UPDATE: Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's review of the concert.
Composer Ezra Sims arrives in Pittsburgh next Tuesday (January 8th) for a concert hosted by Music on the Edge in honor of his 80th birthday. Sims is one of the foremost proponents of what is known as microtonal music, music that divides the octave into more than 12 notes. Sims himself uses a justly tuned 24-tone scale derived from a 72-tone per octave tuning, and we’ve probably already lost you, but don’t give up just yet.
Talk about alternative tunings in new music can be daunting to even experienced concert-goers. So for a moment, don’t worry about terms like microtonal or just intonation or 24-tone scales, and definitely don’t worry about a 72-tone per octave tuning. Here’s what you need to know about Ezra Sims: he is a composer’s composer and a musician’s musician. For all the imposing intellectual rebar reinforcing Sims’s compositions, the things that jump out at you when you actually hear his music are clear motives, carefully crafted melodies, haunting harmony, and elegant, audible formal structures. The best introduction to the music of Ezra Sims is to just hear his music, so we have posted some audio excerpts of works that will be on the program on Tuesday night.
The first audio example is from the 1998 composition AEDM in mem to be performed by virtuoso cellist Ted Mook. Here it is played by Christohphe von Erffa in a 2003 performance in Darmstadt.
The second example is from If I Told Him for mezzo and cello. The work is based on texts by Gertrude Stein. Acclaimed mezzo Mary Nessinger will join Ted Mook for the upcoming Pittsburgh performance. This recording features von Erffa on cello and mezzo Christine Ascher, again from a 2003 performance in Darmstadt. Notice how his microtonal scale allows Sims to faithfully trace and enhance natural speech inflections.