thinking about pitch again

March 28, 2016 - workbook

I’ve kind of relegated pitch as a principal focus in my music for nearly 15 years. That’s not to say it is unimportant or irrelevant, just that I’ve had other things to concentrate on, whether that was timbre and texture in #[unassigned] or the relationship between people in my more recent pieces. Pitch was often a functional choice or reduced to a few variations, used as a medium to present other ideas. So register was often more significant than than the precise pitch that was played, or similarity and difference more important than a particular harmonic choice. But now I’m writing a piano piece for Michael Finnissy, and he’s specifically told me not to include ‘any other apparatus’, or I think do anything inside the piano. And he does not want to be shouted at, which I completely understand. So that kind of leaves me with pressing the keys to make pitches. So a proper piano piece.

ParallelFortuitously Tom Johnson’s latest book Other Harmony: beyond tonal and atonal is on my desk. It pretty much only talks about ways to put pitches together. I’m working through it at the moment, and there are some wonderful things I’ve found so far. It has some excellent diagrams like the one I’ve included here, and there’s a great deal to think through. It’s highly likely some of these systems will end up in the piece for Michael in some form. But there will be some decision-making to work through in the performance. It will have something to do with sequencing, or making choices, but the material will be chords. On a piano. Played nicely. And no shouting (but possibly some talking).

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