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Easley Blackwood: Microtonal
Easley Blackwood
Easley Blackwood: Microtonal
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #1

Easley Blackwood's Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media, a landmark exploration that drew widespread critical praise upon its release in 1980, has been reissued for the first time on compact disc. Also ne...  more »

      
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CD Details

All Artists: Easley Blackwood
Title: Easley Blackwood: Microtonal
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Cedille
Release Date: 5/16/1994
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Instruments, Electronic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 735131901826

Synopsis

Album Description
Easley Blackwood's Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media, a landmark exploration that drew widespread critical praise upon its release in 1980, has been reissued for the first time on compact disc. Also new on the CD are two never-before-released Blackwood microtonal works. The intriguing études culminated Blackwood's research, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, into the techniques and expressive possibilities of microtonal tunings. Microtonal tunings are those that divide an octave in some other manner than into 12 equal parts. Blackwood wrote études for equal tunings of 13 to 24 notes to the octave and has likened the task to writing a "sequel" to "The Well-Tempered Clavier," JS Bach's famous collection of preludes and fugues in each of the major and minor keys. Blackwood let the "flavor" of each tuning suggest an established musical form or style for each étude: a Classical piano sonata (track no. 13), Russian nationalism (track no. 8), jazz (track no. 11), the sound of South Pacific gamelans (track no. 5), and the form of a Baroque violin sonata (track no. 4). This approach also allows listeners to hear how microtonal tunings affect familiar musical genres. The Fanfare in 19-note Equal Tuning (1981) was commissioned by Chicago fine arts radio station WFMT, along with fanfares by other Chicago-area composers, to celebrate the station's 30th anniversary. The Suite for Guitar in 15-note Equal Tuning makes use of the properties Blackwood discovered when he wrote the microtonal étude in 15-note tuning. It's cast in four movements with dance-like rhythms akin to those found in Baroque suites. "For the performance of microtonal music on conventional acoustic instruments, those with fretted strings are the least problematic because the frets automatically and accurately establish the location of each pitch," Blackwood writes in the CD booklet.

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CD Reviews

A fascinating experiment in microtonal tunings
Ernest Barreto | Frederick, MD | 02/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Easley Blackwood is a professor of music at the University of Chicago. From the liner notes: "In the late 1970's, Prof. Blackwood won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to investigate the harmonic and modal properties of microtonal tunings. The project culminated in Blackwood's Twelve Microtonal Etudes for Electronic Music Media, composed as illustrations of the tonal possibilities of all the equal tunings from 13 to 24 notes to the octave." Though initially jarring to the ear (some tunings more so than others), one quickly adjusts to the new sounds. Once that happens, it's fascinating to hear Blackwoods exploration of "compelling progressions of hiterto alien harmonies and modes." Of course, some tunings work better than others. Also included is a piece for guitar in 15-note equal tuning. The sound of the guitar is much more appealing and effective than the "polyfusion synthesizer" used for the Etudes."
Great for the mind and the spirit
Ernest Barreto | 04/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am fascinated by this CD, plus I really enjoy it. The mathematical puzzles it poses are fascinating. I've found myself trying to design guitar and piano keyboards with some of the more interesting tone sets (15, 19) and wondering about different ways of writing music. I'd love to see Mr. Blackwood's notebooks on musical notations.
In addition, this is a lot of fun to listen to. Mr. Blackwoods compositions are sometimes a little basic, but I think he intended them that way in order to let the beauty and strangeness of these new modes just wash over us in their glory. He does a great job of tying the style of the composition to the tones that a given mode best expresses. Bravo!"