BURT, Warren

PhD University of Wollongong 2007 Pages: 301 + 2 CDs + DVD

Algorithms, Microtonality, Performance: Eleven Musical Compositions

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Following a lifetime of creative work and investigation into algorithmic composition and microtonality, I became interested in the speculative mathematical music theory of Ervin Wilson. Encountering his work spurred me on to further investigations in sound and tuning, in a series of compositions using electronic, acoustic, and robotic acoustic instruments. Tuning ideas developed by Wilson and others were extended and expanded into several families of new microtonal musical scales, which were used as the basis for composing a series of algorithmic real-time musical works of extended duration. Some of these works involved collaborative relationships with other musicians, hardware and software instrument designers, and scientists. Wilson’s ideas, such as Moments of Symmetry (MOS) scales, Euler-Fokker Genera, limit-ratios, the Scale Tree, and additive sequences and their derivation from number triangles, as well as other tuning ideas, such as permutations of the materials of the ancient Greek modal system were all extended and developed into families of interrelated microtonal scales. The desire to compose works of extended duration was aided by the large size of some of these scale families, which consist of between 60 and 276 new scales each. Acoustic instruments were built or adapted to perform some of these works, including microtonal plucked-string and percussion instruments, and the computer-controlled microtonal instruments of Godfried Willem Raes at the Logos Foundation, in Gent, Belgium. Other works used electronic timbres designed to explore placing of sound in space produced by the interaction of timbre, tuning and room-acoustics. Software instruments designed to perform the algorithms used were developed in collaboration with John Dunn of Algorithmic Arts, in Fort Worth, Texas. Investigation into the role of timbre and tuning in sonification was carried out with the help of the Wollongong Room Calorimeter project, led by Professor Arthur Jenkins. This thesis discusses how these tunings, algorithms, real-time processes, instruments, and collaborative relationships were used in creating these compositions. Recordings of all compositions discussed are contained in the electronic Appendix, on the attached DVD-Rom with the hard copy of the thesis. Catalogs of all scales used in the thesis, as well as Scala files for all scales, and all data used in composing the pieces is also contained in the Appendix. Additionally, a copy of the commercial CD release of The Animation of Lists And the Archytan Transpositions, one of the works discussed in this thesis, is also available.

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