small is beautiful


We are delighted to be partners of this International Symposium on microtonality – SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL. The full programme is attached and the quality and range of presentations speaks for itself.  Held at the Mozarteum University Salzburg, this has got to be an event not to miss for microtonalists.  Curated and organised by microtonal guitarist and composer Agustín Castilla-Ávila of the International Ekmelic Music Society.

Hale/Kurth Finale to EUROMicroFest 2017

Casey Hale
Casey Hale
The final concert of EUROMicroFest 2017 (Saturday, 20:30 Uhr, E-Werk) involves two stalwart MicroFest performers, Stephen Altoft (19-div trumpet) and Lee Ferguson (percussion) – duo Contour.  This time with Casey Hale (USA), 19-div Guitar and Jan F. Kurth (DE), Voice.

Casey Hale is an American composer, guitarist and musicologist living in Bristol, UK.  He received his doctorate in composition from the City University of New York, where his research explored improvised music through the lens of cultural studies. His compositions have been performed by the American Symphony Orchestra, Da Capo Chamber Players, and TRANSIT ensemble, among others, and his recent efforts have

been focused on microtonal harmonic resources.


Enneadecahedron is a project in 19-tone equal temperament for electric guitar, trumpet and percussion. It explores the ambiguities in how we hear music that divides the octave into nineteen parts, playing with a variety of harmonic interpretations like varying perspectives on a nineteen-sided object. The fragmentary movements that comprise the work form an evolving collection, a modular series of studies opening out onto a work perpetually in-progress.


Jan F. Kurth (c) Doradzillo
Jan F. Kurth
Jan F. Kurth (*1982) is a singer, impov musician and composer. He grew up in Cologne and studied Jazz Voice, Recorder, electronic music and music pedagogy at the Hochschule für Musik in Dresden as well as flm music composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg. In 2005 and 2006 he was a project fellow at Fabrica Musica, Treviso/Italy and in 2008 at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart/Germany. His focus lies on exploring ways of expression for the voice in different contexts, with and without lyrics, and the connection of music, language, image and movement. He lives in Freiburg, Germany.
His new piece, Das System is in 19-division tuning with a text by Michael Spyra.

Christian Klinkenberg’s Microtonal Opera “Das Kreuz der Verlobten”

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Christian Klinkenberg’s first opera Das Kreuz der Verlobten (The Cross of the Engaged) was premiered in February 2017. Western music theory operates within the boundaries of a 12 tone octave. By splitting up the octave into microtones however, a composer is given a broader array of possibilities. Possibly infinite possibilities. How to deal with infinity? Can the ratios of the harmonic series provide us with a framework? The composer also used graphical notation to make microtonality more intuitive for the musicians.


In the presentation, examples of microtonal techniques will be explained with the support of video excerpts of the first performance of the opera.

The story of the opera: Marie Solheid and François Reiff are probably the most famous victims of the High Fens (Hohes Venn), a huge moor area in the Ardennes: In the summer of 1870, during the fair in the village of Jalhay, Belgium, two young people meet. Soon, they are yearning the wedding. In January 1871, Marie and Francois make their way to Xhoffraix, Maries birth-place, in order to get her marriage papers. But then they’re surprised by a severe snowstorm. Weeks later, on March 22, 1871, the body of the 24-year-old Maria Solheid is found …

Sevish at EUROMicroFest 2017

19th May, 20.30 E-Werk

SevishEUROMicroFest are delighted to welcome Sean Archibald (AKA SEVISH) to EUROMicroFest 2017. He will present a talk explaining how he discovered microtonality and developed a unique genre influenced by 20th century electronica. Then he will talk about the software that allows him make this music, and some of the difficulties that it has been necessary to overcome.  He will talk briefly about the split-notes label which focuses on microtonal music in “popular” forms. He will be talking a bit, but playing a lot of examples, some with animations.

Since his album Golden Hour, Sevish’s technique has included a dark art known as microtonality/xenharmonics. For short, we can call this xen. The xen aesthetic tries to achieve new musical ideas by making things more (or less) in-tune than normal music. This is done by tuning instruments to some tonal system far different to the 12-tone system we hear daily.

Sevish’s influences are varied. 90’s rave and drum’n’bass. Mid-20th Century electronic music like Wendy Carlos and Raymond Scott. Smartypants dance music like μ-ziq, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin and all them lot. Gamelan. Minimalism and extremely repetitive music. And also music which has no repetition at all. Field recordings and all sounds in their entirety. Ambient and drone music. Video game soundtracks—with a soft spot for Sega Genesis FM sounds. Funk. 80’s club music. Modern day xenharmonic music such as Jacky Ligon, Brendan Byrnes, City of the Asleep, Elaine Walker and many others. Jazz. Ancient music. The traditional music of various peoples and other earthlings. Glitches. Breakcore and other -cores. Prog, space, or psychedelic anything. Hip hop and beats.

