From Gamma to Ut

John Luther Adams writes in with a note about using gamuts in composition:

The use of gamuts is among the most practically useful aspects of our inheritance from Cage.

When we freeze the tonal space, we shift the focus of our music away from the manipulation of notes to listening to the sounds. It doesn’t matter whether the elements of a particular gamut are obviously related at the outset. When we hear the music, we hear the continuity, the continuum of the sounds. The use of interval controls (a la Harrison) does something similar. In fact, I often use interval controls to create my gamuts. So Lou’s observation to Daniel Wolf [see comments] makes good sense to me.

I don’t quite agree in terms of my own music. My own use of gamuts has often been in a microtonal context for extremely practical reasons: when I don’t lay out in advance what chords I’m going to use, the number of pitches per octave is likely to explode to an unwieldy number. However, I have sometimes carried that usage back into my equal-tempered music – a notable example is “Faith” from my chorus and orchestra piece Transcendental Sonnets, which employs only the harmonies F minor, B major/minor, G minor, C major, and D-flat major. But John’s a lot more into sounds than I am. I’m into voice-leading.
Mmmmmmmmmmmm, voice-leading.


  1. kraig Grady says

    [voice leading]
    I just never thought of you as a stepwise type of guy
    Is there something wrong with this link at the top though?
    KG replies: Steps? Steps are way to big for me. I’m into *increments*.
    The link should take you to a former blog post. Works when I try it.