Dave Tremblay from Quebec, Canada, is the creator of the musical project, Melopœia, which consists of translating word by word – text to music through a tailor-made 26-EDO tuning system. For this album, Tolkien Ainulindalë, he chose to translate the first chapter of Tolkien’s Silmarillion: the Ainulindalë, into a style of his choice: Orchestral Black Metal. The album is due to be released 15th September 2016.
This is quite a departure from conventional music making, not involving musical instruments, and drawing composition from written text. Here at Unfretted we are big fans of the microtonal so we asked Dave just how everything worked.
Dave Tremblay, Melopœia – in his own words:
Well, since I’m working in English, which has an alphabet of 26 letters, I decided to work in 26-EDO (Equal Divisions of the Octave) — while we usually work in 12-EDO, and very rarely in 24-EDO. 26-EDO is very exotic sounding, there are a bunch of intervals that sound roughly like in “normal” 12-EDO: the slightly sharp fourth, and slightly flat fifth, for example; and one that is the same interval: the tritone, or “diminished fifth”.
And so, each letter (A, B, C…) represents one note on the chromatic 26-EDO scale.
So how is the music constructed from text? It’s very procedural, and there is no artistic input at this point, only the creation of a certain set of rules. One letter equals one eighth note in length, and its height is defined by the tuning system we will use. Chords are built by taking all the different letters present in a word, and playing them together. The bass tonic of the chord is defined by the first letter of the word, and the length of it by the number of letters in the word. The melody played above it is just the letters in the word played in the order in which they appear. That is how the textual information is written down in the score.
But after this is done, we must settle on a tuning system. At first, I superimposed the letters alphabetically: the first note is A, the second is B, and so on. However, what resulted was a pretty “clustered” sound which bore barely any emotion. Here’s how it looks like. The horizontal line represents the pitch inside one octave, the vertical axis represents the “strength” of the interval (I found that graph online, but I cannot find it now to give the source). Below the horizontal line, I’ve placed the letters how I initially did, I’ve put red lines and crosses in the “strength” line to show exactly where the 26-EDO intervals cross.
And so, someone over facebook suggested I try other variations of the order of the letters. And so I read a little about letter frequency in English, and found some interesting things. There are pairs of letters that are more common than others, and I decided to try to craft a new tuning using that would be based on that: putting between the most common letters the most consonant, or “powerful” intervals. In 26 EDO, the most powerful one is 11 (or 15) steps apart and roughly equates the fourth (or fifth) of 12-EDO. It was a bit tricky to build a system based around that, but I’ve succeeded in coming up with the upcoming one, which I’ve called “Relative Consonant”.
Tolkien Ainulindalë – The Album
There are songs that are very orchestral, and others that are very metal, but most are somewhere in-between.
About the gear being used, that is all VST material, from Plogue’s Sforzando and Chipsounds, and EZ Drummer. I used the microtonal notation software Mus2 to write the original music, and then arranged it all in Reaper.
The musicians involved are me Dave Tremblay, with the help of Brian Leong on vocals, from black metal band Apathy.
The Voices of the Ainur
Tolkien Ainulindalë – Review
melopoeia.bandcamp.com/releases (Bandcamp page for Melopoeia)
Offsite Preview (Toilet ov Hell)