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

My Romance

Funny, I already liked the 5/4 thirds before I even knew what they exactly were…:

The arrangement is from 2005 and appeared on the album ‘Making Choices’ (2006) by the Carlo Nardozza Quintet. The melody is played with the use of harmonics on the open strings of the guitar.

From a CD-review from that time:
The last song of the album is an amazing version of ‘My Romance’, inspired by the guitarist’s collaboration with African kora player Zou Diarra: the acoustic guitar is accompanied only by toms in the distant, and this standard – just recognizable – becomes a meditation reminiscent of My Goal’s Beyond from John McLaughlin.

I will try to explain the Just Intonation ratios from the notes of the melody. The song is in the key of E Major, so this gives a 5/4 third (G#, 5th harmonic on the low E-string) and a 5/3 sixth (C#, 5th harmonic on the A-string). Other natural harmonics include the 4/3 fourth (A, 3rd harmonic on the D-string), the 3/2 fifth (B, 2nd harmonic on the B-string) and the 2/1 octave (E, 2nd harmonic on the high E-string).

For the 2nd (F#), I had two options: for the higher octave I used the 5th harmonic on the D-string which becomes a 10/9 just minor tone in relation to E as 1/1. For the lower octave I used an artificial harmonic (2nd harmonic from the 4th fret D-string) which belongs to 12ET. The last note to complete the scale is the major seventh. I picked this as an artificial 3rd harmonic from the 1st fret G-string) and also belongs to 12ET.

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)