You say microtone, I say macrotone: Julian Anderson's expanded pitch space

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


A recurring feature of Anderson’s music is his highly individual approach to nonstandard tuning systems. While the impact of his encounter with spectral music is clearly evident in the early String Quartet No. 1 Light Music (1984-5), such straightforward derivations are less forthcoming in his mature works. Anderson’s approach is synthetic and flexible, as much melodic/modally-driven as harmonically derived, with practicality and expressive potential driving the technique rather than theoretical purity. As such, Anderson’s works are rarely based in microtonal environments exclusively: he prefers to employ an extended world of pitch that allows for multiple systems to interact rather than confine himself to a single alternative to 12tet. Furthermore, the ear leads the theory rather than vice-versa: the sensuality of sound is all-important. A particular feature arising from this is Anderson’s fondness for what he has termed ‘macrotonality’ – environments outside 12tet that nevertheless retain a semitone as the smallest interval.

This paper will interrogate briefly the relationship of Anderson’s mi/acrotonal technique to possible precursors, consider his solutions to some of the practical problems of microtonal performance, and outline some of Anderson’s own innovations and their expressive interaction with ‘standard tuning’ both within and between works. Examples will primarily be sourced from Eden, The Book of Hours, and String Quartet No. 2.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 20 Oct 2017
EventHeaven Is Shy of Earth: Julian Anderson at 50 - Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Silk Street, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Oct 2017 → …


ConferenceHeaven Is Shy of Earth: Julian Anderson at 50
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period20/10/17 → …
Internet address

Cite this