Warp Speed

Here’s a MIDI version of a microtonal rag I just wrote for pianist Aron Kallay, a fantastic West Coast player who’s specializing in microtonal MIDI piano performance. It’s the second (and shorter) movement of a piece called Every Something Is an Echo of Nothing – the title, as some of you will recall, is a quotation from Cage’s Silence. Aron will premiere it next summer – I tend to complete my commissions pretty early. And I made it virtuosic because he’s got the chops, but it is humanly playable. Think of the piece next time someone claims that new (or microtonal) music is an elitist enterprise.



  1. says

    thanks for that. good work. seems all microtonal music i’ve heard is hard to fit within a regular playlist. guess because i was raised on the chromatic scale. :) good work all the same.

  2. says

    Hi Kyle – I really enjoyed the way you “bent” the music in this piece. Would you discuss the tuning? I’d be interested in any technical details you would like to share.



    KG replies: Sure, and thanks for asking. It’s conceptually very simple: there are five tonics, all within a major second:

    G 1/1 0
    Gv 64/33 1147
    Gb7 28/15 1081
    FL 64/35 1045
    F 16/9 996

    The main 27 pitches come from consonant diatonic scales on those five pitches. (3 more are ornamental.) The tonalities closer to G are used proportionately more often. Main notes are mostly used with the appropriate tonality in the bass, but passing notes from the other tonalities are used freely. It’s more obvious, I think, in the floating slow movement. You could maybe recreate the piece in a quarter-tone environment, but you’d lose the width and luster of the consonance/dissonance range.

  3. says

    Quibble: With the ostinato bass, I’d be inclined to call it a boogie-woogie piece rather than a rag. The microtonality called to mind — wittily, at a distance — the original scoring for “Rodeo,” which calls for out-of-tune upright. I enjoyed hearing it — thanks for posting. Really nice stuff.

    Where’s the premiere?

    KG replies: I knew somebody would quibble. A student referred to it as ragtime, so I thought “close enough,” but when I imitate that idiom I know it’s closer to boogie-woogie. There’s even a pseudo-blues stanza in the middle. Venice, CA, I think.

  4. Andrew says

    The repertoire and style of some pianists–say, Meade Lux Lewis–could imply that boogie-woogie was a subgenre within the rag category (although that may be more a product of the packaging of the music by the “suits” than anything else).

    KG replies: Well, I have been listening to Lewis lately. He’s got some great celesta solos.

  5. says

    What a delightful piece! Those runs had this cranky old musician on the edge of his seat. As far as quibbling goes, I didn’t think rag; I thought perpetuum mobile.

  6. mclaren says

    Your new system for playing mp3s simply doesn’t work. Every browser I try to open this piece with either crashes or produces no sound.

    KG replies: Don’t know what to tell you. It’s not a new system. Anyone?

  7. says

    Re mclaren’s comment, I had trouble with it downloading only one second of sound. Then I discovered I had to turn Javascript on (I always browse with it off). Never encountered a situation where the mp3 download length was contingent on Javascript.

    BTW, very sloozy piece. Priceless at 2:45.