As part of this year's Micro-Fest in Los Angeles, John Scheider invited a number of microtonal composers, yours truly included, to make an alternate tuning to Erik Satie's Vexations. Vexations, for those of you who have forgotten, is supposed to be repeated 840 times, and uses a bewildering variety of double sharps, double flats, etc in its notation. If you take the accidentals seriously, there are 21 pitches that Satie uses. So the obvious question would be (obvious to microtonalists, that is), what would Vexations sound like with 21 different pitches in the octave. 17 of us responded, and here's the program, which happened on April 1, at the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Center, on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
It's a very nice crew that contributed, and some of them have already written their scales, and the reasons behind them. Here's Kraig Grady's explanation of his scale, and the performance, here's Terumi Narushima's explanation of her scale, and the performance, and here is Kyle Gann's explanation of his. I'd love to be able to give you an erudite explanation of my scale, but the truth is, I've lost the notes, and I can't remember a thing about how I made it. None the less, here's my tuning for Satie's Vexations:
0: C 1/1 0.000 unison, perfect prime
1: C# 17/16 104.955 17th harmonic
2: Db 128/119 126.219
3: D 32/29 170.423 29th subharmonic
4: Ebb 8/7 231.174 septimal whole tone
5: D# 39/32 342.483 39th harmonic, Zalzal wosta of Ibn Sina
6: Eb 79/64 364.537
7: E 5/4 386.314 major third
8: F 4/3 498.045 perfect fourth
9: F# 11/8 551.318 undecimal semi-augmented fourth
10: Gb 16/11 648.682 undecimal semi-diminished fifth
11: G 3/2 701.955 perfect fifth
12: G# 51/32 806.910
13: Ab 8/5 813.686 minor sixth
14: A 209/128 848.831
15: Bbb 64/39 857.517 39th subharmonic
16: A# 7/4 968.826 harmonic seventh
17: Bb 29/16 1029.577 29th harmonic
18: B 119/64 1073.781
19: Cb 32/17 1095.045 17th subharmonic
20: B# 243/128 1109.775 Pythagorean major seventh
21: C 2/1 1200.000 octave
Anybody who wants to get a PhD in Music Theory is welcome to try and analyse this - the only note I have regarding its genesis is "based on Erv Wilson's Mt Meru scales work," which is not too helpful, but at least points one in the right direction.
There are sound recordings of five other tunings up on the Micro-Fest website - tunings by Bill Alves, Kyle Gann, Ron Nagorcka, John Schneider, and Terumi Narushima. Listen to them here.
Finally, here's the recording of my piece. Thanks to John and the pianist Richard Valitutto, for permision to post this, and thanks to Richard for his wonderful performance. By the way, John and Richard recently also made the new, magnificent recording of Harry Partch's Bitter Music on Bridge Records.
John Schneider tells me that there will be a CD release soon of all the tunings from the Vexations project, so I'll let you know about that as soon as I do.
Erik Satie: Vexations - retuned by Warren Burt - performed by Richard Valitutto.