Microtonal Music

A special area of my artistic creativity for over 35 years is the research in microtonal music, which is an extension of our current tonal system at intervals that are smaller than the semitone, so third-and quarter-tones.
To explore these possibilities and to develop a new musical language, I commissioned the construction of the Enharmonic Pipe Organ in 1978 after plans by Prof. Dr. Martin Vogel of the University of Bonn, where I studied musicology at that time.

Classical music also contains micro intervals in chord progressions in the way, that pitches are adjusted to receive chords in “just intonation”.
In our modern tempered twelve tone system the listener psychologically corrects the intonation with his “inner ear when listening to instruments with fixed pitches like piano and organ “. A simple example shows it, the chord progression of C major, E major and F minor , in the upper voice G, G#, Ab.
First the “normal” tempered chord progression. If you don’t fix your concentration on the upper voice, you have the feeling as if the upper line would ascend slightly, which in fact is not the case, because in tempered tuning G# and Ab are evened to one and the same pitch, thus G# istmade slightly higher, Ab lower. Both tones are played on the same key on a keyboard.

We listen, compared with oriental tonal systems, in a simpler pattern, which was necessary for the development of polyphony. The difference between a diatonic and a chormatic half-tone step means a change in experiential quality.

the tone step A zu Bb (frequency ratio 15/16) sounds longingly, but matches with listening habites, whereas the smaller chromatic tone step  A to A# (24/25) sounds almost wistful.

Experience showed, that a chord sequence, changing between sharps and flats, does not loose its identity when played on a tempered instrument.
This showed, that my musical thinking stood under the spell of the 12tone fifth-circle.
Here an example of a typical romantic chord progression played in just intonation. The pitch adjustments have a certain expression and charm, but don’t change the fundamental musical “sense”, you would not miss them if this progression was played in tempered tuning:


First the “normal” tempered chord progression. If you don’t fix your concentration on the upper voice, you have the feeling as if the upper line would ascend slightly, which in fact is not the case, because in tempered tuning G# and Ab are evened to one and the same pitch, thus G# istmade slightly higher, Ab lower. Both tones are played on the same key on a keyboard. Half tone step diatonic/chromatic:

Here the same chord progression in just intonation, the quarter-tone difference in the upper voice becomes audible, but the small tone step is not felt as a distinctive interval, but as a pitch correction, which shows that our psychological interval-limit is the half-tone steps. C-E-Fm in just intonation:

Experience showed, that a chord sequence, changing between sharps and flats, does not loose its identity when played on a tempered instrument.
This showed, that my musical thinking stood under the spell of the 12tone fifth-circle.
Here an example of a typical romantic chord progression played in just intonation. The pitch adjustments have a certain expression and charm, but don’t change the fundamental musical “sense”, you would not miss them if this progression was played in tempered tuning

Here a fragment of a Chaconne exposing the quarter-tone step:

Here a sort of impressionistic chord progression switching between sharp and flat tones:

With our western ears, small intervals below the half-tone step are mostly heard as ornamentation, as special colour etc.
My ambition was and is to integrate micro intervals as a distinctive construction element in the sense, that those intervals play an important role in the essence of a piece.
So I wrote a piece, which begins with a quarter tone motive, the Paraphrase on the advent choral “O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf”:

In 1999 three of my enharmonic works for chorus and Enharmonic pipe organ were presented in a concert with the choir ‘Capella Piccola “from Neuss in St. Peter’s Canisius in Cologne Buchforst.
Here excerpts
Choir piece “O komm Immanuel”:

Vocalise for soprano and organ:

Choir piece “Wie die Sonne sich erhebt”:

Chori piece “Es kommt ein Schiff gefahren”:

Scherzo enarmonico:

Here is a video recording with the Enharmonic Organ for Japanese Television, broadcasted on BS ASAHI on february 9th 2008 in the concert hall of the Prayner Conservatory Vienna with my “Danse macabre”. Instead of the special keyboard, the two normal keyboards are played four-handed, making the quarter tone configurations playable. Danse macabre:

The CD “Celestial Gardens” has been recorded in acoustically “Just Intonation”, which means that the instruments were tuned accordingly, which made it possible to use micro-intervals in a meditative tonal music. The idea was to expand meditative music through a whole new, unfamiliar element, without irritating too much the listening habits of “normal”, ie, not specialized music lovers. The charm of micro-intervals for me is among others the fact that they allow a new experience, because they are out of our culturally conditioned listening habits.

In the videos here only a few intervals are a bit strange, in the cromorne passage of Danse médiévale the interval jump between the septimal minor third 6/7 and the minor third 5/6 is characteristic, in the Pavane on the enharmonic tetrachord I make audible and stress the step between the two intervals immediately . In Vocalise the quasi-sliding (glissando) quality of the quarter tone scale is used to express a plaintive mood (“Lamentation of Creation”) .
Videos on Youtube:
Danse médievale
Pavane on the enharmonic tetrachord
Vocalise

Die Musik In my music for the celtic myth of “Eideen” I used a quarter-tone motive for the illustration of the rainbow coloured palace:
The rainbow coloured palace

Thanks to different organ sample sounds including reed stops and also tubular belles I could create “Carillon”, which derives from a motive containing quarter-tones: