Kyle Gann: Reticent behemoth (2015)

for quarter-tone accordion


Veli Kujala

In 2015 Veli Kujala asked me to write a piece for his quarter-tone accordion, which I was surprised to learn existed. I had been composing in unequally-spaced just-intonation microtonal scales for decades, but had never written anything in quarter-tones. I enjoy quarter-tone music, but consider it a rather inherently atonal scale, and I am more comfortable in tonality, especially when using microtones. In any case, I consulted the essay "Some Quarter-Tone Impressions" (1925) by my hero Charles Ives for advice. Ives thought the way to begin was by combining perfect fifths from each of the quarter-tone scales. So I took him very literally, and moved slowly in perfect fifths in each hand, getting a feel for every possible combination, and then added a quarter-tone tune at the end over a droning accompaniment. My sense that it is quarter-tone music for people who don't usually like quarter-tones has been borne out by audience comments.

Selected Performances:
World premiere: Sept. 24, 2015, by accordionist Veli Kujala at the International Conference for Minimalist Music

PDF score here

- Kyle Gann

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