Ben Johnston – Suite for Microtonal Piano (1977)

Suite for Microtonal Piano (1978) is a suite for specifically microtonally tuned piano(s) by Ben Johnston written in 1977 (see also just intonation). According to Bob Gilmore the piece, “take[s] extended just intonation well beyond the point reached by Harry Partch.”

“The piano is tuned to a selection of overtones from the fifth octave of the harmonic spectrum of C. All octaves are tuned in the same scale….The lowest C (33 Hz.) can be used to tune the scale by ear. In succession, touch the nodes producing the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 11th, 13th, 17th, [and] 19th partials. Then G, D; D, A; E, B; [and] B-flat, F; are just (beatless) fifths.”

Movements

  1. Alarum
  2. Blues
  3. Etude
  4. Song
  5. Toccata

Alarum is a Shakespeare era stage direction indicating “a grand entrance” and an archaic word for a call to arms, so
“Alarum” is a fanfare.

“Blues” and “Song” are both slow movements. “Blues” uses as blue notes the minor seventh (C-B♭) and mediant (in D dorian exactly halfway between E and G). “Song” is in E phrygian.

“Etude” is a study in serial technique and six-against-five polyrhythms in which Johnston indicates “blur with pedal”. This, “clues us in that the linear intricacies are only part of the story here: the amazing swirl of overtones resulting from an atonal application of this tuning are of equal importance.”

“Toccata” features diatonic outer sections and a spikier chromatic middle section.
The piece has been recorded and released on:

Microtonal Piano by Ben Johnston (1997). Phillip Bush, piano. Koch International Classics 3-7369-2.
















benjohnston

Jos Kunst – Insecten (1966)

Joseph Petrus Johannes Maria (Jos) Kunst (Roermond, 3 January 1936 – Utrecht, 18 January 1996) was a Dutch composer and musicologist. Art grew up in Maastricht and studied French literature at the University of Groningen. On his 27th birthday he began studying music at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, successively by Joep Straesser and Ton de Leeuw. Besides his activities as a composer and as a French teacher, he was working as a lecturer in contemporary music and composition at the conservatories of Zwolle and Amsterdam. At the International Gaudeamus Competition in 1967 he received the AVRO-incentive for the piece Insects for 13 strings. Two years later, at the Gaudeamus Competition for 1969, he won the first prize with the orchestral work Arboreal. His main musical inspiration in the period up to 1975 were Anton Webern, Edgar Varèse and Iannis Xenakis. In 1975 he decided to stop composing. In 1976 he succeeded Rudolf Escher as teacher for the music of the twentieth century at the Department of Musicology of the University of Utrecht. As a musicologist he kept mainly concerned with what is called ‘cognitive musicology’: music science that seeks to describe what music does to the listener. Main musicological publications: Making sense in music: an Enquiry into the formal pragmatics of art (Dissertation, 1978), Philosophy of musicology (Martinus Nijhoff, 1988). In addition to his scientific work, he was active as a poet: he published poems in a Dutch monthly magazine in the years 1979-1988 and in 1982 appeared in the Meulenhoff compilation Nobody Will Ever Own. In 1988, he made ​​use of the possibility to retire early. From that time he wrote again, but kept to himself, unlike in the past, and as much as possible outside the organized musical life. In this period, Claude Debussy was an important source of inspiration. Jos Kunst died at age 60.

Jos_Kunst

Claude Debussy – Syrinx for solo flute (1913)

Syrinx is a piece of music for solo flute which Claude Debussy wrote in 1913. It was the first significant piece for solo flute after the Sonata in A min composed by C. P. E. Bach exactly 150 years before (1763), and it is the first such solo composition for the modern Böhm flute, perfected in 1847. It is commonly considered to be an indispensable part of any flautist’s repertoire. Many musical historians believe that “Syrinx”, which gives the performer generous room for interpretation and emotion, played a pivotal role in the development of solo flute music in the early twentieth century. Some say “Syrinx” was originally written by Debussy without barlines or breath marks. The flautist Marcel Moyse may have later added these, and most publishers publish Moyse’s edition. “Syrinx” was written as incidental music to the uncompleted play Psyché by Gabriel Mourey. It was intended to be performed offstage during the play, and was originally called “Flûte de Pan”. Since one of Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis had already been given that title, however, it was given its final name in reference to the myth of the amorous pursuit of the nymph Syrinx by the god Pan.The piece is dedicated to the flautist Louis Fleury. Syrinx has also been transposed and performed on the saxophone. It quickly became a piece of standard literature for the saxophone, and has been recorded on both the alto and soprano saxophones.