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BP2010 Heinz Bohlen Lecture (1of3)

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Published on May 2, 2010

HEINZ BOHLEN: AN EARLY DOCUMENT ON A NOVEL SCALE

Abstract:
The translation into English of a hitherto unpublished document from the early days of the Bohlen-Pierce scale gives some insight into the philosophy behind the scale and the motives of its co-discoverer.

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See http://www.huygens-fokker.org/bpsite/ for a history of the Bohlen-Pierce Scale.

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Heinz Bohlen was born in 1935 at Krefeld in the Lower Rhine region of Germany. His father was a certified electrician, but forced by the depression in the late 1920s his parents ran a modest grocery business. Bohlens early school years were disrupted by WW II and its wake, leaving him with practically no musical education. In 1961 he graduated from the Technical University Aachen (RWTH) with the equivalent of a M.Sc. degree in electrical engineering. Until 2004 he worked for leading companies in the vacuum electron device business in Germany, the UK and the USA as a scientist and in engineering management. He is still internationally active as a consultant on high-frequency vacuum electronics. He is author and co-author of numerous publications, mainly on klystrons and inductive-output tubes, and he holds several patents in that area.

Music entered Bohlens life through the backdoor. In the early 1970s, when he was already married and a father of three, a friend who happened to be a graduate student at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater (HfMT) in Hamburg, introduced him to his composition teacher and other members of his class. The reason: they needed somebody able and willing to make free-of-charge recordings of their concerts. This task not only opened Bohlens ears for music. It also confronted him with a question that his musician friends were reluctant to answer: Why was all this music using a scale that contained 12 exponentially growing steps within the compass of an octave? In the attempt to solve this mystery he discovered in 1972 an alternative scale that filled the framework of the perfect twelfth with 13 steps. Fifteen years later, somebody named this scale Bohlen-Pierce.

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Bohlen-Pierce Scale Symposium, Boston 2010

There has been enough interest lately in the Bohlen-Pierce Scale - a macrotonal musical tuning system based on a 3/1 frame (three times the frequency, called a "tritave", as opposed to the 2/1 "octave") divided by 13 equal steps - that an entire symposium was organized in Boston. It included the support of three major music educational institutions - Berklee College of Music, the Goethe Institute and New England Conservatory. Heinz Bohlen and Max Mathews skyped in at various times. It included three full days of talks and three full nights of music. I will type more information here soon and upload more videos as I get them digitized. Professional cameras were covering the entire symposium. Here I will just upload what I captured on my own camera. This symposium was very overwhelming for me, thinking I was among just a handful of interested BP fans. There were at least 40 people actively involved in this event and many more in the audience! See also: http://bohlen-pierce-conference.org/s... and http://bohlen-pierce-conference.org/c...

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