Pitch resources for new music: an integrated approach to instrument development and composition

Salinas, José Antonio Martin (2014) Pitch resources for new music: an integrated approach to instrument development and composition. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This book explores microtonality, specifically the use of microdiscrete intervals and sliding pitch, in new music. It presents a newly designed microtonal percussion instrument (the conic bellophone), a portfolio of inextricably associated compositions, in score and recordings, and a video recording illustrating the technique of the instrument. The question whether an instrument must exist in order for music to be composed for it is addressed by means of experimental composition for the bellophone. Analysis and comparison of the work of Julian Carrillo and Harry Partch, twentieth century composers deeply involved in microtonality, sliding pitch, and the development of new and modified instruments, shapes the research method used. A detailed review of the achievements of these composers in creating novel instruments, which informs this comparison, is presented in appendices. Whereas Carrillo and Partch mostly built new instruments before composing for them, this research proposes and applies an instrument-development-led composition strategy, which systematically promotes interaction between design, construction, composition and theory. A tuning system with very small equal steps (allowing for smooth, microdiscrete-sliding pitch -see Glossary- progressions) is chosen for the bellophone. The 96-equal temperament is a practical compromise between infinitely small quantisation of the pitch continuum and the realisation of a playable instrument. The exploration of microdiscrete-sliding pitch, whose innovative use is sought throughout the composition portfolio, is supplied by means of an original development of established microtonal notation. This research evaluates successive prototypes of the bellophone in relation to compositional practice: the playability of short compositions (solo studies) is assessed in relation to built and virtual prototypes of the instrument, and to defined conceptual variants of it. These variants, which exemplify alternative solutions to the aims embodied in each prototype built, inform the progressive development of the bellophone. Several variants of posterior prototypes are considered for compositional use too. A wide range of further newly conceived instruments, including aerophones, chordophones, and idiophones of materials other than metal, generated by further extending application of the instrument design methodology developed, are illustrated and discussed in an appendix. Informed by the composition of several solo studies, a three-movement ensemble work, Seasons, using a finalised form of the bellophone is presented. The research method arrived at, which instigates a system of instrument-development-led compositional theory and practice, is shown to be transferable to musical parameters other than pitch.

volume 1
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volume 2 - see EThOS to download the CD and DVD files
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