Michael H. Dixon, horn

Michael H Dixon, horn player, gives a recital at EUROMicroFest 2017 on 19th May.  Earlier in the day he presents a free talk about composing in just intonation for the horn. Born in New Zealand in 1961 Michael learnt piano with his grandmother and horn with his father. Michael has held full-time positions with a number of Australian orchestras including Principal Horn in Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra. Michael is now plays regularly with the Opera Australia Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with most orchestras in Australia including the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Ludovico’s Band on natural horn. Chamber music credits include his ensemble LOCANA and Omega Ensemble. Teaching is an important part of his work with schools in Sydney including Inaburra School, tertiary institutions including Australian Institute of Music (AIM). In 2011 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Creative Arts from the University of Wollongong after having previously been awarded an MPhil in composition from the University of Queensland and MMus in Musicology from Griffith University. Composition is a significant part of his musical life. He has written for a variety of ensembles along with songs and percussion works. A considerable number of his compositions include intervals from the harmonic series, extended just intonation. His music is published by Wirripang Pty Ltd ( In 2015 Michael launched CHIME Music College with a focus on exploring the language of music.

He will be starting the recital with some of his own works:

This Need Not Be I & II (5′) for horn
Silver Art Upstream (4′) for horn
Our Days (3′) for horn and electronics

The compositions for the recital are essentially short songs. Melodies and presented with a backing track of the harmonies which are overdubbed. The harmonies are written using standard voice-leading and common tones to move between chords which are extended to 13-limit just intonation.


Michael talk, beginning at 17h is called, Tuning the Horn: composing and performing in extended just intonation. Michael will outline three processes of writing for a standard (french) horn. The first is to simply write the music with an expectation that the performer can make the tuning adjustments required. The second is to provide some technical suggestions and the third is to prescribe all details of the techniques including valve slide adjustments along with anticipated embouchure or right hand adjustments. Michael will present examples of these approaches and demonstrate some of the harmonic possibilities the instrument can offer up to professional level playing without expectation of virtuosity.

Donald Bousted’s Video Works at EUROMicroFest 2017

DONALD BOUSTED has 3 new video works being performed at EUROMicroFest 2017.  SHELL and SOFT are premiere performances.  GRASS-SAND-WOOD has recently been first-performed by solo horn player Michael H. Dixon in Sydney, Australia and he is travelling to EUROMicroFest 2017 to give the European premiere.

SHELL and SOFT have common points of departure; they are part of a tranche of work which attempts to look ‘in detail’.  They wish to present their subjects – shells found on a Norfolk beach and a female body – with emotion, intensity and intimacy.   SHELL, written for bassoonist Chris Watford is in 72-div and SOFT, written for the flugel horn of Stephen Altoft, is in 48-div.  However, neither solo part is in strict equal temperament and both scores require the player to adjust ‘by ear’ to the pre-recorded parts.  These pre-recorded elements use Native Instruments’ Absynth and Kontake to generate a range of scales which mix equal and just intervals.

SOFT features a 13-note scale and a 22 note scale which repeat at the minor septimal tritone (582.512 cents).  These are irregular scales based on a ‘softening’ of the equal scale divisions to their nearest just interval.  Also present is a scale based on 10 equal divisions of the 5:4 or just major third (i.e. steps of c.38 cents).  The competing tensions of closeness, stability and dissonance form the basis of the gently moving flugelhorn horn part which moves in and out of tonic focus.

SHELL has a simpler design.  There are three scales ‘selected’ from the 72-et chromatic which the soloist explores through 5 short sections.  These contrast, in the accompaniment, with 3 scales based on equal divisions of the just perfect fourth.  Nine divisions at c55 cents; 6 divisions at c.83 cents; and 5 divisions at c.99 cents.

GRASS-SAND-WOOD is a triptych of linked ideas.  It’s a personal exploration of looking close, both visually and aurally.  The presentation, however, is rather more expansive than in the shorter works SHELL and SOFT.

When you lie in a field of grass and you slowly turn your head, each view is different.  Move a few feet and everything looks completely different again. The world looks and feels different from this near perspective: from afar, grass ‘looks green’; close, there is movement, there are things to see, a range of colours, insects, imperfections, anomalies and undulations.  In GRASS, I wanted to record the essence of the simple act of looking close and – in so doing – pay attention to the remarkable change in one’s state of mind which follows.  In SAND, the returning tide is recorded on a Norfolk beach; the speed is surprising, the result of a very gently sloping shoreline.  In WOOD, the act of looking close engages the imagination in a different way: we could believe that we are looking at majestic outcrops of rock or deserts of dried mud, but if fact we are simply looking close at the bark of trees.

The music in GRASS-SAND-WOOD is made from polymicrotonal scales, mostly derived from equal subdivisions of just intervals.  In GRASS many scales are used but most derive from the equal subdivisions of the just major third and the just perfect 4th.  SAND only uses one scale – based on the subdivision of the sub minor tritone (551.316 cents).  WOOD uses a selection of the scales used in GRASS but with one or two additions, most notably divisions of the just minor third.

The compositional approach is exploratory and improvisatory.  Images and sounds build together, one providing inspiration to the other.