American Festival of Microtonal Music, May 21, 1997.

American Festival of Microtonal Music 
Day #2: “Jewel”
Columbia University’s St. Paul’s Chapel
New York, N.Y. May 21, 1997

Day 2 of AFMM’s MicroMay began with a transcription of Andrea Gabrieli’s Vezzosa Filli, a piece for double quartet of singers. The resonant St. Paul’s Chapel (at least a couple of seconds of reverb) was an additional instrument, reinforcing the music with a glow. Vezzosa Filli was perfect for this space.

sopranos – Meredith Borden,Piera F. Paine
altos – Adria Quinones, Elizabeth Lee
tenors – Brendan Glynn, Orlando Colon,
basses – Gabriel Mendlow, Andrew Clateman

Three pieces by John Dowland: Lachrimae, The Frog Galliard, and Forlorn Hope Fancy were performed by Wim Hoogewerf. Dowland’s “personal tuning” uses perfect ji thirds and fifths yet still contains some intervals that enrich and color (IMHO) the tuning. Like the Gabrieli, the ambient St. Paul’s contributed to the performance.

just intonation guitar – Wim Hoogewerf

Johnny Reinhard’s Eye of Newt is another of his works in polymicrotonality – where more then one tuning is used. His technique of using more then one tuning creates frequent unexpected changes in mood. Multiphonics and singing through his alto recorder adds harmony to this potion.

alto recorder – Johnny Reinhard

Ei, Wie der Kaffee ist Suisse by J. S. Bach for soprano, flute and harpsichord in Werkmeister III. A wonderful piece that gives the soprano a chance to sing about how wonderful coffee is. Unfortunately the chapel drank this one up, obscuring the details.

soprano – Meredith Borden
baroque flute – Andrew Bolotowsky
harpsichord – Rebecca Pechefsky

One of the most anticipated events of the festival was the NY premiere of the solo version of Harry Partch’s Barstow by John Schneider. The result of historical research, Schneider had a custom guitar built based on Partch’s notes. Schneider released a version of Barstow on Just West Coast – microtonal music for guitar and harp (Bridge) a few years ago and he’s refined his approach since then. Now his Partchian sprechgesang is a bit more approprate to the piece.

After the concert I asked Schneider about his future plans for microtonal guitar recordings and was told that he’s planning to record or has unreleased recordings of works by Partch (US Highball for guitar and voice), La Monte Young (a newer composer supervised slower version of Sarabande), more works by Lou Harrison and others inluding his own compositions.

Partch monophonic-model guitar – John Schneider

Shruti is the 22 interval scale of India and also the title of Ganesh Anandan’s contribution to the festival. He played his homemade percussion, metal bars resting on foam and resonators and then sang in a gruff overtone style. NY premiere.

extended voice, original instruments – Ganesh Anandan

Andrew Culver’s Architectonic Space placed the musicians spatially around the chapel. The trumpet in the balcony, the violin in the pulpit, the viola to the side near the pews and so on. Culver’s purely minimalistic held tones disregard the obsessive rhythmic cells favored by most minimalists, the primary influences seem to be John Cage and La Monte Young.

A Tuning Digest buddy said that listening to Architectonic Space was like watching paint dry. I happen to like this kind of zen minimalism, but think that the composer missed a great opportunity to explore the rich resources of higher limit just intonation systems. NY premiere.

alto flute – Andrew Bolotowsky
bass clarinet – Ron Kozak
bassoon – Johnny Reinhard
violin – Dan Auerbach
viola – Anastasia Solberg
cello – Jodi Beder
trumpet – John Charles Thomas

The Quarter tone Preludio a Colon by Julian Carrillo also used occasional eighth tones. It’s pieces like this that spark up a festival like this, the tuning is so far out that there’s no doubt that it’s not in the much too common 12 tone equal temperament. Icing on the cake!

soprano – Meredith Borden
flute – Andrew Bolotowsky
violins – Dan Auerbach, Tina Cho
viola – Anastasia Solberg
cello – Jodi Beder
24 tone equal temperament guitar – Wim Hoogewerf
96 tone equal temperament harp – Skip LaPlante
conductor – Johnny Reinhard

My picks: Barstow, Preludio A Colon and Eye of Newt. Not that there was anything wrong with the other works. Just my personal highlights.

Stay tuned for more…


Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.


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