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Phantasm is an unusual track, originally written as a piece of coursework for my degree course. What makes it unusual, we'll get on to later.

This track was done entirely in Reason 3.0. Anyone familiar with the software who wants to know any specific details, please write me an email and I'll happily explain. Notice the ambient synthesizer at the beginning, where the vaguely squelchy noise fades in and out at seemingly random panning positions - this is an automated process, achieved by using two pattern sequencers to control the level and the panning, but having the sequencers working at different speeds. Again, anyone familiar with the software who's interested by that, let me know and I'll send you the combinator patch for it.

Now... what makes Phantasm so unusual? It is what's known as a Microtonal song. The basic concept of Microtonal music is quite simple, the reasoning more complex. So here are two explanations for you. Pick your poison.

Basically - For Non-Musicians:

I've used notes in between the normal notes.

In Detail - For Musicians, Musicologists and Anyone Else Who's Interested:

Almost every piece of contemporary Western music uses the 12-Tone Equal Temperament (12TET) system. It is so ubiquitous now, that most people don't realise anything else is a possibility. But 12TET is a development of the 19th century, and before that point things were done quite differently.

12TET is a tuning system with 12 tones to one octave, and each tone spread equally in terms of pitch. However since our perception of pitch is logarithmic, this does not mean they are spread out equally in terms of Hz divisions. No tuning system can actually be perfect, but 12TET works by spreading the tensions and inaccuracies across all the keys. This means that everything played in 12TET is slightly wrong, but no one key is significantly more wrong than any other. This allows pieces of music to change key freely, without worrying about discord and tension. Previously an instrument would be tuned to one specific key, and the further from that key you ventured the worse it would sound. However in that one key, it would sound better than 12TET.

As an experimental piece, Phantasm uses 24TET tuning - 24 notes to the octave, at equal divisions of 50 cents. Writing in 24TET was a strange experience, as not much of the music theory I've learned to date still applied. I had to rely on feel to see me through. In a way though, it was strangely liberating. I used pitch-bend automation and re-tuned digital samplers to achieve the quarter-tone steps

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Copyright Alex Griffiths 2006