Archive for the ‘review’ Category

Demo of Shoom, a Microtonal iPad App

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

I take trip through Shoom after Keenan Lawler mentioned it, and I found I actually had it installed. It is a superb microtonal aware synthesizer that is also a controller. My tour is a bit leisurely and only goes into a bit of what this program can do. It is highly recommended. It was $5.99 when it was first released, currently I believe the app store price is $9.99 – still quite affordable. The noise you hear in places are the actual (and unusual) preset settings of the app.

Microtonal Gestrument Demo Video

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

A video demo of the Gestrument, an algorithmic music composition iPad program that supports alternate tunings. It works hand in hand with ScaleGen (not shown here) for $13.99 bought as a bundle. Its a great value and has a long list of features such as morphing of tunings, recording, a nice selection of voices and output of midi.


Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Remembrance is a chilled piece in 22 notes per octave using my DIY refretted $50 used “First Act” electric guitar and DIY fretless bass. Additionally there are my vocals, drums and Kontakt flute.

Poem by Evan Harrington

Words are contained in the film – full quality video

Here is an analysis by Andrew Heathewaite:

  • With the exception of a chromatic passing tone, the guitar part seems to be entirely (although maybe I missed something) in Superpyth[5], that is to say, the 22edo pentatonic scale generated by fifths/fourths. The voice sings these notes and a few major thirds to round things out. I take the first note of the voice melody to be tonic, and the chord progression to be more or less a I-V7-I… kind of thing. It’s not meantone, though, since there are two sizes of whole tone — the four-degree step and the three-degree step. To tell you the truth, the melody as you sing it sounds a little twelvey. That’s understandable if you haven’t sung in 22 a lot, since the large/small whole tone distinction is pretty tricky. It’s similar in 15, but even more exaggerated.

    Taking out the passing tone, your 22edo major scale is 4324432. If you treat it as a meantone major scale, you’ll find that the triads don’t work out the same. You’ve got a regular I chord, but the minor ii chord is actually subminor. A regular minor iii chord, but a supermajor IV chord. A regular major V chord but a vi chord with a subminor third and a wolf fifth! And finally, a decent septimal-flavored diminished vii chord. It’s worth mentioning also that the dominant V7 chord has a strong septimal flavor to it, like a tempered version of a 4:5:6:7 otonal chord. You play the seventh a lot in the guitar part, and I think it works nicely that way.

  • a review of “winter in tumultua”

    Monday, October 1st, 2012

    A Review of
    Winter in Tumultua,
    an album by city of the asleep
    (Igliashon Jones).


    This is an extremely powerful concept album that transcends the label “xenharmonic” because the tuning no longer matters. What has resulted is contemporary art that conveys the balance of desperate perseverance in the bitter piece of tortured nature that is called “Oakland California”.

      Track 1:

    eight people
    The opening track is electronic ambiance with a computer generated voice that graphically describes the experience of Tumultua. The music fulfills its function to be the cup for the desperate prose but if you can take your attention from the message you find a carefully crafted piece of music that serves also as an introduction to the next track.

      Track 2:

    trucks from the sea
    This track I think could be called alternative. It characteristically uses dissonance in response to the call of consonance in a number of different chord progressions. Though almost exclusively a guitar track, the use of effects provides a nice variation in texture.

      Track 3:

    this was all a mistake
    Psychedelic reverse swells accent powerful piano stabs to open this piece. Midway a distorted sound (I’m assuming guitar) starts to play off the piano. There is a sense of something large and isolated in the music. A restless power that meanders towards a home that turns into a distorted broken electronic device that fades as its power wanes with one final grasp.

      Track 4:

    Acoustic guitar glitch is an apt description of the opening which turns into a catchy pop song at the behest of a crack of snare hits. This piece is an unusual melding of western and decidedly eastern influences. Easily a radio-ready track.

      Track 5:

    legacy of an abandoned liquor store
    A sense of something with many legs that can’t quite walk straight – like a drunken homeless arachnoid man that sleeps under the expressway overpass covered with last week’s Sunday paper. Once started the track evolves into a synthesizer part that demonstrates some nice voice leading in a captivating chord progression. The surrounding drums, glitch, and leads help to lend a feeling of poignant majesty that is ultimately defeated by neglect.

      Track 6:

    rake the clouds
    Via vocoder a description of the potential power that desperation builds in colorful prose which is mirrored in the development of the music. This piece is all about the narrative – listen closely and hear how the disenfranchised will finally find itself.

      Track 7:

    electronic mice in the walls
    At about 1 minute the walls are ripped away revealing the mice hinted at in the introduction of this piece. When the strings come in and climax I feel transported into the walls witnessing the mice travelling in Tron-like light paths. Then I turn away but the mice are still running in my memory never quite leaving. This is another radio ready track that I think would capture any audience with its power and emotion.

