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Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media

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File:Easley Blackwood - 21 Notes, mm.1-6.png
Easley Blackwood's Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media, "21 Notes", mm.1–6. About this sound Play 
Easley Blackwood's notation system for 24 equal temperament. About this sound Play 
Easley Blackwood's[1] notation system for 21 equal temperament: intervals are notated similarly to those they approximate and there are different enharmonic equivalents. About this sound Play 

Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media, Op. 28, is a set of pieces in various microtonal equal temperaments composed and released on LP in 1980 by American composer Easley Blackwood, Jr.

Paraphrased from the CD liner notes: In the late 1970s, Prof. Blackwood won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to investigate the harmonic and modal properties of microtonal tunings. The project culminated in the Microtonal Etudes, composed as illustrations of the tonal possibilities of all the equal tunings from 13 to 24 notes to the octave.[2] He was intrigued by, "finding conventional harmonic progressions," in unconventional tunings.[3] "What I was particularly interested in was chord progressions that would give a sensation either of modal coherence or else of tonality. That is to say you can actually identify subdominants, dominants, tonics, and keys."[4]

Blackwood likened the task to writing a "sequel" to The Well-Tempered Clavier.

The Twelve Microtonal Etudes were re-released on CD in 1994,[2] accompanied by two additional compositions of Blackwood's in tunings he explored in the Etudes: Fanfare in 19-note Equal Tuning, Op. 28a, and Suite for Guitar in 15-note Equal Tuning, Op. 33. The fanfare, like the etudes, was performed by the composer on Polyfusion synthesizer. The suite was performed by guitarist Jeffrey Kust on an acoustic guitar with a modified fretboard.

Videos[edit | edit source]

See for instance

Description: “ "This tuning contains diatonic scales in which the major second spans three chromatic degrees, and the minor second two. Triads are smooth, but the scale sounds slightly out of tune because the leading tone seems low with respect to the tonic. Diatonic behavior is virtually iden­tical to that of 12-note tuning, but chromatic behavior is very different. For example, a perfect fourth is divisible into two equal parts, while an augmented sixth and a diminished seventh sound identical. The Erude is in a sonata form where the first theme is diatonic and the second is chromatic. The development modulates entirely around the circle of nineteen fifths. An extended coda employs both diatonic and chro­matic elements." -Easley Blackwood”
Description: “"This tuning is best thought of as a combination of four intertwined diminished seventh chords. Since 12-note tuning can be regarded as a combination of three diminished seventh chords, it is plain that the two tunings have elements in common. The most obvious difference in the way the two tunings sound and work is that triads in 16-note tuning, although recognizable, are too discordant to serve as the final harmony in cadences. Keys can still be established by successions of altered subdominant and dominant harmonies, however, and the Etude is based mainly upon this property. The fundamental consonant harmony employed is a minor triad with an added minor seventh." -Easley Blackwood”
Description: “"This tuning also contains elements in common with 12-note tuning as it is a combina­tion of three intertwined whole-tone scales. However, perfect fifths are so out of tune here that even seventh chords are disturbingly dis­cordant. Hence, the harmonic vocabulary of the Etude consists mainly of altered chords in which most of the notes come from one of the three whole tone scales. Even these harmonies are picantly discordant enough to require elaborate overlays of parts to sound acceptable." -Easley Blackwood”
Description: “"13 notes: The most alien tuning of all: so disso­nant that no three-note combination sounds like a major or minor triad. Yet even this tuning contains a strange mode best described as "sub-minor." The first four bars of the Etude are an arrangement of this mode into consecutive thirds — a motif that recurs later in two trans­posed variations. The rest of the piece is com­prised of chromatic resolutions of complex altered chords." - Easley Blackwood ”

The descriptions here are from his composer's notes

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Douglas Keislar; Easley Blackwood; John Eaton; Lou Harrison; Ben Johnston; Joel Mandelbaum; William Schottstaedt (Winter, 1991). "Six American Composers on Nonstandard Tunnings ", p.190, Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 176–211.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Microtonal Compositions (Media notes). Easley Blackwood. Cedille Records. 1994. CDR 90000 018. 
  3. Myles Leigh Skinner (2007). Toward a Quarter-tone Syntax: Analyses of Selected Works by Blackwood, Haba, Ives, and Wyschnegradsky, p.46. ISBN 9780542998478.
  4. "Easley Blackwood: The Composer in Conversation with Bruce Duffie", BruceDuffie.com.

Further reading[edit | edit source]



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