MeantoneBlues – a review

RecensieOosthuizenThe organ secularised with sophistication

On Sunday evening, July 5th 2015, something special happened in the Great Church of Oosthuizen: with their program MeantoneBlues, Guus Janssen and Melle Weijters led the religious organ back to its mundane origins. Or, put differently: ‘Your roots are in the mean streets, that ‘ll never change’, says Donald Fagen in ‘I took you out of the ghetto’ (Sunken Condos, 2012).

A year before, on September 28 2014, they successfully performed a similar program called ‘MicroBlues’ at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, in which they explored the possibilities of the 31-tone system. The attentiveness of Herman van Leuven, member of the local commission, connected it to Oosthuizen. The vocal intonation and meantone tuning turned the organ in Oosthuizen into a virtual vocalist in compositions by Miles Davis, Ellington and Hendrix.

Even more sophisticatedly, the players realised the endearing rawness of the vocal blues style on their instruments. As a guitarist, Weijters specialises in the so-called microtonality: playing with very small intervals. Jansen took advantage of similar magnitudes which have been slumbering for ages in the meantone tuning of the instrument of Oosthuizen.

The sixteenth-century Estampie, now as an organ solo, appeared to be from the Fleming Jan de Macque, who, as Giovanni de Macque, was a hit in Gesualdo’s circles in Naples. In Downhome Blues, Weijters demonstrated a harp guitar from 1917, a kind of theorbo with free resonating strings.

Both musicians showed an overwhelming virtuosity, in such a way that by the end of the concert a magical atmosphere was created from Weijters’s Texels Kebab seamlessly blending into Hendrix’s Red House flowing into a sheer endless coda over Lonely Woman by Ornette Coleman.

An excellently dosed sound feast in a proportionally decorated Great Church with an attentive and enthusiastic public, deserving a continuation!

http://www.oudehollandsekerken.nl/data/Bulletin_2015_81.pdf

Lucid Meantone Guitar

This is my old Fender stratocaster which is with me for about 20 years but which got unused due to my microtonal needs… And now it’s back with a new neck for the upcoming concert ‘MeantoneBlues’!

Lucid Meantone Guitar
The neck showcases the classical meantone fretting in standard tuning, EADGBE. It can be seen as a subset of the 31-tone tuning, hence the positionmarkers according to my personal system.

meantone vs 31et guitars

 

The Bohlen Pierce Clarinet – a Very Short Introduction

The Bohlen Pierce Clarinet – a Very Short Introduction
source

The Bohlen-Pierce clarinet project was initialised by prof. Georg Hajdu at Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg. The Bohlen-Pierce clarinet (BP clarinet) uses an alternative harmonic scale and was first built in 2007 by the Canadian clarinetist and woodwind maker Stephen Fox, Toronto.

TBPlogo010he Bohlen-Pierce scale (BP scale) was discovered in the 1970s and 1980s by three persons independently from each other. The first one to investigate the scale was the German microwave and communication engineer Heinz Bohlen in Hamburg. Several years later, another microwave and communication electronics engineer, John Robinson Pierce, found the same scale in California, USA. Also, the Dutch software engineer Kees van Prooijen worked on the same stuff.

In difference to the traditional western music scale which is based on the octave, divided into 12 more or less even steps, the Bohlen-Pierce scale uses the duodecime as its returning interval, dividing it into 13 steps, according to various mathematical considerations. The result is an alternative harmonic system that opens new possibilities to contemporary and futuristic music.

In March 2008, the Bohlen Pierce clarinet was premiered by Stephen Fox and Tilly Kooyman (Ensemble tranSpectra) in Guelph, Canada. The pieces „Wanderer“ and „Calypso“ for two BP clarinets were performed.

The very first concert in Europe presenting Bohlen-Pierce clarinets, with a program containing works by Hamburg composers, took place on 13th June 2008 in Hamburg Germany. The interpreters were, amongst others, the clarinetists Anna Bardeli and Nora-Louise Müller. Pieces were by Hajdu, Hamel, Lemke, Stahnke, Schwenk).

Please visit these websites to learn more about this fascinating scale!

http://www.huygens-fokker.org/bpsite/
http://www.sfoxclarinets.com/bpclar.htm
http://www.noralouisemuller.de/

Soundpainting

M. Weijters Sound PaintingRecently, I opened a Pop Up sale and exhibition with Dutch artist Borg de Nobel. I used a looper as my canvas and I ‘painted’ with the 31 tones available on my microtonal guitar.

I don’t have a recording of the whole improvisation, so I only present the finished painting, straight off the looper. Enjoy!

Please visit www.saatchiart.com/borgdenobel for more information about Borg and her paintings.

Picture by Adrienne Norman
www.adriennenorman.com

 

Four Enharmonic Madrigals – Nicola Vicentino (1555)

Out of curiosity and as part of my study of the 31-tone equal temperament I created these renditions with a software instrument.

vicentinoThe enharmonic vocal compositions of Nicola Vicentino are historical curiosities, in which the sixteenth-century quest for expansion of tonal resources reached its limits. Although they inspired several other attempts at introducing the enharmonic genus into musical compositions, they are unique in their highly personal interpretation of this genus, and the consistency and boldness with which this interpretation is applied. This edition collects four pieces (three of them incomplete, unfortunately), which were included in Vicentino’s treatise L’antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica (Rome 1555). One is on Latin text, three on Italian.

(source: diapason.xentonic.org/cm/cm033.html)

MonoNeon | “Nude Descending A Front Porch”

What started out as an idea for a collaboration on a facebook chat, ended up on the Album ‘Southern Visionary’ by Dywane Thomas, Jr aka MonoNeon.  Available on iTunes and Bandcamp.

