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    'Flatlining' is a string quartet based on an exploration of microtonal intervals derived from the harmonic series with particular reference to various versions of sixths and sevenths. Intervals which deviate from standard temperament (relative to E) include 19/16 (19th harmonic), 13/8 (13th harmonic), 27/16 (Pythagorean major sixth), 7/4 (7th harmonic), 31/16 (31st harmonic). The title refers to decreasing distances between harmonic partials of various notes in simultaneous presentation when intervals based on interval ratios are used. When the tuning is exact (or nearly exact), the alignment of harmonic partials of one tone (octaves of fundamental) with upper partials of another one can give rise to an effect whereby the salience of some of these partials is increased, leading to an unusual foregrounding of these delicate sounds. These partials are heard separately from the rest of the instrumental sonorities (due to the slow deviations in their tuning causing them to be allocated separately), highlighting the harmonic series as a pattern of notes within a note and demonstrating how harmony and tuning can affect what we hear of the 'internal harmony' of a periodic vibration (standard musical note). This attempt to prise harmonic tones apart by approaching perfect intervals is contrasted with a rhythmic articulations which use of irregularly-accented triple-time quaver, semiquaver and dotted-quaver figures to undercut the nonetheless persistent momentum/inertia of these ascending runs, compressing the piece's pitch space into a near unison at various points before the comparative order of wider interval spaces is restored. One particularly influential piece on the genesis of this approach is Jame's Tenney's string quartet 'Koan' (1984) which rigorously explores the byproducts of microtonal journeys to and from unison presentation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationSS Michael and John/Cultivate Centre, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2008


    • string quartet
    • microtonal
    • harmonic series


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