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Nov. 1, 2004
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Pianist Michael Harrison will perform his award-winning 90-minute odyssey, "Revelation: Music for the Harmonically Tuned Piano," Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 8 p.m. in the Rooke Recital Hall of the Weis Music Building at Bucknell University.
The performance, which is open to the public without charge, is part of the year-long mini-series, "All About Sound, or Three Ways to Hear a Piano," about the sound of the piano in the 21st century.
According to William Duckworth, professor of music at Bucknell, "Harrison has retuned the piano in a form of Just Intonation, an earlier style of tuning that makes the intervals more pure and thus draws a sharper distinction between sounds that are beautifully in tune, and sounds that are deliciously dissonant.
"Working with ancient principles of harmonic proportion and a contemporary `just intonation' tuning that Harrison invented, `Revelation' simulates acoustic phenomena ranging from an orchestra of exotic instruments to a choir of voices - the work has forever changed the way future generations will experience the piano. This is a rare opportunity to hear the composer playing his own work," Duckworth said.
Harrison says that Just Intonation is the basis for the music of ancient cultures of Greece, India, Persia, China and Japan and are vital to the a cappella music of the West, from Gregorian chant to doo-wop and barbershop harmonies.
Over the centuries the purity of these natural musical proportions was gradually compromised to facilitate chord changes and shifts in key, culminating in an `equal temperament' tuning that has been the standard for the modern piano for over a hundred years.
In 1986, Harrison created the "harmonic piano," an extensively modified seven-foot grand piano with the ability to alternate between two different tunings, thus creating the possibility to play 24 notes per octave on a conventional keyboard.
Harrison will perform "Revelation" on his own harmonically tuned piano, a standard grand piano which has been re-tuned to one of his Just Intonation-based tunings.
The piano mini-series, which concludes in April with a concert for two pianos by pianists Walter Frank and `Blue' Gene Tyranny, is presented by the department of music and the Gallery Series, and is supported by the Kushell Music Endowment and the Samek Art Gallery.