Refracted Tones (2015) for quarter-tone accordion 9' [performed by Stefan Hussong]
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Refracted Tones for quarter-tone free-bass accordion was composed for Stefan Hussong to perform using new quarter-tone reed blocks that were custom-designed by Pedro Gomes in 2014. Instead of dividing the octave into the twelve equal tempered semitones, the octave is divided into twenty-four equal tempered quarter-tones. This greatly expands the range of intervals and harmonies. But since for the accordionist, the manner of playing the instrument isn't changed, it is actually very idiomatic for music with quarter-tones. In the 16’ (low) register, the right manual is tuned a quarter-tone lower than the left; the quarter-tone scale is created by alternating keys between the two manuals. With other registers in the right hand, the chromatic keys are mapped directly to the quarter-tone scale, so playing two octaves of a chromatic scale on the keyboard gives a twenty-four tone quarter-tone scale. These configurations allow the composer to explore a wide range of quarter-tone sonorities and polyphonic writing in a manner that is idiomatic for the performer and relatively easy to notate.
Composing for twenty-four tones was a voyage into unknown waters, opening up a beautiful but bewildering new sound world. Not only were there so many strange new intervals and qualities, but even the intervals that I thought I knew now sounded quite different. Just as light bending through water droplets in the atmosphere creates the spectrum of a rainbow, similarly the performer's gestures and motion on the accordion keys are refracted through the quarter-tones to create new melodic shapes, sonorities and colours.