Architecture of Tonality Explorations

Architecture of Tonality Explorations Screen shot

The following are examples of composers, inventors and musicians exploring the intersection of these three tonal worlds

Johann Sebastian Bach clavier Architecture of Tonality Explorations

Well Tempered ClavierTH / PH
Inventor: J.S. Bach

sound – Richer, more in tune than tempered harmony.
path – “Well tempered” means that the twelve notes per octave of the standard keyboard are tuned in such a way that it’s possible to play music in most major or minor keys without sounding perceptibly out of tune. It is likely Bach used a combination of systems through the different keys of this collection of solo keyboard music. Some keys are meantone (PH field), while others nearer equal tempered harmony.
story – It is unclear who first invented equal temperament, but it came about in the mid 1500’s probably in China or France. It became more widely used in the baroque period.


Huaca Architecture of Tonality Explorations

Huaca – fixed pitch – EH / TH / PH
Inventor: Sharon Rowell

sound – Ancient, ethereal, sensory, relaxing.
path – Three chambered flute in clay created in 1980, born of the intersection of EH (unpredictable raw materials) with TH (using a standard tuner). In the late 90’s this author began retuning the holes to principles ofPH (whole number ratio’s), a move to increase resonance within a fixed pitch instrument for more beauty.
story – Inventor was called to create the sound of sensuous fog horns. Due to the firing process, it is not possible to ensure 440A as the starting point, somewhat common with EH instruments. The wind way exit format (fipple) facilitates easy bending of notes, while also contributing to a general wobbliness of pitch across the instrument.

Architecture of Tonality Explorations Hang

Hang – fixed pitch EH / TH / PH / EH
Inventors: Felix Rohner/Sabina Scherer (

sound – Celestial, elegant, relaxing.
path – In 2001 born of intersection of EH with TH. 2006 trials began using PH to tune fixed notes. In 2010 inventors abandoned this, and the tuner, using only the ear for shifting back towards EH.
story – Inventors intention is to create their instruments as a source of creativity not calling for anyone to be good at anything . . . to touch the music behind the music. Current Free Integral Hang preserves the tonal “dirt” or chaotic fluctuations of nature inherent in the steel.

Alex de Grassi | Leo Kottke | Michael Hedges | Pierre Bensusan | Architecture of Tonality Explorations

Guitar – variable pitch TH / PH
Open Guitar Tunings- 6 strings tuned to full chord,

sound – Mediates out of tuneness for increased resonance. Brings about a thickening, a swelling of the harmonic soup; a fuller sound for guitar.
path – From TH toward PH (orange) Clearly hearable example of the benefits possible adapting an instrument between two fields of harmony. Most music in an open tuning is played in that tonal center.
story – Lineage: Fahey to Kottke, deGrassi, Hedges, Bensusan and on.

Mark Deutsch Bazantar Architecture of Tonality Explorations

Bazantar – variable pitch PH
Inventor: Mark Deutsch

sound – Orchestral, lush, modern, propulsive beauty.
path – Created in mid 90‘s to explore the depth of PH, developing a system for facilitating key changes while retaining congruent and propulsive harmonic relationships, a move towards the modulation ability of TH.
story – Bolted to a standup bass is a carbon fiber housing with 29 sympathetic tuneable strings ala Sitar. Seven playable strings plus 4 drones on one side of fingerboard. A seven octave range. Inventor’s Integrated Axial tuning system involves all chosen notes of a scale relating to each other as a close family of harmonic relationships, as well as to the drone tone or stillpoint. A significant evolution of the common PH approach in India and the Middle East.

Robert Dick Flute Architecture of Tonality Explorations

Glissando Head Joint – silver flute TH / PH
Inventor: Robert Dick (

sound – Melodically free, notes stay thick through bends vs. thinning out e.g. when using an open hole flute.
path – Adapts this TH instrument to the PH field by allowing any pitch to be played in perfect tune as desired (with practice).
story – Inventor’s impetus was to invent a flute whammy bar (Hendrix influence) allowing a radical bending of the notes, or glissando effect. This is accomplished by placing adapted head joint’s prongs against cheeks, facilitating a sliding of the head piece, thereby creating a longer or shorter tube. This affects the pitch up to a minor third for some notes.


Klaus Fessmann SoundStone Architecture of Tonality Explorations

SoundStone – fixed pitch EH
Creator: Klaus Fessmann (

sound – Majestic, sensory, vibrational.
path – In 1974 German sculptor Elmar Daucher discovered that granite can sing. Fully realized starting in 1991 by the creator as a prime example of EH. In 2011 it catalyzed this author’s work in developing a more unified approach to harmony. 2012 will target intersection of EH and PH through an experimental process of tuning the blades (lamella)
story – Designed and built for 15 years in linear shapes by Prof. Fessmann, his son Hannes created the first natural round forms in 2007. Sound is generated by stroking with hands, using water for friction. Very general pitch determination for each blade is via height, width and thickness. Material within each lamella has an unpredictable internal makeup (H2O pockets etc.) The stone has an unusual combination of being fixed pitch while in a certain way redefining modulation. Different friction ridges on the palm of hand call forth between 2-3 tones per lamella.