Like wearing tinted glasses, music offers a different way of perceiving the world while under its spell.

And when any one says that mankind must regard the newest song which the singers have, they will be afraid that he may be praising, not new songs, but a new kind of song; and this ought not to be praised, or conceived to be the meaning of the poet; for any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited.

Plato, The Republic. Book IV, 360BC. Benjamin Jowett (translator)

The picture below shows the process of retuning a small organ used in Bang on A Can’s performance of Inner Voices. Some pitches deviate as much as 31 cents from equal temperament to produce colourful interference patterns and musical phrases that would be imperceptible in equal temperament.

Then to sum up: This is the point to which, above all, the attention of our rulers should be directed,–that music and gymnastic be preserved in their original form, and no innovation made.

ibid, Book IV


‘Violets’ is a quartet for electric guitar and string trio written for the Ysaé Trio and myself on guitar. It uses a formalised system to combine pitched and rhythmically defined elements with elements that exhibit little pitch or rhythmic definition. The score utilises graphic symbols for the less defined elements, leaving a lot of room for creative interpretation in the hands of performers.

When combining relatively conventional pitched material with relatively unconventional noise elements that are not usually associated with musical expression (such as unplugging an electric guitar jack), there is a risk that the one might appear superfluous or in some other way unconvincing in relation to the other. To find musicality in the materials despite their unconventional combination, formalised systems were employed to forge a sense of structural logic that expresses itself through both pitched and unpitched elements on equal terms.