Hello Justin and congratulations to an exceptional album. "Do, Owe, Harm" deals with xenharmonic music. How did you come to this type of music?
Hi Daniel. It good to be in touch with you. I’m happy that you like the album. I came in contact with xenharmonic music many years ago, back in my teenage years through the study of composers like Charles Ives, Julian Carrillo, Harry Partch and others -
When did you decide to compose an entire album based on the microtonal music?
When I was working on the previous Feeding Fingers album, "Attend" (2016), I set a personal challenge to finally write a song using a microtonal / xenharmonic tuning system for the album. In 2014 or so I started studying and listening to xenharmonic music in a much deeper way than I had done previously. During this time I came across Wendy Carlos’ album, "Beauty in the Beast" (1986) and found the use of her "Alpha Scale" tuning system for the title track to be something really mysterious and beautiful. I decided to try my hand at writing a song myself utilizing that system. The result was the song, "Where All of These Towns and Choices End". I so enjoyed writing music without being tethered to the limitation of working within the 12-
Xenharmonic music is the realisation of tones between our "traditional" tempered semi-
My first memory of listening to microtonal / xenharmonic music comes without a doubt from the first time that I heard Ivan Wyschnegradsky’s "24 Preludes in Quarter Tone System". For anyone unfamiliar with what we are talking about here, I strongly suggest that you not focus too much on the verbiage here and simply listen to this. The first time that I heard this, I heard it at high volume and felt a bit disoriented and a little nauseous over time. The subtle mental gymnastics that the mind does in trying to push the notes a few cents to the left or right to put them "in tune" -
I can imagine, that it is not that easy to play these tones on synthesizers, guitars and so on. What preparations are to be done to let the machines and instruments sound microtonal?
Without getting too boorish and bookish about it, I will just give a very, very simple run through. I am sure that the more pedantic among us will fling insults at me right away, as they seem wont to do. It’s rather simple, really. With traditionally fretted string instruments like guitar, electric bass, etc. your two most common options for getting into those microtonal nooks and crannies are to either install more frets between the half-
Especially in your case, how did you tune your instruments?
For my personal setup, I use a Stratocaster guitar body that I change necks in and out of. For this guitar body I have a fretless neck that I made myself and use primarily for leads and melodies and I have a 22-
You also got some support by a German saxophonist, Philipp Gerschlauer. How did you got in contact with him?
Ich habe von 2010 bis 2015 in Deutschland gelebt. Während meiner Zeit dort hörte ich viel Jazz von verschiedenen deutschen und österreichischen Bands und Solisten. Ich fand Phillips Arbeit sehr interessant. Er ist spezialisiert auf mikrotonale Musik. Ich hörte seine Arbeit mit seiner microtonal Jazz Band Besaxung sehr oft während meines Studiums der mikrotonalen Musik -
How difficult (or maybe even easy) is it to compose xenharmonic songs?
I wouldn’t say that writing a song in a xenharmonic scale is more difficult or easier than writing in common 12-
So what steps have to be taken for such a composition?
The way that I compose xenharmonic songs is probably more akin to something one might call "polytonality". I compose a song in its entirety in a certain tuning that I chose to work within beforehand. I probably lifted this in an indirect way from Brian Eno’s "Oblique Strategies". I give myself a limited parameter to work within. Before starting, I have a selection of "tunings" or equal divisions of the octave (EDO) to choose from. I can write these tunings on slips of paper and draw one randomly from a box. Let’s say that I draw from the box a piece of paper that has "15-
What do you expect from the people when they listen to "Do Owe Harm"?
My primary concern is in creating music that I hope that people will enjoy listening to as much as I do making it. I like to share in the joy of making things through, at times, unconventional means. But, I don’t care to rub those means in people’s faces and say to them, "Look at what I did!". I would rather the listener just sit back, listen and enjoy while hopefully finding something new -
As far as I know this is the first post-
I agree with you in that this type of music maybe does create a certain sense of claustrophobia, technophobia, "otherness", etc. It is naturally a bit disorienting, which is essentially what the post-
Your voice reminds me also a bit of Robert Smith. Is the Cure-
I am told often that our voices have a similar timbre, but I can’t say that he has had much influence on my career. I am not familiar with anything that he has done within the past eighteen years or so.
"Do, Owe, Harm". Three words with a very melancholic attitude in combination. What do you want to express with this title?
I’m not sure yet. Ask me again in ten years.
Some songs surprises me just by reading their titles: "A Happy Lust For Alphabets", "Hate Yourself Kind", "In Hallways Feared From Birth". They have some kind of surrealistic, some kind of André-
I have read André Breton, Georges Bataille, Guillaume Apollinaire, Louis Aragon, Paul Eluard and the rest, of course. Les décadents français. Les surréalistes français. But, their methods and mine are not so similar. When I was very young, they surely gave me some much needed, naive wild-
The enigmatic (and somehow surrealistic) stone cover with this planet-
You are correct. That image is a still created by the video director, Steven Lapcevic. He is a long-
Your latest work, as well as all the other albums before, proof you to be a free-
I will certainly keep microtonal composition as another element in my future work. It will be another tool in the toolbox. I am itching to get started on new music as soon as our tour ends in April. We will see what comes out next.
PHOTOGRAPHY © STEVEN LAPCEVIC
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