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Seppe Gebruers

Musician, Improviser, Composer, researcher,

Quartertone pianos,

Organ,Carillon and Electronics.

The quartertone pianos solo

Videos and Audio

Quartertone pianos - Two become one

an introduction

 

“Less is more.”

Few musical slogans have been pushed more over the last few decades, and this paradigm has surely produced some beautiful results. Only, what kind of “less” are we talking about really? Why do we want less? What if that “less” were not a free choice, but rather a tradition or even a forced idiom, like a parade in which the participants are marching blindly?

One of those “parades” would be the choice to use some pitches and others not. This system, dominant in Western Europe, is known as the well-tempered pitch. Simply put, it includes the notes that we know as the white and black keys on a piano keyboard. The system has more or less shaped Western musical tradition since the 18th century, from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier over the sonorous ostentation of Wagner’s operas, to indeed “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music. So the system works. Only, to what end? And to what end not? Because the piano keyboard and the thinking that goes with it, leaves a lot of options unused.

The A-key in the middle of a keyboard is tuned at 440 Hz. The following note, closest to it (a semitone away), at roughly 466 Hz. So what happened to the twenty-six other frequencies? Why are those not used? Or, put differently, why would a 453-Hz tone be wrong? If melody and rhythm are the first and second dimensions of music, then harmony would be the third, spatial dimension.

Microtonality, the use of tones in between the tones of the well-tempered system, can then add a fourth dimension. One that can already be heard in a lot of music, often quite distinguished: think of Chinese opera, the refined melodies from the Middle East, or the well-known “blue notes.” But also in the West we have come to realize that there is more than do-re-mi, with Harry Partch, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Giacinto Scelsi and Pascal Dusapin, or EDM-stars Boards of Canada. To name just a few. Now that’s all very well, but how do you handle all of this, as a musician who plays the well-tempered instrument par excellence, the piano? For Seppe Gebruers the solution is as simple and obvious as it is complex and bold. By using two pianos instead, one of which is tuned a quartertone lower, which allows the playing of intermediate tones, next to the classical ones. Music in 4D, where “more” is just that: more.

Quartertone pianos

Two become one

“Less is more.” Few musical slogans have been pushed more over the last few decades, and this paradigm has surely produced some beautiful results. Only, what kind of “less” are we talking about really? Why do we want less? What if that “less” were not a free choice, but rather a tradition or even a forced idiom, like a parade in which the participants are marching blindly?One of those “parades” would be the choice to use some pitches and others not. This system, dominant in Western Europe, is known as the well-tempered pitch. Simply put, it includes the notes that we know as the white and black keys on a piano keyboard. The system has more or less shaped Western musical tradition since the 18th century, from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier over the sonorous ostentation of Wagner’s operas, to indeed “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music. So the system works. Only, to what end? And to what end not? Because the piano keyboard and the thinking that goes with it, leaves a lot of options unused. The A-key in the middle of a keyboard is tuned at 440 Hz. The following note, closest to it (a semitone away), at roughly 466 Hz. So what happened to the twenty-six other frequencies? Why are those not used? Or, put differently, why would a 453-Hz tone be wrong? If melody and rhythm are the first and second dimensions of music, then harmony would be the third, spatial dimension. Microtonality, the use of tones in between the tones of the well-tempered system, can then add a fourth dimension. One that can already be heard in a lot of music, often quite distinguished: think of Chinese opera, the refined melodies from the Middle East, or the well-known “blue notes.” But also in the West we have come to realize that there is more than do-re-mi, with Harry Partch, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Giacinto Scelsi and Pascal Dusapin, or EDM-stars Boards of Canada. To name just a few. Now that’s all very well, but how do you handle all of this, as a musician who plays the well-tempered instrument par excellence, the piano? For Seppe Gebruers the solution is as simple and obvious as it is complex and bold. By using two pianos instead, one of which is tuned a quartertone lower, which allows the playing of intermediate tones, next to the classical ones. Music in 4D, where “more” is just that: more.

A solo improvisation

"Playing with"

About Wyschnegradsky

His solo performances consists of three different projects

A solo improvisation

 

Starting from this concept of two pianos forming one instrument together, Gebruers has developed three concert programmes.

The first one is 100% Gebruers with improvisations on precomposed themes or elements.

This free approach of music and the use of two pianos opens both possibilities as well as risks.

First of all, improvised music offers a maximum opportunity to rebound the energy of the audience (or lack thereof) back to the performer. Nobody knows how this actually works, but anyone who has ever been on a stage or witnessed a “memorable” concert, knows what it is like.

Next to that, the setting of two perpendicular pianos can be fully exploited as an acoustic space. The listener is placed in a mono- or stereophonic sound decor, which leaves open all options of dynamic, melodic, rhythmic and, of course, harmonic nuances.  

