Perverting the Young, Microtonally

A couple of summers ago I had the odd idea of writing some simple microtonal pieces for kids, and maybe calling them “Nursery Tunes for Demented Children.” I had forgotten about them (odd how often I forget pieces I’ve written) and ran across them today, found I had completed two. I had been wanting to use some complex scales in a simple context, and maybe also thought that if kids were exposed at a tender age to something other than the 12-pitch scale they might grow up as weird as I am. Here they are:

Down to the End of the Town
Tiger, Tiger, Turning Right

Should I keep going? I have no idea how you’d perform them.


  1. says

    Hi Kyle, I don’t know about kids, but at the university level, I’ve had piano secondaries who would absolutely love them! (And in case anyone is wondering, piano secondaries are majors on another instrument who have to have some basic keyboard skills.) And a lot of schools have a keyboard lab – sometimes with tunable keyboards. So, yeah, you should keep going!

  2. Bill B. says

    Yes, keep going. Just find a title that can’t be interpreted as demeaning, say, “Music for Fearless* Children.” [*(oh, looky, an interruptive-note neither at the foot or the end!) or “dauntless,” “intrepid,” “unshrinking,” “intergalactic” (pick one from column A or create your own column B …)] or “Microtonal Nursery Tunes for Brave Beginners.” (“Demented children” might be deserving of institutionalization, mood-stabilizing drugs, or even prison …) Historically many composers have written works for youngsters that introduced them to great music, important creators, different cultures, and fresh ideas of all sorts. If one plays microtonal music at an early age, one won’t think it odd or unusual, just as many of us were introduced to such things as frequently changing meters and a variety of modes by Bartok.

  3. says

    Yes! Too many composers think writing for children is beneath them. Would you be willing to post scores?

    KG relies: I’m always happy to post scores, but the microtonal ones take a long time to notate correctly. Hard to imagine I would have the incentive in the next several months.

  4. says

    Oh, I like those. Have you considered working with an animator? They might make some nice little microtoons.

    (I tried posting earlier, but it didn’t seem to work; my excuses if you get this twice.)

    KG replies: That would be nice. Are you volunteering? I can’t think of anyone better. And Arts Journal’s operation has been very hit-and-miss this morning.

    • says

      I’m afraid that I draw cartoons on paper, but have no experience in animation. But I imagine there are animators out there who would like the idea; they like doing short films to music, and the microtones would be a novelty. And kids might like them too.

  5. Claude says

    Demo them to computer game companies, the one’s that produce horror/psycho-thriller style titles. Teens will eat ’em up. After a decade of hearing these microtonal pieces in games, the kids will create garage bands playing microtonal rock-n-roll. By 2040, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell will reunite on a revamped American Idol and have to judge singers singing to this type of music, probably Andrew Lloyd Weber tunes arranged to use these tonalities.

    Which will finally punish them appropriately for the original American Idol.