Part 3, Uncategorized

Aysem (I did not know you) – OCA composition assignment 3 descant treated as makam microtonal study

The following was set as Exercise 39D requesting a descant.  After studying Anatolian folk music I decided this should be monodic, accompanied only by a drone and small two-sided hand-drum.

However in the course of this, I was exploring the different ‘makam’ or modes in Arabic and Ottoman music and have used the quarter-tone addin in Sibelius to supply appropriate pitches from the ‘Rast’ tetrachord and pentachord.

In the score file here there are more detailed notes on instrumentation options and performance:

Aysem Turkish song with microtones

Below is the .wav file where you can hear microtones on two different notes of the scale  Sibelius does not play all the short trills indicated as + on the upper (melody) wind instrument e.g. bey.  Also some of the written trills on the percussion have a strange rattley sound in Sibelius.  I notated one as demisemiquavers but consider this confusing and too limiting on the performer to notate all of them this way.

I found it interesting that after exposing the listening ear to a pitch for the minor submediant that is half way between the dominant and minor seventh note of the scale, the ‘western’ fully flattened minor submediant is the note (in the penultimate bar) that sounds out of tune: too flat.

There are many sources of detail on makam and microtones e.g. Wikipedia.  This may not be totally reliable so I have ordered a couple of textbooks on this and may post more detail later.  The following empirical study casts much light on how these folk songs are pitched in Eastern Cyprus, drawing on both the Eastern Orthodox (classical greek) modes and Turkish modes:

Neither of these is exactly in agreement with the westernised ‘church’ modes and they require somewhere between 24 and 53 – possibly 31 – microtones to the octave to match the consistently sung pitches.  I have experimented using a cornetto to find fingerings for both the half-sharp notes and can provide more details on request.


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