Even more drastic, though, is the choice to play each keyboard with only one hand. In this way the possibilities of microtonality reach their full disorienting potential. Placing two differently tuned pianos next to or across one another makes playing “right” and “off-key” lose all their meanings, and allows the music to unfold in all its kaleidoscopic glory.Furthermore, this “one-handed” way of playing relieves the performer of his classical role as concert pianist, who like a mechanical virtuoso is expected to make the piano sound like an orchestra. Liberated from this type of Lisztian greatness, the music can now zoom in on microscopic spectra, through which the kaleidoscopic refraction can fully radiate.

A Solo Improvisation

“Starting from this concept of two pianos forming one instrument together, Gebruers has developed three concert programmes.

The first one is 100% Gebruers with improvisations on precomposed themes or elements. This free approach of music and the use of two pianos opens both possibilities as well as risks.

First of all, improvised music offers a maximum opportunity to rebound the energy of the audience (or lack thereof) back to the performer. Nobody knows how this actually works, but anyone who has ever been on a stage or witnessed a “memorable” concert, knows what it is like. Next to that, the setting of two perpendicular pianos can be fully exploited as an acoustic space. The listener is placed in a mono- or stereophonic sound decor, which leaves open all options of dynamic, melodic, rhythmic and, of course, harmonic nuances.  Even more drastic, though, is the choice to play each keyboard with only one hand. In this way the possibilities of microtonality reach their full disorienting potential. Placing two differently tuned pianos next to or across one another makes playing “right” and “off-key” lose all their meanings, and allows the music to unfold in all its kaleidoscopic glory.

Furthermore, this “one-handed” way of playing relieves the performer of his classical role as concert pianist, who like a mechanical virtuoso is expected to make the piano sound like an orchestra. Liberated from this type of Lisztian greatness, the music can now zoom in on microscopic spectra, through which the kaleidoscopic refraction can fully radiate.

About Wyschnegradsky – Back to the future

 

As said, Gebruers is definitely not the only one to have this fascination with microtonality. There are examples from Non-Western music over EDM to “classical” Western composers. Belonging to the last category is Russian-born Ivan Alexandrovich Wyschnegradsky (1893-1979), who attacked the well-tempered pitch with quartertones, along with even more refined fractions. His 24 preludes for two quartertone pianos date from 1924, and their execution was originally intended for two pianists.

The quartertone instruments immediately sweep the listener off his feet, only to put him back on firm ground instantly, and this thanks to echos of Skriabin, Debussy, Bartók and even romantic piano literature.

Seppe Gebruers edited some of the preludes for solo pianist with two pianos, and confronts them with his own improvisations.

In this way, nearly-one-hundred-year-old pieces of the all-but-forgotten Wyschnegradsky (sill performed, though, by big shots such as Yvonne Loriod and Pierre Boulez) are put in a radically-contemporary context.

About Wyschnegradsky Back to the future

As said, Gebruers is definitely not the only one to have this fascination with microtonality.

There are examples from Non-Western music over EDM to “classical” Western composers. Belonging to the last category is Russian-born Ivan Alexandrovich Wyschnegradsky(1893-1979), who attacked the well-tempered pitch with quartertones, along with even more refined fractions.

His 24 preludes for two quartertone pianos date from 1924, and their execution was originally intended for two pianists.

The quartertone instruments immediately sweep the listener off his feet, only to put him back on firm ground instantly, and this thanks to echos of Skriabin, Debussy, Bartók and even romantic piano literature.

Seppe Gebruers edited some of the preludes for solo pianist with two pianos, and confronts them with his own improvisations. In this way, nearly-one-hundred-year-old pieces of the all-but-forgotten Wyschnegradsky (sill performed, though, by big shots such as Yvonne Loriod and Pierre Boulez) are put in a radically-contemporary context.

"Plays with"

Predicting the past

In this section Seppe Gebruers plays with well-known songs like jazz standards and folksongs.

He doesn’t know if he plays with the songs or if the songs are playing with him.

The goal is to create a tension between the recognizable (or the memory of the songs) and the estrangement caused by the quartertone pianos.

Through this change of context, the songs get a unique character, perception and sensation. In this process, Gebruers invite the audience to listen with brand new ears and think about the future of our memories.

Predicting the past.

When I play with my cat, how do I know that she is not playing with me rather than I with her?”

Michel de Montaigne

(1533-92)

Quote Open 1
Quote Close 1

In this section Seppe Gebruers plays with well-known songs like jazz standards and folksongs.

He doesn’t know if he plays with the songs or if the songs are playing with him.

The goal is to create a tension between the recognizable (or the memory of the songs) and the estrangement caused by the quartertone pianos.

Through this change of context, the songs get a unique character, perception and sensation. In this process, Gebruers invite the audience to listen with brand new ears and think about the future of our memories.

Predicting the past.

"Plays with"

Predicting the past

Videos and Audio

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Contact

Bookings and info

23/11/2018

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