      Track 8:

    enemies of the sidewalk
    This piece opens like a circuit-bent electronic calliope. The contrasting part doesn’t appeal to me through it does take the calliope to a logical foreground sound against stuttering drum beat. Upon reprise the calliope section is viciously glitched. There are no prisoners taken in this track. It seems meant to express the pain inflicted upon the sidewalks. I suspect that after many listens this might become a favorite track because of the bizarre and twisted nature – like how a gnarled tree can become a comfort of familiarity.

      Track 9:

    where car stereos go to die
    My favorite title in a collection of colorful and apt titles this piece opens with electronic tumbleweeds bouncing with sparks in a backwards ambient wash of alienation. The B section comes at the perfect time with angular musical logic. This is music for an off-world night club.

      Track 10:

    freezing the ports
    By way of the explanation in the included pdf in the album I think this is a musical rendering of the experience of the Occupy Movement shutting down the Port of Oakland. There is suitable programmatic sound in the piece to support that idea. The piece conveys a sense of anger, majesty, and power.

      Track 11:

    daytime television
    This opens with a blues guitar track over a glitched computer voice. Unfortunately I’ve not yet been able to make out much of what is being said. When the rest of the band kicks in the blues – rock genre is clear. Compared to the rest of the piece it is nice but is overpowered by its siblings.

      Track 12:

    concrete windowscape
    I’m not sure what the backdrop wash is (reverse piano? Or reverse slowed down guitar?) but never mind as it is a perfect compliment for the eastern sounding leads meandering on top which paint an appropriate picture for the title. This composition I think could be a surprise radio play song for a late night underground radio station. The mood set here is very delicate and lonely despite the obvious mass of people that is Oakland California.

    In conclusion I have to say this is an extremely impressive album. It bears repeating that the xenharmonic nature is clearly not the point. The album stays with one tuning (17 notes per octave, 17 equal divisions of an octave) throughout. As often happens when an artist limits some choices the result can be a boon for creativity. I think that is what occurred with the collection of compositions in this album. I can heartily recommend it and suggest supporting the artist’s future work even though the album is listed as “name your price”. And as a further note Spectropol Records is fast becoming a go-to label for the best in new music, especially microtonal music. I recommend you browse some of their other offerings as well.


    Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

    Graphic from my family album. Lithuanian relatives.

    This is the second piece in my series examining John O’ Sullivan’s work The Mathematics of Music. In this improvisational piece I explicitly explore C minor using the Blue Temperament tuning system found in John’s book (available at Amazon).  I can say I did not “feel” a large difference between the two tuning systems, that being Just Intonation (see Excluded by Peers) and this tempered (or compromise from Just) system. The scala formatted file is below. Realized via pianoteq, M Audio 88es and Sonar 8.5


    Blue Temperament

    ! C:\Cakewalk\scales\Blue-temper.scl
    Blue Temperament

    Excluded by Peers

    Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

    I have been reading and composing a review of The Mathematics of Music by John O’Sullivan. (Available at Amazon ) This book is a view into one man’s exceptional journey into the intricacies of Just Intonation musical relationships. John explains the history of the development and then the short comings of the current 12 equal system. After defining the problem John then applies a rigorous method that he derived empirically by categorizing a very large number of musical intervals. With this categorization John developed equations that matched his perception of the consonance of melodic notes, dyads, and chords.  John’s goal is a system that produces more consonant  chordal possibilities and relationships than the current Western 12 equal tuning.   John thoroughly describes his new set of chords and a mathematical test to gauge varying shades of major and minor harmonies and melodies.  I plan to do an unusual multi-part review of John’s book facilitated by compositions using the “Blue” tunings and theory presented in The Mathematics of Music. This is in part because the true worth of John’s ideas are what meets the ear and also as a means for me to deal with time constraints and commitments imposed by real life.

    To that end, this is my first piece in a O’Sullivan tuning called “Excluded by Peers”. This piece uses John’s Blue JI tuning that I put into scala as a series of JI ratios. Since I am using a keyboard and not a guitar it is natural for my starting note for the tuning be C and this is what I did.  In using the tuning I noticed that it was, in my experience, more flexible then many other JI tunings I had tried.  The only triads that sounded iffy to me were E major, F# major, and F# minor. However, playing the devils advocate I improvised a piece of music in the key of C major that actually featured the F# tritone as a borrowed tone from E minor.

    You can hear it here:

    The scala file I created from the ratios in John’s book for Blue JI follows:

    ! C:\Cakewalk\scales\blue-ji.scl
    Blue JI