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School for Designing a Society presents The Public Actor: Performance An intensive workshop in which we probe the idea that the way a person presents herself in everyday life can be looked at as a performance of the public actor. I will be co-presenting in this workshop.
Julie and Elizabeth’s Anti-Capitalist Concert Series presents Unentitled and Unrequited Two experimental music and theater performances composed by longtime teachers at SDaS Mark Enslin and Susan Parenti. I will be listening. And turning pages.
So don’t be a stranger, c’mon over.
So we’ll go this way eleven miles
or ninety to the mystery curve
Oh, we’re close to danger! but
by dark, the shine
will be off the deck.
Over two millennia in the making, the release of the fledgling edition of the Sagittal Songbook is without question a major galactic event in the tiny universe of microtonal notation.
Sagittal, an elegant, elaborate system of arrow-shaped accidentals conceived by the gods and designed with the intent of enabling mortals to notate music in any imaginable variety of intonation, is put to the test against actual music in this book, which features 48 vocal pieces written by 15 different composers in tunings ranging from the benign 5-limit just intonation to the exotic Bohlen-Pierce scale.
“I wanted to see what a bunch of scores would look like in Sagittal,” says Jacob Barton, who compiled the book and composed six of the songs. “I also wanted to take some weight off people getting into xenharmonic music, to give it a friendly face.”
The Songbook includes everything from solos to full ensembles, from one-line mnemonics to full-blown arias and “spiral canons” which transpose indefinitely.
Click the button below to purchase a book for $20 (plus tax and shipping).
In August 2010 I was asking several composers to write a piece for udderbot, often adding a twist to make the request personal and interesting. I requested Mark Enslin, longtime teacher at SDaS, student of Ben Johnston, John Zorn, and Herbert Brün, collaborator, composer and playwright, to write a piece for udderbot as part of a one-man band.
Hard as I had tried, I did not anticipate the corporeal onslaught that followed. By October, Enslin had produced a piece for 17 instruments—udderbot, trombone, umbrella, tambourine, hi hat, bass drum, guiro, cymbal between the knees, flipper, plastic jug, police whistle, train whistle, harmonica, candy wrapper, finger cymbals, poem, 52-tube tubulon, and a poem by Indigo Crespighi previously used for Safety Nets I of 17 Tone Piano Project fame. That performance, I garnered an applause simply in the act of walking onstage. I didn’t get very far; the tubulon was especially heavy, and all the rehearsal time had gone to constructing the outfit.
By January, Enslin had completed a color-coded score made in Microsoft Word—avoidance of standard notation programs is thematic in his work—and I set to work learning the off-kilter melodies and decoding the complex rhythms, even making a guide track. By my estimation, performing this piece is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. I don’t feel I have yet done it justice, yet I know that many of Mark’s pieces are foolproof in this peculiar way; no matter the impossibility of the score, the theatre of the attempt always fascinates.
The performance here is from a festival of Enslin’s work in September 2011. It is about the best I have managed to do…but I am far from finished with Safety Nets II.
EFFLUVE ANA MOONTENSE—Music for retuned pianos and voice; a gateway into a sound world of unknown unknowns.
The global organization of music is almost complete. When it is complete, music itself will offer no new potentials (except when propped up by the potentials of other, less organized systems such as children).
The pursuit of Xenharmonic Music reverses this decay, recognizing the legitimacy of possibilities which were prematurely discarded and systematically hidden from musicians for the past few centuries.
Which old patterns must be resisted for truly new systems to emerge?
New technologies are slowly breaching the classic vicious cycle—”We need good music to justify building new instruments, but we need new instruments in order to compose good music”—but the significance of xenharmonics is still invisible.
Only acts of composition—meetings of whimsy and rigor—can make the invisible visible.
released 13 December 2011
Two and a half years ago, Andrew Heathwaite and I were approached by Danielle Chynoweth of the UC-IMC. The IMC had office space available; Danielle took it as an opportunity to remind me that I wanted to start a musical instrument library. This desire combined with Andrew’s ideas about xenharmonic education, and Oddmusic Urbana-Champaign was born.
Two and a half years later, one can say that Oddmusic is still primarily driven by my and Andrew’s visions (delusions?), although by now countless others have been enthusiastically involved in a variety of ways. We are taking this winter to reflect on our activities so far, perhaps going as far as to distill them into media, designs, wisdom. Be on the lookout for these.
Oh, and we are raising funds for our continued operation and future projects!!!
Sagibelius is a set of extensions to the Sibelius notation software which enables the use of the Sagittal notation system. Sagittal is a consistent and intuitive system of arrow-like microtonal accidentals developed by Dave Keenan and George Secor with the intent of notating every possible tuning system. We used it to notate just intonation intervals at the first Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp, and I was encouraged by the results and by my own learning of it.
This free software is available for download here.
It was a long journey to completing this. I wrote the plugins initially in 2005, but updates in the Sagittal font rendered it incompatible with my version of Sibelius. It took five more years of intermittent struggling with fonts to come up with a special version of the font which works for Sibelius. The original plugin was written for the Spartan subset of symbols, but the higher-precision Athenian set, capable of notating pitches to 3-cent accuracy, was requested. Parts of the process were laborious and will likely remain so for future updates.
Not having a notation program capable of Sagittal has been one of the biggest roadblocks in my own process of composition since 2005. I’m glad that time is over. I’m currently compiling a “Sagittal Songbook” of small, singable pieces by myself and friends written in the meantime, with hopes of instigating a musical Arab Spring in these revolutionary times.
Please consider making a donation, especially if you use Sibelius and find this plugin contributive.
There are two programs this summer at the Gesundheit! Institute in West Virginia that I am involved in:
- School for Designing a Society: a three-week course in Desire and Design, June 29-July 20
- Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp: a 12-day intensive in the composition and performance of microtonal music
For me, these two programs are interconnected in a curious history of the past six years. You see, I first discovered the School for Designing a Society in 2005 in a quest for a microtonal summer program. I did a Google search with the text “Warren Burt summer 2005″, and up popped SDaS, who had done some collaboration with the illustrious Burt back in 2001 when he visited U of I’s composition world.
It was a serendipity, for in attending SDaS in 2005 I found many crucial ingredients to my living which I hadn’t found before: a community of people very different from each other yet able to learn from each other; a way for composition to be relevant to anyone at all; a practice for listening to my own desires, what *I* want and envision, not only for myself but for the world, turning my everyday performances and language into crucial, significant, chosen actions; and ways of thinking the “big picture” which didn’t overwhelm me with powerlessness.
SDaS’s emphasis on designing and then trying out new-and-needed real-world projects is what led to my formulation of my desire for the microtonal summer camp that I had wanted SDaS to be, and for a musical instrument library. We started Oddmusic-UC in May 2009 as a musical instrument library in Urbana. This summer, armed with clearer and clearer formulations of social musical problems in fruitful friction with our social and musical desires, we dive into the beautiful mountain retreat of the Gesundheit! Institute and attempt to forge yet negotiate a temporary microtonal community within the ongoing microtonal movement.
Meanwhile, the Summer School for Designing a Society kicks off at Gesundheit! for its 8th consecutive year. Because the curriculum is so driven by the desires of the participants, every slight variation in the participants tends to have big consequences on what actually happens. Whatever happens will show us how undeniably we matter to the world, to each other.