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Extreme(ly) Extreme Maximalism

To extreme-ify something is to push it to its limits. The problem with extreme-ifying maximalism is that the maximal is, by definition, already at its (maximum) limit. So the notion of extreme must take on a different slant. Extreme-ifying the maximal means not going up to, but beyond its limits. This is a bit of an impossible task, in that it requires going further than the furthest point. But we experimentalists love impossible tasks, and the juicy paradoxes that arise from tackling them!

By way of example, consider a pitch scale that does not have the standard chromatic 12 tones per octave – or the conventional microtonal variants of 19 (19-EDO), 22 (Indian shrutis), 24 (quarter tone), 43 (Harry Partch), etc. – but a whopping 1200 notes per octave. That’s 100 ‘centitones’ per chromatic semitone. You could fit Bach’s entire B Minor Mass (pitchwise) in the space between C and C# with plenty of room to spare. It would probably sound like single long chorused note with gobs of highly ornate internal activity. Alternately, if you got each member of a 5000-person choir to take a different note within a four octave-block (C2 to C6), you’d end up with the densest vocal cluster of all time. Now that’s extreme maximalism!

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 11:29 am by rachmiel · Permalink