Aug 132017

A brief compilation of definitions, perspectives and practices on the topic of xenharmonic music…

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ivor Darreg

He coined the term “xenharmonic”, designed and built many original microtonal musical instruments, and wrote voluminous amounts of material about various musical tunings. Perhaps his most important contribution to music theory was his idea that different tunings exhibit different “moods”.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Xenharmonic Music

Xenharmonic music is that which uses a tuning system which neither conforms to nor closely approximates the common 12-tone equal temperament. The term xenharmonic was coined by Ivor Darreg, from xenia (Greek ξενία), “hospitable,” and xenos (Greek ξένος) “foreign.” He stated it as being “intended to include just intonation and such temperaments as the 5-,7-, and 11-tone, along with the higher-numbered really-microtonal systems as far as one wishes to go.”

John Chalmers, author of “Divisions of the Tetrachord”, writes: “The converse of this definition is that music which can be performed in 12-tone equal temperament without significant loss of its identity is not truly microtonal.” Thus xenharmonic music may be distinguished from the more common twelve-tone equal temperament, as well as some use of just intonation and equal temperaments, by the use of unfamiliar intervals, harmonies, and timbres.

Elaine Walker | NewMusicBox

What Is Xenharmonic Music?

“Xenharmonic” is the generic term that we use to refer to scales that have more, or less, notes per octave than our standard twelve-tone tuning. The pitches in xenharmonic scales are either too close together or too far apart to fit any familiar melody we’ve ever known. However, it is possible to write new music with new harmonic relationships that humankind has never heard before.

Elaine Walker is an electronic musician, microtonal composer, and builds new types of music keyboards. She is also the author of a physics/philosophy book, Matter Over Mind: Cosmos, Chaos, and Curiosity.

Xenharmonic Music Introduction and Tutorial | Brendan Byrnes

Introduction to xenharmonic/microtonal music concepts, tuning, and the harmonic series. Analysis of “Kaleidoscopic”. Music and tutorial by Brendan Byrnes.

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 Posted by at 1:50 pm
Jun 222017

Some exciting news this week for Xen-Arts visitors is a new nine-tracker album from our friend in all things Xen, Sevish, aptly entitled Harmony Hacker.

As we’ve grown to expect from the suite of past Sevish records, the tracks are all expertly crafted, with excellent sound-designs, mixing and nice sequencing that encourages those listeners curious about the exotic-sonics often associated with microtonal and xenharmonic music forms to listen straight through, relishing the variety of alternative intonations presented.

A wide stylistic and intonational range is explored across the record starting with ORBITAL, which features the Bohlen-Pierce scale, infectious grooves, percussion layers, rhythmic gating, as well a nice vocoder part.

Next is the composer’s favorite, the Drum-n-Bass infused, ASK YOURSELF, that uses three different microtunings: a pentatonic octave-based subharmonic-series fragment: 10:9:8:7:6:5, Scott Dakota’s synchronized-beating Supermariner tuning, and Semaphore; all microtunings with a xen-math sonic twist that places the sound well outside of the confines of the usual 12-tone-equal-temperament. Brilliant lead-shreds and breakdowns abound along the thrilling journey. A+ percussion composition on this track.

The third track, SAME OLD, again features the 10:9:8:7:6:5 pentatonic, but also a harmonic-series section: 8:9:10:11:12:13:14:15:16. Block chord harmonies are hacked here to good effect over high-energy D-n-B grooves and sumptuous subs, where the built-in voice leading structures inherent to octave-based harmonic-series sections create unique voicings from any starting point in the scale.

On GLEAM, excellent microchromatic harmonic progressions are rendered in ED2-22 (22 tone equal temperament) over D-n-B beats with a decidedly 8-bit game-sound aesthetic. Mind and ear are taken on a aural journey into the deep-zones of Xen on a track that embodies the aesthetic of the album title.

We’re treated to another excursion into ED2-22 intonational territories on WE CAN’T BE BLAMED, featuring compelling melodics, found-vocals over lively arps, breaks and deep swinging beats.

The album’s sequence of xenharmonic vistas opens up next with excellent trilling (thrilling) soloistics, textures and further hacked harmonics on the ambient-soundscape-ish FREATHY, featuring TOP Blackwood [10], with the ending rendered in a 1 3 7 9 11 dekany.

Sega-sonics permeate the game-sound proceedings in VIDYA, as well as exotic-melodics, harmonics, scapes and arps, rendered in glorious ED2-10 vivid-sound xenorama (equal division of 2/1 into 10 equal parts). Excellent breaks – at breakneck speeds – as well as slick rapid-fire percussion de/crescendos abound. Listening to this track, it occurs that xen-harmonies are an excellent potential complementary future for gaming music composition.

The microtuning from La Monte Young’s, The Well-Tuned Piano, provides the just intonation flavor on the excellent D-n-B stepper, Midnight Cascade, where super-smooth melodics, harmonic textures and sub-sonics make one glad to have their harmonies and musical preconceptions hacked by the artist known as Sevish, and the outro that starts around 4:25 is an exquisite sonic delight to hear. Among my personal faves on the record.

The jazzy vocoded vibes of SO THANKFUL – microtuned to a ten-toned Blackwood subset of 15-equal – are a great showcase of the beautiful possibilities of Xen-Harmony. Great positive energies released here over excellent percussion composition.

Read about the release on the Sevish web:

Get the record on the Sevish Bandcamp page:

Harmony Hacker (2017)

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 Posted by at 9:27 pm