2018 03 23
01 01. Hyperchromatica: I. Andromeda Memories 8:24
01 02. Hyperchromatica: II. Futility Row 8:53
01 03. Hyperchromatica: III. Orbital Resonance 11:33
01 04. Hyperchromatica: IV. Pavane for a Dead Planet 9:10
01 05. Hyperchromatica: V. Star Dance 6:44
01 06. Hyperchromatica: VI. Ride the Cosmos 6:22
01 07. Hyperchromatica: VII. Dark Forces Signify 8:21
01 08. Hyperchromatica: VIII. The Lessing Is Miracle 9:43
01 09. Hyperchromatica: IX. Busted Grooves 7:16
02 01. Hyperchromatica: X. Rings of Saturn 13:33
02 02. Hyperchromatica: XI. Pulsars 10:26
02 03. Hyperchromatica: XII. Neptune Night 14:16
02 04. Hyperchromatica: XIII. Spacecat 4:28
02 05. Hyperchromatica: XIV. Reverse Gravity 5:58
02 06. Hyperchromatica: XV. Romance Postmoderne 8:37
02 07. Hyperchromatica: XVI. Liquid Mechanisms 13:29
02 08. Hyperchromatica: XVII. Galactic Jamboree 7:18
Hyperchromatica (now available on a two-disc set from Other Minds, OM 1025-2) is a work in seventeen movements, lasting two hours and 35 minutes, for three microtonally tuned Disklaviers (computer-driven pianos). The 13-limit just intonation tuning for the three pianos (Disklaviers), with 33 pitches per octave, is given at the bottom of this page. It would be more accurate, actually, to think of this not as music for three pianos, but for one piano with 243 keys. In addition to the microtonality, most of the pieces also use polytempo structures and other rhythmic difficulties that would make performance by human players impossible. The fusion of microtonality and polytempo that I began in Custer and Sitting Bull (1995-99) reaches a second climax here.
Among the collection of movements a great disparity of styles will be noticed. This is deliberate and necessary. Had I only written abstract, austere pieces like Orbital Resonance and Liquid Mechanisms, some listeners would have said, "Well the tuning is interesting, but few people will be attracted to an idiom so peculiar." Had I written only tonal and melodic pieces like Pavane for a Dead Planet and Dark Forces Signify, some would have said, "Well he's not really doing anything new, just going back to old styles and retuning them exotically." In order to thoroughly explore this elegant tuning in a kind of Gradus ad Parnassum - in order to allow the tuning to make its full argument to an audience - I had to go both forward and backward in history, to show what we could have been doing these last few centuries had we not been limited to twelve pitches, and also to project into the future what music could become: and with the same 33 pitches. I had to create not a unified essay, but an alternate universe. Besides, I was like a kid in a candy store with all these new pitches, able to resurrect chord progressions from the past and make them sound otherworldly by restoring the minuscule discrepancies that equal temperament had swept under the carpet. Using the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 in the harmonic series, it was natural to emphasize the familiar 1-3-5 in one piece, and the strange 7-9-11 in another, and each has its revelations in this context. The range of style proves the tuning's versatility and wealth of potential. In all the pieces, though, there is a pleasure taken in tiny intervals of 25 to 50 cents - as voice-leading, as melody, as complexly buzzing sonority. And so the style, in every case, can be described as hyperchromatic.
Let me put it more simply: I'm trying to make microtonality attractive and seductive, not scary as it is to most people and in most microtonal music. A lot of people, mostly composers, want to hear the most weird-ass and transgressive s**t I can throw at them, and I try to gratify that in some movements. But more, I want to suggest (and prove) that we can keep conventional tonality and augment it with higher-overtone relationships. The simpler the context, the clearer microtonality's potential becomes. This is my strategy for bringing microtonality into the mainstream, where I am convinced it will eventually end up. The goal here is no less than to reinvent tonality.
Sound production on all recordings by David Garland.
On his latest recording, Hyperchromatica, Kyle Gann expands on Conlon Nancarrow’s work with player pianos and multiplies it. This expansive new work was written for three computer-controlled disklavier pianos that Gann tuned to an intricate system of his own design, with the express goal to “reinvent tonality.” Gann treats the work not as a piano trio but a work for a single instrument with 243 keys. Hyperchromatica extends the possibilities of the piano well beyond the range of human possibility, utlizing complex polytempo and polymetric techniques that would be impossible for even the most virtuosic of players.
That’s not to say that Hyperchromatica is cold and mechanical. There are moments of frenetic chaos, to be sure, but Gann is focused on making microtonal music not accessible, but more “attractive and seductive.” Gann manipulates our suspension of disbelief, moving seamlessly from typically pianistic passages to figures almost too complex to comprehend. The strata of mictrotonal pitch and polytempo provides an unfamiliar lushness.
Hyperchromatica is a mammoth work, more than two years in the making. After years of working with a variety of microtonal tunings, Gann devised a tuning that provided him with enough heft to cover the piece’s two and half hours. By covering the gamut of styles and techniques, Gann has created a touchstone of microtonal music. The future is now, and Kyle Gann is leading is the way.
Kyle Gann (b. 1955 in Dallas, Texas) is a composer and was new-music critic for the Village Voice from 1986 to 2005. Since 1997 he has taught at Bard College. He is the author of seven books on American music, including books on Conlon Nancarrow, Robert Ashley, John Cage’s 4’33”, and Charles Ives’s Concord Sonata. He studied composition with Ben Johnston, Morton Feldman, and Peter Gena, and much of his music is microtonal. His major works include the piano concerto Sunken City, Transcendental Sonnets for chorus and orchestra, the microtonal music theater piece Custer and Sitting Bull and The Planets for mixed octet.
Been out for a while but reckon this deserves its own thread and your attention