Microtonal music by Gene Ward Smith

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Below are some of the microtonal pieces of Gene Ward Smith.


In 46edo. Forty-six is the number of human chromosomes, but more relevantly has many useful properties as a temperament.


This string quartet movement keeps trying to turn itself into a nice simple chorale, but gets distracted by various confusions and complexities. The chorale has been choraled. The piece is in a 26-note scale in the hemifamity temperament, which is the 5120/5103 planar 7-limit temperament. It is in a synchronized tetrad beating tuning, which is a good one for hemifamity.


In the movie The Pink Panther Strikes Again, an insane Inspector Dreyfus escapes and terrorizes the world before accidentally disintegrating himself with his own death ray. As he slowly disappears, he plays the organ. This is my idea of music appropriate to such a condition; it is in the Octoid[72] scale of octoid temperament, 72 notes out of 224edo. To quote from the film, "What is the price of one piano compared to the terrible crime that's been committed here?"

Bodacious Breed

Symphonic music in the 2401/2400-planar breed temperament, tuned to 441edo.

Rough Diamond

Symphonic con brio using the Partch 13-limit tonality diamond tuned as a scale.

Ostinato on a difference set

This is a severely mathematical exercise applying the 13-element perfect difference set to the 13-element 7-limit tonality diamond. The violin riffs on the difference set, and with the clarinet permutes through various interval relationships, including unisons.

Trio in Orwell

A trio for clarinet, English horn and banjo in the orwell temperament, the 22&31 rank two regular temperament. This is partly in the 9 note MOS of orwell, and partly explores farther, some of it becoming chromatic within the ambient tuning of the 53 equal division of the octave.

Threnody for the Victims of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The tuning is 13-limit JI, or 6079edo if you want to get technical

Rachmaninoff Plays Blackjack

This is in the 21-note Blackjack scale of miracle temperament, which has attracted some notice of late. The tuning is 175edo, and the melody was stolen from Sergei, and then folded, spindled, and mutilated. The rest is my fault.


Kotekan is a type of Balinese Gamelan music involving fast interlocking parts. In this style there are two independent parts called polos and sangsih, each of which fills in the gaps of the other to form a complete rhythmic texture. This piece does something similar, only in 72edo.

Music For Your Ears

If you exchange 3/2 with 5/3 and 7/4 with 10/7, leaving 2 and 5 fixed, the resulting involution map also interchanges 126/125 and 64/63. If 126/125 is tempered out on one side of the exchange and 64/63 on the other, a tempered but of music can be sent to another bit in another temperament. This piece, dating to 2002, moves from 46edo, which tempers out 126/125, to 27edo, which tempers out 64/63, and back again using this method.

Night on Porcupine Mountain

Mussorgky's Night on Bald Mountain isn't precisely found below; it has been "porcupinized" to a version in the porcupine temperament, tuned to 22edo instead of 12edo. Porcupine is the rank two ("linear") temperament which tempers out the porcupine comma, 250/243, instead of the 81/80 of meantone, and which divides the fourth into three equal parts, which define the generator. These parts can be tuned to three minor whole tone steps of 22edo, which is what Modest and I have done here.


Three twelve-note Fokker blocks can be constructed from 125/108 and 135/128, which give a scale which can be ordered according to the resulting val, which is <12 19 27|. Below I have tuned the radiant Dona Nobis Pacem from Bach's Mass in b minor to one of these scales and orderings: 10/9 9/8 5/4 6/5 4/3 25/16 3/2 5/3 8/5 15/8 25/12 2. It comes out sounding very different!


Pianodactyl is rhythmically complex, with lots of irregular starts and stops, and the name of the piece refers to Rodan. Strangely enough, however, it has nothing whatever to do with math rock.

The name refers to Rodan temperament, the 26-note MOS of which is used for the scale. The tuning is 87edo. I was tempted to switch tunings when Jacques Dudon posted his own 26-note tuning for Rodan, but equal temperaments are so convenient when using Scala, and 87 has the amazing property that it's exactly the same as the 13-limit Tenney-Euclidean pure-octaves (POTE) tuning (well, the 8/7 generator is 0.00062 cents sharper: if you can comprehend that difference, my hat is off to you.)

The name Rodan is the name of the temperament, one of the Japanese movie monster class which all have 8/7 (7/4) as generator. Rodan the Flying Monster is allegedly some sort of savage mutant pterodactyl, but the temperament is nicely behaved and wonderful if you like lots of 3 and 7 and slightly sharp fifths.

I used Dimitri Tymoczko's amazing dancing orbifolds to help me compose this, but he is in no way to blame for any defects in the result.

Trio for SoftSaturn, NebulaSing and TromBonehead

SoftSaturn, NebulaSing and TromBonehead are three soundfonts in one of Bree Gorton's collection of tiny but effective soundfonts called "Gort's DoubleDecker". They are the three voices in a Renaissance-style trio in the hobbit scale Guanyin(22), a 22-note scale in the rank three guanyin temperament tempering out 176/175 and 540/539, which is tuned to 111et. This is ostensibly an 11-limit scale, or at least it's an 11-limit hobbit, but 111 can handle much higher limits and a lot of the scale chords and intervals have higher-limit interpretations; I confined myself to using a touch of the 13-limit.

It's "Renaissance-style" since three contrapuntal voices with a lot of near-imitation where the harmony is not conceived chordally but is defined by the conjunction of the horizontal motion of the voices is a Renaissance concept.