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Introduction to Microtonality

Abstract • PreparationListening ListMain Text

What is Microtonality? Where did it come from? Why use microtonality? We shall be considering these and other questions in this seminar. Microtonality is often seen as a rather side issue that has little bearing on 'mainstream' composition, and this is indeed true if one considers instances of use. However, it is also true that microtonality is used and is used frequently in all forms of music. In western art music it is usually used intuitively, however. In this case it is an intimate part of what is called 'musical expression'.

We shall also be considering examples of microtonality and how to notate micotonally.


Listen to the following music. Look through the scores, if available. Look through some books on notation and hear the effects. Consider the implications of making microtonality a formal system, as opposed to an informal, intuitive device. Listen to yourself playing (if you play a wind or string instrument) or singing; listen to others. Can you hear examples of microtonality? How is it used? How does it differ from 'normal' music? What are its implications for tempered instruments (like the piano)? Are there ways around these problems? What about piano preparations? How formally do these use microtonality?

Investigate the hyperlinks at the bottom of this page.

Listening List


Main Text

Main text (not usually available until after the lecture).