Elements: a microtonal rock song

for baritone, trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, and electronics (2014), 11’30”

Composed for loadbang. Performed by loadbang at the Charlotte New Music Festival, June 22, 2014.

Program note:

Elements, with words adapted from the eponymous treatise by Euclid, 3rd-century B.C.E. Greek mathematician and “father of geometry,” is at heart a joyous celebration of the elegant numerical patterns in nature and of humanity’s passionate quest to discover their subtleties. Elements is also an only minutely self-conscious rock song, and is perhaps best enjoyed as such.

For those who like to geek out on technical details, the author presents the following comments. Those less concerned with such minutiae may however rest assured that little or no enjoyment will be lost by omitting their reading.


/*Elements uses a twelve-note scale created from two superimposed versions of the ancient Greek chromatic genus attributed to Archytas. Most of the notes are in Pythagorean tuning and are therefore very close to their familiar equal-tempered analogues. A few notes, however, are lowered by a septimal comma. This altered tuning allows the use of chords that include the natural seventh partial (D-flat, for instance, is lowered in pitch such that it is tuned as the natural seventh partial of E-flat) as well as some other unusual sonorities. I chose this specific scale because it had a bluesy sound I thought would fit well with a rock idiom and because it allowed me to construct many triads and seventh chords of varying degrees of consonance/dissonance.

Mathematical patterns such as prime-number (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13,…), Fibonacci (1,1,2,3,5,8,13…), and Lucas (2,1,3,4,7,11,18,…) sequences suffuse the music, most often in the form of expanding and contracting rhythmic sequences.

The live electronics are implemented in a Max/MSP patch that includes many classic synthesis and audio processing techniques. The drum track was spliced together from Logic Pro drum loops in a variety of styles.*/

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