A Companion to Slug

Frog Peak Music Newsletter #15

May 2009




PEAK PICKS (contents)


* NEW ARTISTS: Cesar BolaĖos, Tom Baker, Salvatore Martirano.

* NEW WORKS: Barbara Feldman, Ron Nagorck, Eric Richards.

* SALE: SOUNDINGS 13: The Music of James Tenney

* UNBOUND: Daniel Goode: Mahler Symphony #10: Adagio

* FROG SPEAK: Chris Mann, Ezra Sims





Frog Peak is excited to begin to carry some of the early works of pioneering Peruvian experimental electronic music composer Cesar BolaĖos, born in 1931, and currently living in Lima. BolaĖos is well known as an early computer music composer from Latin America, as well as an important researcher of indigeneous Peruvian music and instruments. Thanks to Frog Peak composer Ricardo dal Farra, we are now making available the score and tape part for his Interpolaciones, a remarkable work for electric guitar and computer synthesized tape from 1961, as well as other scores from this period.


Frog Peak is pleased to announce the publication of “Christian Music,” a limited edition set of 2- and 4-part rounds on four colored cards signed and numbered by the artists, Larry Polansky and Laura Gray.



SALE: SOUNDINGS 13: The Music of James Tenney


We have found a few more copies of Soundings 13, a very important early compendium of work by and about James Tenney. Regularly priced at $150, Frog Peak is now offering this rare edition for $50. Please reference our newsletter when placing your order.



UNBOUND: Goode, Mahler 10


We have added a new link to the UNBOUND section at our website, a piano transcription for four hands of the Adagio movement of Mahler’s 10th Symphony, done by Daniel Goode. Please feel free to download this and other scores.



FROG SPEAK: Chris Mann and Ezra Sims


An invitation from Chris Mann:


i've been enjoying thinking of http://theuse.info as something of a cross between go and an early model pin matrix synthesizer, so would like to invite yous to make something using materials from it that could also then be available at theuse as something like a demonstration or version of how it might be played.



In celebration of Ezra Sims’ 80th Birthday, we are pleased to cite the following short excerpt from his 1988 article, “Yet Another 72-Noter” (Computer Music Journal 12[4]: 29-31):


Working out the Vocabulary


I tried, poor brainwashed thing, quarter-tones at first (in, for example, my Sonate Concertante [1960], or my Third Quartet [1962]). Despite the fact that Penderecki and a few others were making them stylish and therefore at least semirespectable (which had by now long ceased to concern me), I found they would not do. They made compositional thinking easier for me, but not fully so, and performers found them all but impossible to play accurately. A 24-note gamut seems to run counter to Western (all human, I suspect) acoustical instincts. With a little more careful attention, I realized that I was hearing in terms of a scale…, a dense collection of “chromatic” notes organized around the diatonic scale as a sort of armature.


It was clear to me that in this scale the six steps within each of the major thirds, C-E and G-B, were essentially equal, as were the four within the E-G minor third. It was further apparent to me that the scale determined a tonal region (which I will often call a “key” even though that word ought perhaps be reserved for only the keys of diatonic tonal music). That is to say, the same succession of intervals could begin on another pitch and define a new key, a new tonal region, with a different fundamental, just as transpositions of the diatonic scale do and of the 12-note scale do not. This seemed to imply a structured, asymmetrical set, founded on harmonic relations, like the diatonic scale, not a structureless, symmetrical one like the chromatic.


What little acquaintance I had with the facts of acoustic life made me recognize the 8th through the 15th harmonics in there. Actually, the 13th is a bit higher than that, but not so far that the 1/6-tone-high minor sixth cannot substitute for it, if one wants to be working in equal temperament. The 7th and 11th are quite nicely in tune in equal temperament, and my instinct is that they are the more important intervals: developing a system that keeps the 13th snugly in tune is the next era’s concern, not mine.


The concept of consonance–what intervals one may end and rest on–in Western music has twice lurched up through the harmonic series: first through the intervals up to the third harmonic (and their inversions), next, through those between the third and sixth. I have noticed in twentieth-century music a strong if sometimes uncertain, tendency to do the same with the intervals between the 6th and 12th. So I found the apparent congruence of what I was hearing with those elements of the harmonic series reassuring. What I was doing could be put into a not unreasonable (possibly even true) longterm historical perspective. Recognizing this, I thought it seemed sensible–and it did prove comfortable and fruitful–to fill in the rest. This makes a full 18-note scale made up of a succession of six 1/3-tones, two 5/12-tones, seven 1/3-tones, and two 1/4-tones…. I Identified them with what seemed to me the most appropriate, relatively simple, harmonic ratios…, even though I would continue to write them as if equal-tempered, the way we did for tonal music.


I was in those days still thinking in received terms of keyboards and tempered approximations of harmonic ratios. But the life of microtones enlarges the mind. I am still prepared for my music to be played in equal temperament. I am even reconciled to its being played out of tune (Why should I expect more than Mozart?). But I now think in terms of Just ratios, and, where instruments of fixed pitch are not involved, I really expect the older practice of tuning the current key in something like Just, but adjusting the relations between keys to something like equal temperament in order to avoid going off the instruments. Modulation on these terms is something done every day by good singers and orchestral instrumentalists; now that we have the digital computer to expeditiously provide the Just frequencies for each keynote’s scale, it will, I expect, become possible on a manageable keyboard.




The title of this newsletter is from

the text of a Shaker song. "Slug"

is one of many Shaker monikers

for the Devil.


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