The just-intonation thing

I’ve hovered around just intonation for a little while, but never truly dived in …. until this week. I’m using Partch’s 43 tone scale dumbed down to a 41 tone scale upon Kraig Grady’s advice (which I understand comes from Erv Wilson’s writings). Kraig also designed the layout of the pitches in my little iPhone interface … see below.

The JI sounds are beautiful!

I thought it would be inaccessible to my ears. But it is not. When two pitches are very close it creates a kind of phasing which appears to give the note a spatial depth. I wonder if this actually accidentally fakes a spatial audio cue. Here’s a quick play around:

Coloured squares represent tones which have the closest whole-number relationship with the tonic (which is in light blue). You can perceive the coloured tones as being kinda-like a major scale in equal tempered 12 tones.

I had one of those other-wordly moments, the first time I played with this little interface, because it sounds awfully similar to one of my favourite Aphex Twin tracks:

Technicalities: Touch-OSC app, talking to SuperCollider

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4 Responses to The just-intonation thing

  1. Terumi says:

    Nice one, Etienne! Goes to show you don’t need skinny fingers to play the iPhone.

  2. steve grainger says:

    Is this easy to set up on an Ipod? I would love to have a play as the musical possibilities are vast.

    I find when you play close pitches say 5/4 and 81/64 in the left and right channell. You do get phasing, like a beautiful vibrato, and a dimensionality effect that is different to playing the same note in both channells.

    • Hi Steve,

      I am using OSCTouch … an iPhone app that costs around $6 … to send OSC messages (which are like MIDI messages) to my laptop. My laptop then produces sounds with SuperCollider, which is an audio synthesis language.

      So it takes a bit of setting up.

      But you are right that it would make an excellent little stand-alone iphone app.

      My area of interest is spatial audio composition, and what I will be experimenting with is placing tones at different points in space, seeing how that affects their relationship.

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