Friday, September 21, 2012

Other Music - Prime Numbers (USA, 1980)

This album is more acoustic and indonesian-gamelan-influenced than the previous post of "Incidents Out Of Context" (which featured both synths and elec. guitar)  but the unusual tunings from self-made instruments come out a bit clearer in this earlier work.  The group, although still founded by Dale Soules, Rosenthal, and David Doty, is much bigger as you can see from the back image with the addition of a slew of musicans who jumped ship after this first release-- I don't think I could really blame them when you consider how utterly uncommercial their output was.
Now I'll transcribe some of the liner notes included inside this record for your edification as they really illuminate  the oddness of this music.

"  The Tuning:
Other Music's tuning system, affectionately known as OMJ 14 is a form of just intonation with 14 unequal intervals per octave. Designed in May 1977 by David Doty and Dale Soules, OMJ14 is derived primarily from the ancient greek modes recorded by the 2nd century Greek theorist Ptolemy in his Harmonics. Just tuning systems are characterized by the fact that all their intervals can be represented by ratios of whole numbers. For this reason just systems possess superior consonance when compared to the equally tempered intonation now in general use.
The Instruments:
As in indonesian gamelans, the foundation of OM's ensemble consists of metallophones. These instruments, comprised of aluminum bars suspended over individual tuneable resonators, span a total of 5 octaves divided among 4 voices, bass, tenor, alto, and soprano. The alto register is enriched by the tones of a 2 octave marimba with keys of cocabola, a S American rosewood. Additional coloration is provided by a set of tubular brass chimes, originally part of a pipe organ, retuned to OM's system.  A variety of drums are heard on this record,"
incl. both balinese and western instruments. The flute on "Gending" is made of a 3/4 inch acrylic tubing, it's a notch flute and plays a scale of 7 tones. The singer on the track "Blue" (which I've sampled below for interest) is the composer, Dale Soules.  He is reciting a poem which is about being a social animal, in a very odd and tuneless way that somehow reminds me of Viola Crayola's song "What is the meaning of love" or a Hatfield and the North flattened by antipsychotic drugs perhaps (and I mean that hundred percent in a complimentary way).
I don't have the time to completely transcribe the liner notes so hopefully anyone interested can glean some more info from the scan I attached.  There follows a discussion of the musicians, their trainings, and detailed descriptions (highly interesting) of their compositions.

Now for those who don't know the idea behind just tuning, I will briefly go over the basics, simply, the reason an octave or fourth or fifth is consonant or sounds good to our ears is because the frequencies are whole number ratios, e.g. an octave above is twice the frequency or half the length of string required, similarly for the other accepted basic tones.  When you try to create more than 5 notes with this system unfortunately it breaks down and  you lose the whole number ratios, as well, you can't really modulate to another key even as simply as going from C to G since then you have to use slightly different tunings for the other intervals-- get it?  For this purpose the europeans invented their well-tempered system of 12 tones, which to me works perfectly well, but from time to time people have rebelled against it.  Why these whole number ratios sound agreeable to our ears must be because the energy used in the brain in processing the simple overtones and frequencies makes it easier for neuronal transmissions, and this simplicity of interpretation is perceived as positive somehow.  I don't think there could be any other explanation for why this is so though it has never been proven true.  For those of us who love prog as I've said before, on the contrary it's the addition of dissonances and unusual sounds that is pleasing, and that has to do with our tendency to be bored quickly with the usual sounds and to require some kind of extra mental stimulation in our art.  Note that as open-minded as I am, I still detest the 12-tone atonality of Arnold Schoenberg because there is no diatonic or harmonic basis against which it is building dissonances in opposition.

So there you have it, more mathematically correct pop tunes with long memories...


Tristan Stefan said...

other music prime

Tristan Stefan said...

These are scans of the insert I was quoting from above

räumung said...

شكرا لكم ..دائما موفقين ))


Tristan Stefan said...


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