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This article discusses the concept, working practices and outcomes of the Concrescence Project, a research project initiated by the author oriented towards innovations in vocal practice and composition through experiments with combining vocal techniques from different cultures. The concept of ethnomodernism is explored, as are different attitudes to vocal sound production in a variety of musical traditions including the avant-garde, traditional styles from the Nordic/Baltic region, and overtone singing. The article concludes with a discussion of microtonal tunings, their notation, and their implementation in vocal composition.

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1 This article is based on a paper presented by the author at Europa Cantat XVIII, Turin, July 2012.

3 See e.g. Rokus de Groot, Compositie en intentie van Ton de Leeuws muziek: Van een evolutionair naar een cyclisch paradigma. (PhD diss., University of Utrecht; Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 1991).

4 The exploration of the sound spectrum acoustically was a conquest of musical knowledge made at the end of the 1970s and 1980s. Information about the internal micro-elements of a single sound was translated into instrumental textures, chords etc., creating what is called spectral music. The best-known pioneers of this music were Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey.

5 In spectrotonality the tonal universe is organized around central notes, as the structural background or spectrotonic, while the interval content of the surface chords is derived from the interval contents of the spectrotonic.

6 See Guy Reibel, Jeux Musicaux: essai sur l'invention musicale, vol.1: Jeux vocaux. (Paris: Salabert, 1984). Online at

7 We define an ‘absolute interval’ as ‘an objectified, transposable difference between sounds’. In addition, there is a culturally shared agreement about the perceptual criteria that define this differential quality. The pitch classes of Western art music belong to this category, as well as rhythms based on some kind of periodicity. The difference between f and ff, however, does not form an interval, as this difference, although definable in acoustical terms (e.g. as 6 Db) is not perceived as having the same objectified quality as that between its p and pp.

8 Cf. also Saus Wolfgang, Oberton singen: das Geheimnis einer magischen Stimmkunst (Battweiler: Traumzeit Verlag, 2006).

9 By numbering the harmonics as partials, one obtains a numerical equivalence between the numbers of the harmonic and their frequency ratios. For example, the frequency relationship between the fundamental and its first overtone is 2:1 – a ratio that defines the interval of the octave. In a similar way all the successive intervals are defined by a frequency ratio, e.g. the fifth as a 3:2 ratio; the fourth as a 4:3 ratio; the major third as a 5:3 ratio, etc. The knowledge of the ratios helps in computing intervals, finding their difference tones, calculating new intervals that resulting from adding or subtracting intervals one to the other, etc.

10 Partch Harry, Genesis of a Music, first edition (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1949); second edition (New York: Da Capo Press, 1974). See especially Chapter 8.

11 See: Sevåg R.. ‘Neutral Tones and the Problem of Mode in Norwegian Folk Music’, in Studia instrumentorum musicae popularis III. Festschrift Ernst Emsheimer, Hilleström G. (Stockholm: Musikhistoriska, 1974), 207–13.

12 For a discussion of the constraints of the human brain in processing information in real time, see Snyder Robert, Music and Memory: An Introduction (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000).

13 The model of ‘tone places’ is elaborated by Dr Sven Ahlbäck, who presented it to the composers at the Concrescence Seminar in Riga. See Ahlbäck Sven, Melody Beyond Notes: a Study of Melody Cognition (Göteborg: Publications from the Department of Musicology, 2004).

14 See my article ‘Fliessende Töne, fliessende Zeit’, in the programme book for the MAGMA2002BERLIN Festival.

15 See the Concrescence webpage, from which the score may be downloaded.

16 See (accessed August 19 2013).

17 The chest voice is a very general term for the sound and muscular functions of the speaking voice, singing in the lower range, and the voice used to shout.

18 I refer in particular to the singer Berit Opheim Versto, as documented by the recording of my composition Chases, Cattle Calls and Charts (Aurora ACD 5042).

19 The signs that were developed for timbres and sound production, both in my piece and that of Martins Vilums, are displayed on the Concrescence webpage.

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