Tetradecatonic Music On The Dave Smith Instruments OB-6

This video, via Kris Lennox, captures a performance of his microtonal piece for Dave Smith Instruments OB-6, Geothria.

Here’s what Lennox has to say about it:

The work is tetradecatonic (14-note scale). Each line/space on the score = one quarter tone. The note sitting below the first line = root (i.e the lines are a floating/relativistic system, as opposed to a fixed-pitch system).

If the ear isn’t familiar with 24-TET, it can sound very wrong. Personally, I love it. The harmonies are impossible to achieve within our 12-tone system.

They haven’t (yet) been codified to emotion (e.g ‘major = happy’). This can yield an interesting experience for the listener, as the cultural harmonic associations with emotions doesn’t yet exist.

10 thoughts on “Tetradecatonic Music On The Dave Smith Instruments OB-6

  1. I would add though that 24-ET music is close to what actually happens in the Muslim world (the “Maqam” system); and there is nothing remotely experimental about it. It sounds nothing at all like this, because the only areas where the “quartertones” happen is in some form of cutting minor thirds in half (ie: a pair of 3/4 tones, usually to fill the spaces in a pentatonic core scale).

    It’s a little more complex than that, because intervals are additionally slightly adjusted to be “Just” (match physical harmonics). Very few new chords use the “in-between” intervals. “Chording” often even happens on adjacent notes like “A B” where interval in between them is adjusted until there is a beating-free timbre (ie: the main pleasing characteristic of a “power chord” or simple octaves)

    Think of all black keys on a piano, with a pair of red keys in between E/F and B/C, and the various transpositions of that scale. I have a pair of quartertone guitars, and have built some MIDI filters for being able to slip in quarterflat accidentals. This is not nearly as strange sounding as you might think. It’s more like hearing “exotic” “middle eastern” scales that sound a lot more authentic. The music actually sounds more traditional, and less experimental.

    1. How can you say that a just-intonation tuning is equivalent to an equal tempered tuning?

      That just fundamentally makes no sense.

      Are you confusing the number of notes in the scale with temperament?

      I’d agree with the idea that alternate tunings aren’t really ‘experimental’ – but they represent vast unexplored possibilities for music.

      1. Arabic maqam use JI intervals as their theoretical basis, as it descends directly from Greek tetrachordal theory. If playing the unfretted oud, you play those intervals. As with voice. When you get to fretted instruments to play the most common scales using frets that go straight across the fretboard you might simplify things with an ET that is close to what intervals you use, and if you are good you work with finger pressure to get the intonation just right. Western fretted instruments settled on 12 frets. Arabic on 24. Turkish on 17.

        So 12:11, an exceptionally common interval, is 150.6 cents. Your theoretical 150 cent fret is good enough for sure and it’s not going to be 150 cents anyway within the limits of manufacturing and playing, it’s up to the skill of the player not the luthier here. Likewise 11:8, 551.32 cents is playable with a fret that’s around 550 cents. Just as the fret at 700 cents can play a very good 3:2, 701.95 cents. We also get to use 11:9, 347.41 cents, and 15:13, 247.74 cents, when we use a 24 fretted system.

        I don’t agree at all though with Fielding’s view that Lennox is just doing something like Arabic music. That’s not what he’s doing. His 14 of 24 scale has nothing to do with tetrachordal Arabic scales at all. I’d also recommend he try some other refrettings for his guitar. Myself I have axe’s fretted to 11, 13, 14, 17, and 23. All of these much more interesting than 24.

      2. there are also vast unexplored possibilities in fm when not choosing the right intervals.
        it results in a lot of useless noise and plim plim speaq music ?
        for world music things: why not just take the pentatonic?
        everybody can agree on that 😉

  2. They haven’t (yet) been codified to emotion (e.g ‘major = happy’). This can yield an interesting experience for the listener, as the cultural harmonic associations with emotions doesn’t yet exist.

    to get cultural harmonic association this would need to be popular 😉 , won’t happen.
    most of the time it just makes me think – man, stop smoking opium ?

  3. Maybe someone might think about the problems that arise when using analog synthesis, whose waveforms have harmonics that are perfect in pitch and phase, with a microtonal temperament. It’s going to sound different than using real physical musical instruments, whose sounds have partials that can be any relationship with the fundamental.

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