Exposition

(RE)SOUNDING ALEXANDER J. ELLIS: A SPECULATIVE BIOGRAPHY THROUGH TUNING, SONG WRITING AND COMPOSITION. (last edited: 2020)

Seamus Cater

About this exposition

Abstract: An attempt to explore a method of speculative biography through composition, taking Alexander J. Ellis as an object of research, and creating opportunities for exploring elements of his work, with the very tools he used at that time. Combining research, correspondence, composition and instrument tuning, a (re)sounding of some key ideas of Ellis are presented. In a manner I postulate he may have experienced or imagined himself. Aside from tuning two instruments common to Ellis, firstly, a London made concertina, and secondly, a set of 74 tuning forks, I will attempt a musical representation of parts of his archive and nineteenth century scientific research, using his means, objects and measurements as starting points for composition. Tuning a concertina from 1924, in Skhismic tuning, an extended Pythagorean chain of 24 fifths, affords a system of ‘practically just intonation’, described by Ellis in the Appendix of Helmholtz’ ‘On the Sensations of Tone’ (first English translation 1875). Concertinas with 24 reeds within one of the octaves had not been not available in the time of Ellis. Historically, reference pitches had often been tuned onto tuning forks for sharing locally and internationally. Using the data from ‘On the History of Musical Pitch’ (1880), where Ellis gathered 223 historical instances of the note A from European instrument makers and musicians, I produced a just intonation system with the 74 unique Hz frequencies. Extremely minor adjustments were made, allowing the possibility that each Hz frequency could be expressed as a small number or Pythagorean ratio. These were then tuned onto a set of new forks ranging from F# to C#, by current A440 standards.
typeresearch exposition
keywordsBiography, Tuning, Just Intonation, Concertina, Tuning Forks, Alexander J. Ellis, Helmholtz, Skhismic Tuning
date01/05/2020
last modified29/06/2020
statusprogress
share statuspublic
affiliationRoyal Conservatory of The Hague
copyrightSeamus Cater
licenseAll rights reserved
languageEnglish
urlhttps://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/540854/540855


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id name copyright license
846090 TUNING FILM Seamus Cater All rights reserved
869918 Observations Seamus Cater All rights reserved
869921 On Beats In Air Seamus Cater All rights reserved
869924 Thanks Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870029 Extended Pythagorean Portrait1000 Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870030 Extended Pythagorean Portrait400 Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870091 Case Square Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870107 Case Square400 Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870208 Ellis Portrait RC Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870234 Ellis Just Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870254 ForksPitch Seamus Cater All rights reserved
870270 On Beats In Air Seamus Cater All rights reserved
938129 Master Thesis: (Re)Sounding Alexander J. Ellis Seamus Cater All rights reserved
938130 Master Thesis: (Re)Sounding Alexander J. Ellis Seamus Cater All rights reserved

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