By Argenta Walther

On May 7th, MicroFest will present the vocal music group Accordant Commons, performing a diverse array of microtonal vocal works by Daniel Corral, Nomi Epstein, Evan Johnson and Leah Reid.

What Draws Us to Microtonality:

We feel that the voice is the ultimate Microtonal instrument. The voice is able to explore shades of tuning on an instinctual level and possesses an unlimited capacity to tune to its surroundings.  Its interaction with textual and musical forms reveals many truths about sound and our relationship with it. We started this project not to solve a mystery of intonation, but to enhance the awareness of the mystery, enabling a greater engagement with the musical imagination of the singer in collaboration with the structural innovations of composers.

The Music:

+|’me’S-pace by Daniel Corral is an engaging synthesis of the poetry of Christine Wertheim and the Just Intonation scale made famous by LaMonte Young’s Well-Tuned Piano.  Wertheim’s text play lends itself to Microtonal musical language with its shifting visual textures, which transfer to the sonic realm with ease.  Underneath the musical and textual abstraction in Corral’s, there is a compelling emotional narrative of the journey through the unknown, which Accordant Commons finds to be resonant and calming.

Nomi Epstein’s Four Voices provides microtonal vocal writing with an innovative system of notation, combining elements of graphic score with precise pitch relationships.  In addition to the pitched material, there are many unvoiced sounds, which add further shades of expression and the feeling of a deconstructed language.  This system of Microtonality is pleasantly intuitive, while challenging us to listen more closely.

The trio Three in, ad abundantiam by Evan Johnson also plays with language deconstruction, though in this case, the source material is from the Petrach sonnet “Solo e pensoso.” The translation follows: “Alone and pensive…”; “my life, which is hidden from others…”; “with me, and me with it…”  In an intricate and spacious manner, Johnson creates a muted and subtle listening environment for both listener and performer, suspended in its unique intonation.

Single Fish by Leah Reid uses the poetry of Gertrude Stein as the source material for her sonic exploration, which incorporates the use of percussion instruments and percussive voice textures to engage in a musical dialogue with Stein’s idiosyncratic word games.  This was an adventure to put together, and our group hand-eye coordination will forever be better for it!