“Nude Descending A Front Porch” brings back the retro with a stomping pulse. I feel like a Daft Punk video should accompany this one.
Album review at ‘The Equal Ground

me and my Microtonality

‘it gives me freedom, I can access the notes in between the cracks, it is good for real improvisation and it sounds great’ are just a few of my answers to the question how I came into the world of fretless guitar. I didn’t know much about tuning theories or temperaments, I only learned about the 12 tone equal temperament. Not why and how, only that. Microtones are only to be found in Indian Raga and Arabic Maqam music is a common thought here in the Dutch academic music system, and you should go to the Rotterdam World Music Academy to study it.

My main interest at that time was Jazz and by the time I got interested in the fretless guitar, I already had a Bachelor of Arts. But I started to listen to Arabic and Indian music and even bought a book or two about the musical practices of these regions. Alas, I never became a real student of this material.

Then I found out about Joe Maneri whose recorded music is informed by his microtonal theories and compositions which use 72 equal temperament, the equal division of the octave in 72 parts, although he doesn’t confine himself to that temperament in performance: “We don’t use theories when we play. We can’t. We are those things. If they took X-rays of us, you would see all of the music inside”. This idea really inspired me, I contacted the Boston Microtonal Society and ordered his book ‘Preliminary Studies in the Virtual Pitch Continuum’, which explores this 72 equal temperament. But alas, I never became a real student of his material.

I wanted to wait for my 10-string to be finished to continue my quest. Since the tuning of the open strings will be based on pure intervals, Just Intonation might be the next step.

Shall I ever become a real student of this material?

to be continued…

InspiRamon!

In an earlier post, I wrote :

In this period [early 2006] my first electric guitar, a Maya Strat copy, brutally lost her frets. Since that moment, she has never seen a stage, recording session or rehearsal room; a ‘personal affair’ we might say…

Well, I must admit, this is not completely true! I found a ‘home’ recording of myself dubbing over a soundcollage from an internetfriend (also a jazz guitar student at that time, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina). We were both moving away from a traditional approach to something new, unknown…

(I’m more on the left channel, he’s more on the right)

Mel’s Gibson

Since 2009 I own this beautiful 1917 the Gibson harpguitar. Initially, I borrowed this instrument for the recording of When the Caged bird Sings’ but afterwards I couldn’t do anything else than just buy it.

Here’s an excerpt from our CD.

‘When the caged bird sings’ is an anthology of poems by the 19th century Afro-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), selected and set to music by vocalist Roderik Povel.

There are many stories to be told about harp guitars in general (here), Gibson harp guitars (here) and my instrument in particular. There is a very amazing picture gallery which shows Gibson harp guitars in the hands of their original owners, go take a look!

Every time I look at those images, I ask myself the following questions: would it be possible to recognize my very own guitar? Can I trace back (parts of) its history? What did it sound like in those days and how did it survive in such a great shape for almost a century?

One day, I was at the Amsterdam Public Library browsing the guitar history books. First, I opened up ‘Acoustic guitars and other fretted instruments: a photographic history’ by George Gruhn & Walter Carter. Quickly, I scanned the pages. And yes, there were harp guitars, but no, it was not mine. A reviewer wrote: ‘The chapter ends with two pages on the harp-guitar, again probably a true reflection of their (lack of) general importance.

And then, there was this book: ‘the Chinery Collection – 150 years of American Guitars’. Easily found the pages on the harp guitars and there she was, in full glory… I recognised every scratch and every dint, no doubt about it, I found her!

So know I knew the guitar was part of the Chinery Collection. But who was Mr. Chinery and how did the guitar end up in my hands? Many questions remain unanswered at this point, but there are some clues on this page at harpguitars.net. An interview with Scott Chinery in his guitar room – including a glance of my guitar – can be seen here.

definition

fret 1 |fret|
verb ( fretted , fretting )
1 [ intrans. ] be constantly or visibly worried or anxious : she fretted about the cost of groceries | [with clause ] I fretted that my fingers were so skinny.
• [ trans. ] cause (someone) worry or distress.

2 [ trans. ] gradually wear away (something) by rubbing or gnawing : the bay’s black waves fret the seafront.
• form (a channel or passage) by rubbing or wearing away.

• [ intrans. ] flow or move in small waves : soft clay that fretted between his toes.

noun [in sing. ] chiefly Brit.
a state of anxiety or worry.

ORIGIN Old English fretan [devour, consume,] of Germanic origin; related to Dutch vreten and German fressen, and ultimately to FOR- and EAT .


fret 2
noun
1 Art & Architecture: a repeating ornamental design of interlaced vertical and horizontal lines, such as the Greek key pattern.
2 Heraldry: a device of narrow diagonal bands interlaced through a diamond.
verb ( fretted , fretting ) [ trans. ] [usu. as adj. ] ( fretted)
decorate with fretwork : intricately carved and fretted balustrades.
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French frete ‘trelliswork’ and freter (verb), of unknown origin.

 


fret 3
noun
each of a sequence of bars or ridges on the fingerboard of some stringed musical instruments (such as the guitar), used for fixing the positions of the fingers to produce the desired notes.

 

verb ( fretted , fretting ) [ trans. ] [often as adj. ] ( fretted)
1 provide (a stringed instrument) with frets.
2 play (a note) while pressing the string down against a fret : fretted notes.

DERIVATIVES
fretless adjective

ORIGIN early 16th cent.: of unknown origin.