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Some Tech vocabulary: musical theory

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Sunday, April 13, 2003, 18:39
[Note: some of this is conlang-related, most of it is concultural.]

Techian music theory is derived from Byzantine, Ottoman Turkish and Western
music theories. Techian music uses complex, syncopated rhythms and
microtonal tunings, making it seem unaccessible to many in the West, or even
the East. This is because the fully-developed chromatic scale has not 12
tones to the octave, but 53 or 72!

So musical scales, the modes or _mk'âmâþ_ (Arabic _makâmât_), are described
not merely in terms of "whole steps" or "half steps". Some new terms are
required, and these are taken from Greek.

The most common tuning system is 53-tone just intonation, based on 53-tone
Pythagorean (what the Turks have used), which is very close to 53-tone equal
temperament. This is so-called "Islamic tuning" (72-tone equal temperament
is known as "Byzantine tuning").

The single step in 53-tone is the _k'omma_ (comma). This is defined as the
interval 81:80, which caluculates to 21.5063 cents, or roughly a "ninth
tone". This very small interval is barely detectable by human ears (but more
easily by Techian ones), and two pitches a comma apart sound like a single
note on a badly-tuned piano.

There are two interval sizes called the _djesis_ (diesis), which are similar
to the Western quarter tone. The _djesis a c'Gîr_ "small diesis" is the size
of two commas, which can be expressed by the interval 128:125 (41.0589
cents). The _djesis a kvîr_ "great diesis" is three commas in size.

Then there are the two minor second intervals each known as a "semitone", or
_sêmit'onos_. Again, there is a _c'Gîr_ "small" and a _kvîr_ "great"
interval in this class: the small semitone is defined as 256:243 (90.2250
cents), and the great semitone is 16:15 (111.7313 cents).

Even the major second or or _t'onos_ is divided into "small" and "great".
The former is 10:9 or 182.4037 cents; the latter is 9:8 or 203.9100 cents.
From there, there's the "sesquitone?" (minor third), the "ditone" (major
third)... all the way up to the _djapâsôn_ (octave), 2:1 or exactly 1200

The Byzantine or 72-tone system is not based on linear intervals, but is
truly 72-tone equal temperament (the 12-tone tuning we're familiar with in
the West is a subset of that, as is 36-tone Iranian tuning). The terminology
is similar, with commas, dieses, "great"/"small" and other things.

Finally, there's the _psaltêrjon n t'aq'îjon_, the so-called "Tech piano",
which is actually a large mechianical hammered dulcimer with legs, two
keyboard manuals and a sustain pedal. The keyboard looks much like a piano
or harpsichord keyboard, but has three rows of keys, adding a row of "red
keys", five per octave below the black and white keys. These are like pedal
bars on an organ, extending in front of the keyboard, and properly played
with the thumb. This allows the instrument to use 17 of the 53 or 72 tones
per octave; the Arabic tuning according to Safi ud-Din and the Persian tar
tuning are just two possibilities. The instrument can also be set up to
perform the genoi of Byzantine music as well. The two manuals have a usual
range of five octaves (C to c"", but since baroque tuning is normally used,
it sounds like BB to b"', or about 61.5 to 1968 Hz). The lower manual sounds
an octave lower than the upper manual and can be coupled with the latter.


"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized
anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't." -- Eleanor


Danny Wier <dawier@...>