Programme Notes

Oliver Iredale Searle - Mean Tone

Mean Tone (2009) - Oliver Iredale Searle

For solo alto or bass flute
Duration: 8 minutes

Mean Tone – when pitch goes bad  

Commissioned by Richard Craig, with funds from the Scottish Arts Council and the RVW Trust.

In July 2008, I was standing at the top of the Duomo, looking at the Renaissance architecture of Florence and trying to work out how any composer could get any work done here. Does any of this inspire me artistically? Should it?  

What relationship do I have with this beautiful environment, or to the timeless works of art that were created here? Do I have anything in common with the pieces of classical music written in such a historical place, or the composers who wrote them? Should I?

Based on this personal quandary (and perhaps a touch of Stendhal Syndrome – the psychosomatic condition caused by an overload of art), I wrote this piece, using a very stretched-out Phrygian cadence. It gets stuck on the first 4 notes (a 3rd inversion dominant 7th chord), with adverse, quarter-tone tunings as melodic and timbral inflections infiltrate its harmonic function, disrupt its direction and attempt to destroy its beauty.  

For my friend Richard, with thanks.     Oliver; Glasgow, June, 2009.

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