Media Releases
Renee Criddle
23/07/2007

Is your mobile phone out of tune?

Music with which most of us are familiar was created to be sung or played on instruments that use a tuning system known as 12 equal divisions of the octave - that familiar pattern of five black and seven white notes that we find repeated over the entire range of the standard piano keyboard.

However, Associate Professor Greg Schiemer from the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Creative Arts, has conducted extensive research into the history of the world’s music - which from the time up until the late Baroque period - was microtonal and is not readily playable on standard instruments today.

The next Uni in the Brewery session (Wednesday 25 July) will be delivered by Professor Schiemer and Janys Hayes, and will discuss the set of programmable microtonal electronic instruments known as the Pocket Gamelan that has been developed at UOW using mobile phone technology.

“These instruments are not specially engineered to be played like existing instruments but generic hardware that I have commandeered in order to develop new performance scenarios made possible by wireless communication,” said Professor Schiemer.

“Like its Indonesian namesake, the Pocket Gamelan is designed to be an extensible set of microtonal instruments that is easy to play, quick to learn and able to be used by groups of non-specialist musicians.”

The lecture will discuss how, if we tune familiar 12-equal-division-of-the-octave musical instruments in unfamiliar ways, the general reaction is that the music sounds "out of tune". This would seem to be a problem associated with all microtonal music unless a listener has experienced first hand the special qualities of traditional music played on instruments like the veena, harpsichord, oud, khene, celtic harp, dan bau and many others which are microtonally tuned.

“Throughout the last century there have been many attempts to build new micro tonal instruments usually for playing in one specific tuning,” said Professor Schiemer. “But why would a performing musician devote many years of training in order to play a microtonal instrument that played in only one kind of tuning? This question is even more problematic if such an instrument is electronic because the technology on which it is based will most likely become obsolete even before a performer has had time to master the art of playing it.”

The Brewery presentation will introduce the concept of microtonal music and show examples of such instruments. Janys Hayes will then discuss the performance they presented at the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) in France in 2006, to illustrate this new method of performance.

When: Wednesday 25 July 2007 at 5.30pm

Where: Five Islands Brewery, Wollongong

For further information: Contact Vicky Wallace on 4221 4126 or 0422 471 031

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