Wednesday, October 19, 2022

SFCMP to Explore Alternative Tunings

The title of the second program that San Francisco Contemporary Music Players will present in its 2022–2023 season is Re-Tuning and Refiguration. This will be a survey of different alternatives to the equal-tempered chromatic scale. The featured composer on this program will be Ben Johnston, who will be represented by two compositions, his early (1949) composition for voice and piano entitled “Somewhere I Have Never Traveled” and his 1964 sonata for microtonal piano. Johnston graduated for the College of William and Mary in 1949; and, not long after that, he had his first encounter with Harry Partch’s Genesis of a Music, which inspired him to depart from the equal-tempered tuning one encounters on most pianos. Thus, the two selections of the program represent a “before” and “after” perspective of just intonation, a tuning system in which all intervals are based on integer ratios.

This approach can also be found in Korean music, as will be seen in “Cosmigimmicks,” which Korean-born Unsuk Chin completed in 2012. Another approach to integer ratios will be “Epimoric Quiverings,” which Chris Brown composed for a Ptolemy Duple metallophone. Finally, Sky Macklay’s interest in the “notes between the notes” will be presented in the 2017 version of his composition “Microvariations.” These past experiments in new ways to make music will be complemented by the world premieres of works by two students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), who have been working in the Technology & Applied Composition Program.

This concert will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 5. The performance will take place in the Barbro Osher Recital Hall on the top floor of SFCM’s Bowes Center, which is located at 200 Van Ness Boulevard. The performance will be preceded by a “How Music is Made” discussion beginning at 7 p.m.

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