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Sagittal Notation Score and Computer Playback

Okay, here’s a project that I’ve been working on for a little while now:

Toccata in Bb String Quartet Mixed Sagittal Score

Toccata in Bb String Quartet Mixed Sagittal Recording

I originally wrote the piece when I was in the Army back in 2008, when I was deployed to Baghdad. I had just gotten into learning about just intonation, and wrote this as a trombone quartet, with the pitch adjustments written as cent adjustments above each note. It was a bit clunky to read, although the guys in the band were good enough to play through it with me so I can see how it sounded. This version is that piece translated into a string quartet setting, using Mixed-Sagittal notation, which I think is ultimately easier to read and provides more useful tuning information to the musicians. The recording also includes the correct pitch-bends for every note in the piece, so it should provide a fairly decent idea of what the music would sound like if musicians were to work it up and perform it. The string quartet sound is from Sibelius, and although I was initially unsure if I would like the sound with it’s automatic excessive vibrato, I think that the results actually work well. While the real strength of writing in just intonation is generating potentially very complex yet vibrantly resonant harmonies is obscured by a lot of vibrato (straight-tones bring out the resonances better), the vibrato does emphasize the melodic content well, and it looks like there’s enough good melodic content there that it’s effective. I would presume that musicians in a live performance would probably strike a ‘happy medium’ between playing with straight-tones to bring out resonances and adding vibrato for phrasing and musical effect.

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