A Nice Piece in Seventeen Tone Equal Temperament

I know from personal experience that seventeen tone equal temperament (seventeen equally spaced tones per octave) can be a challenging tuning. It sometimes comes across as harsh and dissonant. However, it also has a softer side. I think the producers of this piece did an excellent job of showing how pleasant music can emerge from what might seem like an unpromising tuning system. I think their choice of instrument and style is a good match for the unique possibilities of this particular tuning.

Seventeen Dragon Dreams (Music and Video by Sethares and Crowly)

Here is one of my compositions in seventeen tone equal temperament.


Impressions on a Painting by Bosch

Tryptych (outer wings) of Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch

I participated in the Delian Suite Four last year. The project involved composing works for bassoon that are based on one of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. I composed a short piece for piano, cello and bassoon. It was performed in June, 2008 at Angoulême, France. Below is the link to the soundfile. (Please note, this is a computerised rendition. I don't have a live recording at this time. Also, the tuning is twelve tone equal temperament. It is not a microtonal piece.)

Impressions on a painting by Bosch by Daniel Thompson

See also this composition's page at the Delian website.


Canon in J (Bohlen Pierce Scale)

Here is an attempt to reinterpret Pachelbel's famous Canon in D in the less famous Bohlen-Pierce scale. Bohlen-Pierce is a very exotic and experimental scale that is not based on the octave. Instead it involves dividing the tritave (a 3/1 frequency ratio instead of the octave's 2/1 frequency ratio) into thirteen equally spaced intervals. Why thirteen? Because this division results in an unusual scale that reduces dissonance when played with instruments that favor odd harmonics, such as the clarinet and the panpipe. In fact, special clarinets exist for the performance of Bohlen-Pierce music. (See this site for an example.)

Nonoctave music like this can be pretty strange and take a while to get used. We are so used to hearing music based on octaves that our brains can find it hard to make sense of this kind of deviation from the norm. I found that watching this video several times helped me to make sense of it.


A Rondo in Minor Modes for Two Pianos in Nineteen Tone Equal Temperament

Nineteen tone equal temperament (nineteen equally spaced notes per octave instead of the usual twelve) is a popular choice for microtonal composers. It has major and minor triads that are closer to just intonation than in twelve tone equal temperament. It is generally regarded as a more consonant tuning than standard twelve tone equal temperament.

Personally, I find Nineteen tone equal temperament to be somewhat unsettling to work with. Its fifth and major third are both flatter than purely tuned intervals and I usually prefer major thirds that are sharper than purely tuned (5/4) and closer to the Pythagorean major third (81/64).

In any case, I wanted to experiment with this temperament. I came up with a piece for two pianos that could actually be played in real life if the two pianos were tuned to share the 19 tones per octave. I know this is an awkward way to perform, but this is actually done successfully on occasion during concerts. I decided to explore this temperament's darker side. Here is my Rondo in minor modes for two pianos in nineteen tone equal temperament.

See also my Nocturne for two pianos in seventeen tone equal temperament.