Echoes of Nothing (2011)

Echoes of Nothing is a piece for virtual retuned piano with 30 pitches to the octave. The title refers to a statement in John Cage's book Silence: "Every something is an echo of nothing." The two movements, "Nothing" and "Something," use the same tuning. "Nothing" is a meditation on gentle emptiness; "Something" is kind of a fast piano boogie that regroups the first movement's chord progressions into more rhythmically familiar configurations. This "Something" is truly an echo of "Nothing." I thank pianist Aron Kallay for commissioning the work and playing it so often and so well.

The scale (given in a typographical approximation of Ben Johnston's notation) is as follows:

Ratio:1/136/3533/3221/20 12/1110/99/88/77/6 40/335/49/721/164/348/35
Cents:048.853.384.5 150.6182.4203.9231.2266.9 333.0386.3435.1470.8498.0546.8

C^D7bDvDE7b EbE13bF77b+EF7v+F7+FFLG7bGv
11/87/5 16/113/214/98/513/8 49/305/356/337/416/964/3528/1564/33
551.3582.5 648.7702.0764.9813.7840.5849.4 884.4915.6968.8996.11044.91080.611.46.7

(If you don't have enough experience with just intonation to make sense of this chart, try reading the step-by-step Just Intonation Explained section.) In Johnston's notation, + raises a pitch by 81/80, - lowers it by 80/81, # raises it by 25/24, b lowers it by 24/25, 7 lowers it by 35/36, L raises it by 36/35, ^ raises it by 33/32, v lowers it by 32/33, 13 raises it by 65/64, and F-A-C, C-E-G, and G-B-D are all perfectly tuned 4:5:6 major triads.)

Kyle Gann

Duration: 11 minutes + 4 minutes = 15 minutes total

Premiere performance: by Aron Kallay, at Beyond Baroque, Venice, California, June 23, 2012

Return to List of Compositions

return to the home page