A Field Full of Rabbit Holes
As stated in the opening to this issue, the breadth of the people working with just intonation is simply too much to cover in one issue. In this issue, we’ve presented a sort of cross-section of composers using some form of the superparticular ratio system found in just intonation, prioritized on the radically different ways they’ve thought of JI as a tool to create highly personalized music.
However, the contributors to this issue, in no way, represent the only artists working with just intonation to create radical and beautiful work. Below, is a series of thumbnail portraits of those composers that were overlooked due to the constraint of space or the editor’s decision. Each box/link contains a one or two sentence synopsis of the composer’s work and importance in the just intonation community, but the real power of this page is found in the embedded links. Click on the box and find out more about the composer, visit their site, and listen to their music.
Consider this a field full of intonation rabbit holes for your diving pleasure.
One of the first major figures of the 20th century to make just intonation a basis for his work. Important as an iconoclastic instrument builder and theorist. His Genesis of a Music (1947) is a must-read.
A student of Henry Cowell and contemporary of Partch, Lou Harrison approached just intonation and other alternate tuning systems by way of the music non-Western cultures, especially Javanese gamelan.
La Monte Young
For many, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, through their Dream House in New York, are the gateway to alternate tuning systems. Although recordings of their music can be hard to find, they both still perform from time to time and any recording of La Monte’s pieces should be snatched up immediately.
Just intonation is just a small part of what Henry Flynt does, but what he stands for is so profound that any opportunity to read about him or hear his music should be taken up.
Swedish-American composer that has collaborated with both Flynt and Young, Hennix’s music contains an indescribable something that can’t be found anywhere else. She is still very actively performing and her concerts are, if you are open to this, a quasi-religious experience.
One of the most highly-esteemed living American composers, Johnston’s work with just intonation combines the structural elegance of the Second Viennese school or Charles Ives with the shimmering sound world of just intonation.
Tony Conrad is an essential link to avant-garde music, performance, and film. His presence still casts a monumental shadow over New York culture, even after his passing. A good place to start is the Early Minimalism box set.
Here at SA HQ, Tenney is the unsung hero of American composition. His theoretical and compositional work with just intonation is a fantastic way to enter his world. Once inside, you will never want to leave.
A go-to source of all things JI, Gann is a brilliant writer and composer that not only makes the conceptual easy to absorb, but imbues it with his own passion and zeal for the subject.
Just intonation may not be as prevalent in our minds as Deep Listening when it comes to Oliveros’s work, but for much, if not all, of her accordion work, she was tuned in just intonation.
Although not as associated with just intonation, Sims is a pioneer of microtonal music, articulating the 72 note to the octave system used by many, including experimental improvised music icon Joe Maneri.
Part of the second wave of minimalism in New York, Dreyblatt now lives in Berlin. His Orchestra of Excited Strings gives an almost rock and roll like edge to the interplay of overtones in his just intonation works.
A Canadian composer, now residing in Berlin, Sabat is deeply engaged in just intonation, not only through his vast catalogue of compositions, but in his important theoretical work with Wolfgang von Schweinitz on the Extended Helmholtz-Ellis JI Pitch Notation.
A major figure in the pedagogy of just intonation in the United States, von Schweinitz’s tenure at California Institute of the Arts has affected numerous peers and students, not to mention his work with Marc Sabat on the Extended Helmholtz-Ellis JI Pitch Notation.
Another iconoclast, Fullman’s Long String Instrument strips intonation down to its basic elements, while making something that is all-encompassing and larger than theory.
One of the central figures of the 2nd wave of minimalism and the 70s and 80s downtown scene in New York. Phill’s work is simultaneously still and energetic.
Amacher used the combination of tones as a starting point for some of the most indescribable experiential music of the 20th century.
Barlow is an important teacher as well as a composer of acoustic works that stem from a combination of acoustic sound and electronically produced structure.
Los Angeles based composer of just intonation based music and proponent of free access to culture for all.
Spanish violinist and composer, now based in California, whose “work includes musical catalogues of chords in extended-Pythagorean intonation (the 53-tone scale), and meandering explorations of the sound continuum through slow glissandi colliding into (syntonic) Just Intonation harmonies.”
A violinist, violist, and baroque specialist living in the LA area, McIntosh founded the experimental Formalist quartet and professor at California Institute of the Arts
Canadian composer now living in Berlin, Chiyoko works often with combinations of acoustic instruments and sine waves. She is a former student of James Tenney.
A composer influenced by Partch, who builds his own instruments, is a tuning theorist and works with shadow puppets. Founder of Anaphoria Island.
Swedish composer that produced one of our favorite recordings of the year, For Organ and Brass
LA based composer who lists her current interests as: vocal interference, low frequencies, nonsense, tubes, bards, paper, chant, necromancy, harmonicas, birds, the music of the spheres, bells. You can’t really go wrong.
UK based composer working in Manchester and teaching at Huddersfield and Cambridge. He has written for some of the most interesting intepreters of the time, including Quatuor Bozzini, Philip Thomas and BBC Scottish Orchestra under Ilan Volkov.
Austrian composer working with historical translations, extended technique, and analysis of symbolic functions alongside his work with intonation.
Composer working with electronic music, Gamelan, abstract animation and alternate tuning systems.
Composer using alternate tuning systems to create a meeting between contemporary classical and North Indian traditional sensibilities
California based composer using alternate tuning methods to work in ambient and IDM settings.