Musical Idea 13: Aharmonicity

12.29.2013 § Leave a comment

Please review my previous entry on Aharmonics here before attempting to parse this one on Aharmonicity.

What I mean by appending the -ity suffix for state/quality/condition was to imply that I’m going to take the idea of aharmonics and explore how it can worked with as a musical aspect, as I’ve been doing with other aspects so far. To be clear, though, here, we’re not going to be looking at what lies between aharmonic music and harmonic music — we’re going to be looking at what lies between the two sides of the aharmonics coin: tonal movement, and notes.

Actually, it turns out that what we’re really comparing is stepwise motion in pitch, as we observed with notes, and gradual motion in pitch, as we observed with tonal movement. You should already know that gradual motion in pitch is not uncommon with notes — it’s called glissando. And while we didn’t get into it when introducing aharmonics, it should be said that there is no reason why tonal movement could exhibit discontinuous motion, that is, all pitches shifting in unison up or down by some amount.

Let’s lay out a superficial comparison. So with our previous assumption, we might have had a violin playing G#, G, F#, F, E, Eb, D, Dd, etc. while we dial the pitch knob against it. Here we might have the violinist glissando down in pitch while we tap a pitch shift button against it. In the first case, we get the timbre of the violin changing bow directions. In the second case, we might get some audio processing click artifacts of the sudden pitch changes but that’s it. So that’s the difference there.

Now as discussed in the previous entry you still have to make sure the tonal movement together with the changes in the notes, whether one is smooth and the other stepwise, or each dabbles in each style, illuminates the underlying mechanism. You can even pull off exchanges in force between the notes and the tonal movement. This isolating of tonal movement and notes to bring it out is a lot like the point I made in the multidimensionality entry when I talked about controlling which dimensions you move in at which time to bring them out.

It should also be stated that while we’ve mostly spoken of tonal movement as affecting the entirety of the music, this is not necessary. It can affect a single entity, or affect different entities different amounts, etc. etc.

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