Involuntary Bohlen Piercing


The second-to-last step in my PhD qualifying exams was to compose a piece in 48 hours, using some parameters to make sure I didn’t cheat and use something I’d already written. My advisor, Clarence Barlow, knowing that I’d wanted to write something for microtonal piano for Aron Kallay’s Beyond 12 project, graciously gave me an assignment to write a piece using Bohlen-Pierce temperament. Bohlen-Pierce temperament uses the 12th instead of the octave as the interval of transposition and inversion, and then divides that 12th into thirteen step equal temperament. The result of it is that everything sounds crazy.

After a day wasted trying to wrap my head around the math, I just decided to improvise at my keyboard and find sonorities I liked, then mash them into a piece. Since then I’ve revised it to being worthy of Aron’s expert playing. Aron premiered the piece at the Outpost Concert Series in Riverside on November 4th, 2015. I’m thankful that I got the chance to write it for him, involuntary or not.


The composer recommends using a 61 key keyboard MIDI controller with a realistic action with the virtual instrument PianoTeq 5, which allows you to retune the piano. Other VIs are acceptable, but strive for realism. Using a second pedal for sostenuto to catch the extended bass notes will make performance much more manageable. A 49 key controller is also workable – only one bass-reinforcing note will be missing from the piece.

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Score purchase includes a tuning file download in .scl format and technical instructions.

Additional information


PDF, Physical score