Haupz Blog

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Quarter-Tone Music

2022-04-21 — Michael Haupt

Listen to this - what do you notice? It sounds a bit off, right? It's a bit as if the instruments weren't properly tuned.

They are, and everything about this is intentional. The music, composed by Alois Hába, uses a quarter-tone scale. In that system, each octave is split not into 12 half-tones, but 24 quarter-tones. That is, one extra pitch is inserted between each two pitches that are a half-tone apart.

It takes some getting used to to listen to music of this kind, but it has a certain beauty of its own. It's not a middle-European invention, too - quarter-tone scales have been used in Persian traditional music way earlier.

Examples! The aforementioned Alois Hába has composed many quarter-tone pieces, and one I like a lot is his opera Matka (music: 1, 2). Charles Ives (about whom I'll have more to tell at a later point) has composed quarter-tone pieces for piano. The Wikipedia, of course, has a list with more.

Tags: music