Epictetus The Elder

The Brass Whisperer

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A musical journey of the life and teachings of the great Greek philospher Epictetus. Janine Grantham - flute & Matthew Farrell - cello, recorded by David Quinn of Ghostgum Audio in Brisbane; Rachel Westwood - violin & Michael Hugh Dixon - horn, recorded by Jack Garzonio of Studios 301 in Sydney.

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Our Days

The Brass Whisperer

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This instrumental 'song' is for solo horn playing a poem by Chryssy Tintner and accompanied by 5 horns, all in just intonation. Recorded in Brisbane 28 January, 2017 by Peter Rankine. All horn parts played by myself.

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Inspired by some text in the Lao Zi classic Dao De Jing the music speaks of people being sufficient without rulers. Each horn is in a different key: D, A, F#, E which is also the harmonics 2, 3, 5, 9 of the D series. Many other harmonics are used.  Originally for a quartet of horns in 2006, revised in 2021 with some extra multi-tracking. I recorded at home and tried out some reverb.

The music is composed using the tuning system called Just Intonation. Here the tunings are organised around twelve sets of harmonics playable on a standard double horn. Each valve slide is precisely tuned in a just intonation ratio to the central pitch, F concert. Many harmonics from each fundamental are used and once the tuning set-up is organised by the player very few lip adjustments are required. The bassoon player has a more limited number of pitches to play though most will require non-standard fingerings to match the horn. 

The title of the work comes from the text called The Stanzas of Dzyan of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The sentence inspiring this piece from Sloka VI reads: “Lastly, seven small wheels revolving; one giving birth to the other.”  

A melody is presented in Section 1 and closely followed in the remaining six sections. Variations occur in the harmonisation of the melody. Section 2 uses common notes occurring from the melody notes in the lower octave, Section 3 from the middle octave and Section 4 from the higher octave. Sections 5-7 have harmonies using the harmonics that relate to close microtonal shifts of the melody notes. The “small wheels” give “birth” using common tones between pitches from the various harmonic series. 

This work was written 2010 at the request of Sophia Rhee then recorded at the University of Western Sydney Music Department on 17 April 2010 by her and the composer for Sophia’s PhD. It has been performed live by Matthew Farrell, cello and Michael Hugh Dixon at the International Horn Society Symposium, Griffith University, Queensland Conservatorium of Music on 21 July 2010. Further performances have been with Ben Hoadley (bassoon) ion Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. 

This recording took place at a studio in the Australian Institute of Music engineered by staff and students, played by the composer and bassoonist Matthew Ockenden 11 November 2011.

Honouring the wrathful (energizing and energy clearing) Buddhist 'deity', this 7 movement work, when performed live, has the horn player moving to five locations in the performance space to outline a mandala. The cellist remains seated throughout. 
Extended just intonation, with the 1st movement featuring harmonics 1-31 of the low horn in C. 
Originally released in 2003. Featuring the fabulous playing of Matthew Farrell accompanied by myself on horn.

Meditative song with text from the classic by LaoTzi. Chapter One, The Dao that can be expressed is not everlasting Dao. The gorgeous singing of Wendy Dixon along with the wonderful playing of Lisa Wynne-Allen on horn along with myself on horn. The tuning is 7-limit just intonation.