Solo Piano

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Noah’s solo piano work explores microtonal / alternate tuning systems, experimental keyboard layouts, acoustic phenomena related to instrument design and alteration, and the relationships between contemporary instrument technique and the modification and change of an instrument over time.

His first piano work, “The Moon“, was recorded in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, with the 1/3 tone “Sonido 13” piano of maestro Julian Carrillo. This piano has 18 notes per octave, or 1/3 tones, dividing the equally tempered 200¢ “whole tone” into 3 parts of approximately 66.6¢ each. This tuning has been described by the microtonal/xenharmonic community as the “worst possible tuning” as it contains little to no relation to the overtone series, or any frequency ratios of small numbers. Carrillo disagreed that whole number frequency relationship should be used as a basis for tuning, and that because at these nodes there existed a place of rest it was not appropriate in a musical context which required movement. This was illustrated by how “octaves” are often not tuned as an exact doubling of a frequency. In this tuning of 1/3 tones, the only low number frequency ratio that exists is that of 7/6, often called a sub-minor third, which is tuned nearly exactly by the 4-step interval of ~266.6¢.

In “The Moon“, one can hear this perpetual lack of grounding which is inherent in this tuning. Because of this, one can hear the interaction of the inharmonicities and the attempts of the waveforms to stabilize and ground themselves. This multilayered pattern of interaction is one of the most beautiful aspects of this tuning. With this phenomenon, cluster chords, or chords with great spacing in between the tones have peaks of consonance, while attempts to replicate 5-limit or major or minor triads result only in ambiguous dissonance.

In Noah’s second piano work, “The Devil“, he plays a piano drop-tuned to contain 15 equal pitches per octave. The droptuning, or slacktuning, of the piano results in various timbral regions of the piano. The lower regions of the piano maintain their timbre, however, the mid-high register adopts a timbre reminiscent of a bell, and the highest timbre becomes incredibly percussive, ranging from mallet percussion to an inharmonicity which obscures the pitch almost completely.

In Noah’s third piano work, “in some loung“, he explores a variety of ratio generated tunings with piano-modelling software PianoTeq. For example, “Among the Dreams“, explores a sequence of the 23rd harmonic, 23/22, 23/11, etc.  The 23rd harmonic is at a point in which perception is contested – at this point the effects of resolution and their consequences in perception become paramount.  If we tune to the 23rd harmonic, and yet cannot hear it, what will we hear instead?  We can see in various tunings that we can contextually create a “major third” which can be tuned in a variety of different ways – and we experience phenomena such as in “mavila” where the “perfect fifth” is tuned so flat that they will generate a “minor third” after 4 cycles instead of a “major third”.  These effects are further altered by the timbre of the instrument and especially whether it is an acoustic instrument, a digital instrument, or a reproduction.

In my unreleased piece “Chekhov’s Gun“, I am improvising in an inter-tuning which arose from retuning a piano that was drop-tuned to 15 tones per octave back to twelve. Due to the radical tension shift, the piano would retune itself in various ways along the process.

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