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Ben Johnston - String Quartet No. 10: Brisk, intent

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Uploaded on Oct 18, 2011

From Ben Johnston's String Quartet No. 10, to be performed in extended just intonation.

Performed by Kepler Quartet.

In these late works, Johnston writes melodies using a scale found naturally in the harmonic series, formed by partials 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. Written in terms of just intervals, the scale is 1/1, 9/8, 5/4, 11/8, 3/2, 13/8, 7/4, 15/8. This 8-tone scale is otonal, and thus is comparable to "major" tonality.

When Johnston wants to write melodies with a "minor" feeling, he inverts the above scale, making it utonal. The intervals become 1/1, 16/15, 8/7, 16/13, 4/3, 16/11, 8/5, 16/9.

When a melody has been composed, Johnston then forms harmonies using intervals that will be consonant with the melody, and these are not restricted to any particular scale. In the end, these string quartets end up using a very large number of tones, but Johnston's intuitive notation system makes the works comprehensible for both himself to compose, and for musicians to play.

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