"I’ve gone on another
microtonal trip lately, and have been working with
ratios again. The thing about composing music with
frequency ratios is that it places you in a brave
new world where each interval is made up of TWO
numbers instead of one (as in the traditional
system, a fourth, third, fifth, etc). There are
also all kinds of undiscovered tones and frequencies
and relationships. There has to be a way to explore
all this!

For those of you that aren’t hopeless music nerds
like myself, a frequency ratio is just a
relationship between frequencies. It is also the
language of a tuning system called “just
intonation.” A basic example: In the key of A,
with the root frequency being 440 hertz, the A in
the next higher octave is related to the original
note a440 by a frequency ratio of 2/1, and is 880 hz.
A major third is the ratio 5/4, or 550 hertz.
Instead of the normal 12 steps per octave of Equal
temperament, there is an infinite gradation of
frequencies that you can manipulate to your heart’s
content.

With all that freedom comes massive confusion. I
have been trying to come up with some systems for
composing with these numbers. The first most
obvious idea would be to just make a fixed scale,
choose a few notes, and play with that. That is
fun! But, it doesn’t take advantage of all the
flexibility that working with just intonation truly
gives you. Instead of just choosing 7 or 12 or 10
notes, you can start with a set of 5 notes, and make
them mutate and evolve into an infinity of other
frequencies, but all logically related by numerical
relationships!"

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