Microtonal Music by Prent Rodgers

I compose and realize microtonal music using the program Csound. Back in the 1970’s, I built musical instruments in unusual tuning systems out of metal, wood and balloons. Recently, I began using Csound (info here) on a laptop computer while I travelled. Csound is a terrific tool for working with microtonality, because it allows composers to specify all aspects of each sound, without the limitations of MIDI. I use Csound to assemble samples of conventional instruments with unconventional tunings, but it is also able to work with many different synthesis techniques, including additive synthesis, physical modeling, frequency modulation synthesis, and others.

Some might say the music is fake but accurate. That is, I take musical instrument samples, and manipulate them on a computer, to product music that could possibly be played by real musicians with real instruments. Lately I’ve tried to make the illusion as real as possible, while still exploring tuning concepts that would be nearly impossible to play in real life.

This page contains information and source code for recent compositions. The files are in Csound .csd format, and also in a preprocessor format (.mac) which require a preprocessor I wrote called SAMPLES (info here).

To listen to the music, click on the Music tab, where mp3 versions are available.

The music is based on Just Intonation, specifically on the Harry Partch Tonality Diamond. The pieces can be quite challenging to listen to. If you find unusual tuning systems interesting, by all means give it a listen. Once you accept the force of just intonation, it can be enlightening.

I use a macro preprocessor I wrote to generate Csound score files. I create a .MAC file (macro file) which is pre-processed by the program SAMPLES which reads the macro file and creates a .csd file. Csound is called with the .csd file as input. The .csd files refer to a set of sample files. The result is a .wav file, which is then processed it to create a .mp3 file.

The musical material are six tone (hexany) otonality and utonality scales from the Partch tonality diamond. I turned it on its side relative to the one in Genesis of a Music. This one matches the diamond marimba layout. The ratios are limited to the diamond shown below. Click on the graphic to learn more about diamonds.

8 thoughts on “Microtonal Music by Prent Rodgers”

  1. Hi Prent –

    Wonderful to see that you are still developing new music after all these years. I discovered your site years ago – probably in the first half of the 1990’s when I was developing my project, the Well Tempered Fractal (aka WTF, in retrospect an unfortunate acronym – but I had it first!). You sent me some of your early music by snail mail on a CD in the days when the internet was in its infancy and it was hard to find music to download.

    What I loved about your music and still do, is the fun and sense of humor as well as the listenability of it – it is interesting music. I haven’t done anything with fractal music in probably twenty years, but I was always searching for ways to make music that was odd, but pleasant to listen to. Most of the practitioners of microtonal music that I have ever heard make painful music which is unpleasant to listen to. But yours keeps me engaged and makes me smile.

    I have since gone back to being a singer – songwriter and a composer of more traditional music for my own enjoyment, but every now and then I pull up a couple of my old fractal music pieces and rediscover them. I had long since lost your music through constantly upgrading computer systems, so I am glad to rediscover your “new” website.

    Keep up the good work and thank you for being so generous in sharing it.

    Best regards,

    Robert Greenhouse

  2. Hi Prent,
    I spotted a little mistake in your diamond marimba applet. The key that’s marked 9/7 plays a 8/7 rather than 9/7.

    Great applet though. Plus I’m a big fan of your music!


  3. “Music that’s fake but accurate”

    Ha ha. The only guy I’ve seen so far that makes music that sounds good, and a sense of humor to boot!

    People ask me what kind of music I’m making… I say “Wrong Music.” Using LogicPro on a Mac. 11et/13et/LeMonte Just/Ling Lun/Tibetian/Siamese/hermode and a really dissonant system I call squished. Love to salt the consonant with the dissonant or visa versa. Send your email and I’ll send you some low res samples. Ultimately I’ll have CD and 24bit48khz ALAC or FLAC packages available. One CD one High Res Disk. Home made package.

    First album will be “50s and 60s Favorites from 2050s and 2060s” – down here in San Diego, lived across the street from Ivor. Brink is my best buddy.

  4. Hi Prent,

    I am playing soundfonts using Csound (using sfplay). I would like to use the scala files to change the tuning. Have you ever had the occasion to do that? How should I go about it? Thanks for your time.


    Azfar Jafri

  5. hi nice blog. just love the on fire. you are really creative. am also a programmer but not a music one. i think you are really an engineer. and am so glad you have really taken your time to compose all these music since 2005 . wow kudos and thanks. i wish more people will see how talented you are with computers and music. thanks

  6. Prent,

    I am a musician, audio engineer and video editor. My wife’s education non-profit wanted to put together a few short videos of recent presentations and asked me to help them edit the video they had taken. In addition to editing their video, I created an opening and closing title scheme and I wanted to have a short 10-20 second bumper music to use. I found yours and used it for the initial unpublished version for them to see. They loved the whole work including the bumper music, so I am writing to see if we can have permission to use it on the projects. I believe it is an early version of “June gloom”. These short videos would be published privately on Vimeo for other educators to access. Let me know if we can use it or I can find a replacement. I noticed other works used a Creative Commons Atribution 2, would this work for you? By the way, I love your stuff, it is fascinating and way beyond my capabilities, but the sounds and melodies generated are great.

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