Austin Butts

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Progress report

Note: Compared to many other microtonal music composers and theorists, I have very limited advice to offer. However, feel inclined to read this page if you want to observe my personal and very recent journey to the micro music community.

What was your path to discovering alternate tunings?
In the past (really a matter of about 5 years ago) I developed a basic understanding of 12 tone equal temperament to the point I could play an instrument. By the time I entered 7th and 8th grades, I was already playing the school French Horn well enough to land me in the top band both years. It was around this time I began to doubt music in general had anything to offer me. Upon entering high school, I was seriously considering dropping band (and therefore abandon music practices) sometime in the near future.
However, even that did not keep me from applying my limited music knowledge to my amateur programming skills. I wanted to create a proof-of-concept open sourced data to audio standardization (FYI, I never did finish the program, but plan to eventually). After delving into basic concepts for my program, I thought of a way to allow my program to bring the 12et notes into tune as a sort of harmonic recognition to automatically eliminate interval beating. It wasn't too long before I discovered how much larger "just intonation" was than I previously imagined. Add an open summer schedule and a bunch of Wikipedia articles together and you get my complete realization of microtuning. (That happened about late July of 2006). With the help of one of the example audio files on Wikipedia, I tracked down Mr. Prent Rodgers' podcast and made it to the MakeMicroMusic mailing list. (Many thanks by the way Mr. Rodgers)
What are your current/past/future particular interests?
In the past, I was interested in absorbing as much tuning related knowledge as I could. I mostly focused on just intonation, meantone temperament and compatible equal temperaments in meantone, and a bit into historical significance of various tunings. As of this moment, I've been learning about various regular temperament, their properties, and commas that vanish in each temperament. Most of my micro-music energy is devoted to a school club on the subject I have successfully initiated, with regular members closing in on double digits. As far as future goes, I plan to apply my knowledge and turn it into physical manifestations, such as retuning instruments and composing (or recomposing) music for them. I also need to finish that program eventually...
What instruments or means have you had/do you have now/do you want for the making of microtonal music?
As of this moment, I have no physical intended microtonal instruments. However, I do have a 12tet 5 octave electronic keyboard, a school French Horn I am renting (which, by it's nature and history, can work as a microtonal instrument) and a family piano heirloom that could use retuning one way or another. For working with microtonal scales, I have Scala, but I also hope to download more software in the future. I also am contemplating a possible 19tet French Horn that I want to design and/or build. I also want to pick back up on my piano skills and also learn how to play trombone to give myself an adaptable microtonal instrument.
What instruments or means have you successfully used in the making of microtonal music? Recommendations?
At the moment, I'm just learning about microtuning and not putting it towards actual instruments. I have a very limited knowledge even on quasi-foundational common practice, but I do intend to take AP Music Theory next school year to fix the top-heaviness of my musical pyramid.
Any good microtonal anecdotes?
At one of our band rehearsals, one of the clinicians was commenting on the imperfections in equal temperament and was extremely close to delving into microtuning (he brought it about as far as "lipping" notes up or down and why). I had to force myself to contain my excitement throughout the rest of the period.