnegradsky with his quarter-tone music:





Edited by Thatfabulousalien - January 10 2017 at 17:07
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Asund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 11 2017 at 03:26
I'm a little curious when someone says Xenakis is their favorite. Unless you're John Appleseed, there is another who says so, too.
 
Beautiful isn't a word I use with Schoenberg, et al, and onward......  I can dig it, but it's a different kind of experience than Brahms.
 
I'd forgotten Webern's influence on early Cage, though I didn't think, and don't see on Wiki, that he took much from him. Cage quickly moved onto other things.
 
The Wyschnegradsky is Russian, and hence essentially completely tonal, so it just doesn't have the power it might otherwise, because the tones don't combine to such mass. I like me sum phat hos, so I know ahm saying when I say mass, yo. It's better when it's has its own harmonic principles, like as I'd mentioned above: Lejaren Hiller's 5th string quartet. (I have it, but youtube doesn't.....)
 
 


Edited by Asund - January 11 2017 at 16:47
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 11 2017 at 03:38
And Donatello is my favourite Ninja Turtle but that doesn't answer Pascal's question of how you compose harmonious microtonal music 


Harmony is simple maths and it's based on trig-identities we learnt in school (but promptly forgot because we'd never use them in real life). I've posted on this subject several times before so if you're interested you can read the sequence of posts I made in this thread. Essentially two notes are harmonious when the average between them is also a note in the same musical scale (i.e, in the same key). Dissonance occurs when this average note is in a different key so one way to resolve it follows the essentially same rules as enacting a key-change modulation in any piece of music (for example by using pivots). 

Whether you are using whole tones, half-tones or quarter-tones, or diatonic or chromatic scales, only some combinations of notes will be harmonious (unlike the pentatonic scales where all note combinations are harmonious). Using diatonic scales we already know which combinations work (tritones for example) and which ones to avoid and the same is true in chromatic scales and microtonal scales using quarter tones. In Dave's example of Arabic Maqam (a quarter-tone micrononal system) only certain combinations of notes can be used to create chords (and harmony) since Maqam is a melodic system rather than a harmonic system. Suffice to say the chords that "work" in that system basically follow the same triatone rules of Western Music for exactly the same (mathematical) reason that the ancient Greeks figured out 2 thousand years ago. If the chord works then a melody composed using those note-intervals will be harmonious.

Where it all tends to get complicated is when the microtonal scales are not based upon binary divisions of an octave, but this is rare as all the world's music systems are based upon octaves and "the twelfth root of two" (or "the twenty-forth root of two" for quarter tone systems).



Edited by Dean - January 11 2017 at 04:23
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 11 2017 at 06:43
Got to agree with Dean, there. 

One caveat. "In Western music", though. Other cultures have some very strange ideas about what constitutes music. These are typically the ones using weird scales and quarter tones. 

Mind you. You can always put that stuff on the stereo and then go to work, if you have unpleasant neighbours.

True stuff about octaves. 



Edited by Davesax1965 - January 11 2017 at 06:45
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DDPascalDD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 11 2017 at 09:52
Thanks all, this must be enough useful information to check out for a while since I'm indeed completely new to this stuff.
When I started this topic, I was first looking for a way to compose music which uses microtonality but is pleasant at first hearing (or maybe a few) for "normal" western ears, but I'm still not sure if that's a paradox in itself. The Wyschnegradsky etudes come close, but it's actually the atonality which disturbs the beauty. Though I found some of the chord progressions in the video I posted truly beautiful at first hearing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 12 2017 at 05:38
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Got to agree with Dean, there.
I'm not convinced that you do Dave. [I also question your perception of other culture's relative strangeness, what is and is not weird and what to you constitutes music, but that's by-the-by].

Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

One caveat. "In Western music", though. Other cultures have some very strange ideas about what constitutes music. These are typically the ones using weird scales and quarter tones.
Ah, no. I neither said nor implied "In Western music". What I said applies to all the world's music systems, including those with quarter tones. The clue is in the phrase "quarter tone" surely.

A music system that is constructed of quarter tones must contain all the half-tones and all the whole-tones of "Western music". That is immutable and inescapable.

In a half-tone system there are 12 notes in each octave. This gives us a total of 2,048 note combinations to make scales from (starting with just a 1 note scale, of which there are 12 possible scales) and ending with a full 12-note scale (of which there is only one possible scale). From that we generally limit ourselves to only 7 of those 12 notes and starting from the same root-note the total number of possible combinations without repeated notes is now reduced to 462 different scales. Some of these will be weird and wacky because the interval between two adjacent notes will be either too short or two long and as a consequence sound less pleasant than scales that have a more restrictive interval between notes. If we further limit that interval to 2 half-steps then (without boring anyone with the maths) this gives us a grand total of 14 possible scales, which we recognise as the 7 modes of the major scale and the 7 modes of the melodic minor scale. Practically all western popular music is composed using just one of those 14.

In a quarter-tone system everything increases somewhat exponentially but the same "rules" apply. Now we have 8,388,608 note combinations because our bag of notes is now 24 instead of 12. Exactly like Western system, the Arabic system limits itself to using only 7 notes from that bag of 24 and these scales they call maqam. The total number of maqam that can be constructed is therefore 1000,947 but exactly like the Western system some of these will be weird and wacky (even to Arabic ears) because the interval between two adjacent notes will be either too short or too long, and as a consequence sound less pleasant than scales that have a more restrictive interval between notes. So, in a similar way to the 14 Western modes (and for exactly the same reason), the Arabic musicians further restrict themselves to using a maximum of 3 half-steps between adjacent notes (which equates to 6 quarter-steps) and to even further limit the number of possible scales they do not use quarter-steps between notes either and rarely use 1-steps,  which means the only quarter interval used is -step ... 

[ is actually half of 1 so the intervals are "1 and its half" and "1 and its half". Essentially that's 4 different step intervals in a 24-tone system compared to 2 different step intervals in a 12-tone system - there is beauty in music and there is beauty in mathematics but very little in this world is as beautiful as the relationship between mathematics and music... and you can quote me on that.] 

This reduces the total number of usable maqamat considerably - I cannot be arsed to calculate exactly how many that produces but the Maqam World site you linked to says that there are only 30 to 40 widely used maqamat and I see no reason to argue with that. All bar one of those employ these , , 1 and 1 step intervals (maqam mustaar uses a 1 step on its second note). Also, because some of those maqam only use half and whole-tone intervals between notes they will be the same as the 14 Western modes (for example maqam ajam sounds the same as the Western major scale because it has the same half-step/whole-step pattern).

Quarter-tone music is only sounds weird because you are unaccustomed to hearing it.
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:


Mind you. You can always put that stuff on the stereo and then go to work, if you have unpleasant neighbours.
Discordant and dissonant music can be produced using half-tone scales and Western instruments so I fail to see the point you are trying to make here. Wink


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