Vocal Harmonies and the Piano

Quick post today, just to record hypotheses I’d like to test. I’m back onto the “math of musical pitches” thing, but I’m promising myself I won’t get too lost down this rabbit hole. Not this time.

Pianos and digital keyboard instruments are tuned to 12-Tone Equal Temperament (12ET), where each half-step is exactly the same interval as the others. It’s a tuning system that confers certain advantages, such as flexibility in the use of tonal languages to exploit enharmonic ambiguity to pivot to other tonal centers. Such advantages come at the cost of the “sweetness” or “purity” (terms to be defined) of harmonic intervals. It’s a halfway-decent trade-off.

Ensemble vocalists and similar groups (such as a string quartet) tune their performances “by ear,” using subjective aural experience to shift notes microtonally to achieve harmonies that are deemed optimal, somehow. Hypothesis: the subjective judgement of what’s optimal for an individual performer has a physiological/biological component and an acculturated component; probably the biological component is weighted somewhat more strongly. Another hypothesis: what’s judged as optimal is usually some kind of just intonation; probably 5-limit tuning as (opposed to Pythagorean (3-limit) tuning or 7-limit tuning). (more…)

The State of my Method

without-following-the-recipeMy last post about my Daily Song Project was over a year ago. I’ve become one of those bloggers. The kind that doesn’t keep up, that promises that they’ll try to blog more regularly…

Wait, no I haven’t. Such statements smack if disingenuity, when I see them on other blogs.

I’ll simply say: I haven’t had much to say. Not much meta-commentary to make that hasn’t fit within the songs themselves, the ones I still make every day—or in the comments about them I leave on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and Patreon.

Plus, life has been full of changes, and waxing poetic online has not been a priority. Moving, my day-job, enrolling in a Master’s program in Music, planning a career change, doing my daily songs, travelling to DC/Baltimore every month to co-lead circlesinging—these things have taken priority.

But today I steal a few minutes to write. Today’s song has given me something to discuss, and events from this past month have given me a context for it. Plus, it’s been so long since I’ve given you an update; you may be wondering how things are going, or whether they’re still going at all. (more…)