Xentonality explores the relationship between spectrum and tuning. Specially crafted timbres are used in unusual scales and modes. Listen to the "guitar" in Ten Fingers or the synth sounds in Circle of Thirds, which are tuned to a scale that divides the octave into 10 equally spaced intervals, instead of the familiar 12 equal divisions of the piano. The overall effect is weird, otherworldly, but it is not jarring, dissonant, or noisy.
Max Mathews, one of the founders of electronic music, says, "It's clear that inharmonic timbres are one of the richest sources of new sounds. At the same time they are a veritable jungle of possibilities so that some order has to be brought out of this rich chaos before it is to be musically useful."
Xentonality provides an organizing principle that helps to order this rich chaos. Tunes are performed in 10, 19, 17, and 13 equal divisions of the octave, as well as other scales specially designed to match natural and unnatural timbres.
The chords sounded smooth and nondissonant but strange and somewhat eerie. The effect was so different from the tempered scale that there was no tendency to judge in-tuneness or out-of-tuneness. It seemed like a peek into a new musical world, in which none of the old rules applied, and the new ones, if any, were undiscovered. -- F. H. Slaymaker
- Product Dimensions : 5.55 x 4.97 x 0.54 inches; 2.88 Ounces
- Original Release Date : 1998
- Date First Available : January 19, 2007
- ASIN : B00000I7UH
- Number of discs : 1
- Customer Reviews:
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Microtonal music is definitely an important part of the future of music if not THE most important part of the future of music. Digital technology has finally made Microtonal music practical and accessible to musicians and composers. Most Microtonal music written up until now was written by academics, god love `em, we need them. But that's too bad, because some of this academic music can turn people off to the amazing possibilities of Microtonal music. Music isn't just better math, music is art. Art has to COMMUNICATE possibilities and challenge preconceived notions to be good art.
I've been waiting for the time when musicians would start using microtones in a musical way and fortunately the time has come. There are now several good Microtonal musicians; Wendy Carlos, Brink McGoogy, Prent Rogers, Jon Appleton and some others who could be loosely called Microtonalists; La Monte Young and Terry Riley. Haven't hear of them? That's because they are ahead of their time.
We can add William to this short list. William writes microtonal music that is really musical. He's not afraid to make music that plain sounds good. It challenges and it sounds good. You can listen to it carefully or in the background. In addition William has contributed some theoretical ideas which allow some really cool manipulations of the timbral qualities. Very cool.
This music is not "New Age" music, though people who like "New Age" music will probably like this. This music is concrete and solid. It deserves wider recognition. If you are interested in the future of music buy this, and give it some time. Give it some time because you've never heard anything like it. It's not in your vocabulary of sound.
My only criticism is that it could `swing' more. In my opinion it `swings' but it could `swing' more. This could be my own prejudice though, I'm not smart enough to know for sure. One thing seems evident, William makes damn good music and he has a chance to make something truly rare... great music.
First, in the spirit of another reviewer Doren Garcia, let me qualify myself. I have a good deal of experience in the physics and mathematics underlying the basic ideas described in TTSS. Most of my working career was spent as a research physicist investigating electromagnetic and acoustic properties/phenomena in various media, at Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories in Bedford, Massachusetts. While listening to the music on Xentonality it became clear to me, even though I am not an expert in music theory, that the CD includes not only musical pieces which demonstrate techniques described in TTSS, but at the same time contains new and unusual sounds which I can only describe as beautiful music. For me, the songs on Xentonality put to rest any lingering doubts concerning the bright future of Xenharmonic music.
There are 16 musical pieces on Xentonality:
"Ten Fingers" and "Circle of Thirds" exhibit a strange kind of consonant effect in the difficult tuning system 10-tet, where there are ten equally spaced notes per octave. These two pieces also portray certain effects and chord patterns achievable in this unusual tuning system. "Three Ears" adjusts the pitches of tones microtonally to enhance consonance, during each sampled time interval. The resulting slides and swoops are both interesting and pleasant.
The next three pieces transform sounds from one tuning into another in an unusual kind of modulation. Transformation effects on the sounds of various instruments are observable here, thus tending to define musically relevant transformation limits.
The scale used in the seventh song, "Duet for Morphine and Cymbal", is related to a type of acoustic identification system. Such a system attempts to identify objects by listening to sounds which are in some way related to the object to be identified.
"Tingshaw" shows what can be achieved with a small hand-bell when played in a tuning determined by its own spectrum. Each sound in the piece "Incidence and Coincidence" is a combination of a 12-tet and a 19-tet sound, and this unique kind of "harmony" produces some musically useful timbrel effects.
"Haroun in 88" and "88 Vibes" explore the sounds of scales not based on the octave but with spectrum and scale matched. "October 21st" elaborates on the idea of a stretched octave, where the normal octave ratio of 2:1 is replaced by the nonoctave ratio 2.1:1, in both scale and timbre. It is an extension of the succinct sound example "Challenging the Octave" appearing on the compact disk which accompanies the book.
"Saint Vitas Dance" is a delightful demonstration of maximizing consonance by adaptive tuning, starting with widely differing timbres. Adaptive tuning works! "Truth on a Bus" in 19-tet and "Imaginary Horses" in a form of extended just intonation are just beautiful musical pieces.
Finally, Xentonality comes with a pamphlet describing the purpose of each song and a brief readable overview of the key ideas involved. Both CDs, Xentonality and the one accompanying the book, provide convincing experimental evidence supporting those key ideas. In addition, Xentonality contains new, second generation, musical pieces providing a unique, enjoyable and sometimes challenging musical experience. I think that Xentonality represents a glimpse into a new and beautiful musical art form.
This album will expand your mind musically, it's as simple as that. If Bach had a hand in opening your ears, if Mozart suddenly made you go "ah!", if Hendrix took you to a space that only psychedelics could reach before, if traditional Asian microtonal music evokes Zen vistas - be assured this will continue the journey. But also be warned - the 12-tone scale will eventually come to seem rather limited by comparison. Don't worry - it won't ruin Bach for you. Nothing can do that.
It's superb - buy it!
** An update (1/6/09): I see a listing for "Exomusicology" dated 2002 - ah ha! I'm getting that! **
Thanks for reading.
The most cutting edge music is that which can not be
immediately accepted as said music. Therein lies the
proverbial pushing of the metaphorical envelope, from
genre to neo-genre, from Beethoven to Puff Daddy, to
Diesel Boy, this revolution fueled by the fine line
between genius and insanity. Where can it go next?