Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vicentino, Grandfather of Microtonal Music

Below is a forwarded press release. The notion of "microtonal" music emerged as a response to the standardization of chromaticism in Renaissance Europe. Our musical tradition since that time has been based on the notion of 12 pitches within the octave, derived and defended by theorists using a cycle of intervals of a fifth (produced by the proportion 3:2). Vicentino was one of the earliest historical figures pointing out that there is nothing particularly "natural" or superior in such a limitation. He argued for an adjustment to the system to add in other possible divisions of the octave discussed by ancient Greek theorists, particularly the strange-sounding "enharmonic genus". Johnny Reinhard, also on this program, is one of today's leading proponents of microtonal music and is founder of the American Festival of Microtonal Music. I would love to be able to check out this recital, but I won't be able to make it.
    When: Saturday, May 15th at 8 PM
    Where: Church of St. Luke in the Fields (located at 487 Hudson Street), New York City
    Admission: $12 at the door, $10 for students
    Nicolo Vicentino (1511-1576) was a priest, composer, and music theorist who claimed that with proper support and encouragement he might revive the fabled secrets of ancient Greek music. Written for an a cappella vocal quartet, the piece was composed in the enharmonic genus, a secular Latin motet that sets a prose text in honor of Vicentino’s patron, Cardinal Ippolito d’Este (for whom Palestrina worked as well). Also on the program are works by Ge Ganru, Rami Seo, Sasha Bogdanowitsch, and Johhny Reinhard. The concert debuts the Terpstra synthesizer, along with amplified cello scordatura, Korean Gayageums, and a multitude of homemade instruments.


    Musica prisca caput tenebris modo sustulit altis, 
    Dulcibus ut numeris priscis certain factis, 
    Facta rua, Hyppolite, excelsium super aethera mittat.
    Ancient music of late has raised her head out of darkness, 
    So that, with antique and sweet numbers, to compete with ancient deeds,
    Your great deeds, Hyppolitus, she might send high above the heavens.  

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