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Ralph David Hill

Pioneers of Natural Harmonic Music ]

Harry Partch ] Ivor Darreg ] Johnathan Glasier ] [ Ralph David Hill ] Denny Genovese ] Jules Siegel ]

New Musical Instruments
Harmonic Series Music
Proposals for the new World Harmony Center


Ralph David Hill is a Composer, Music historian, Psycho-acoustician, Music software and hardware developer and is very enthusiastic about the Natural Harmonic Series and the effects of  musical tunings on human beings.

Dave developed several generations of computer based voice and sound analysis programs, with hardware of his own design and construction, as well as voice and instrument synthesis, beginning in the 1970's.

Examples of some of the music he has produced are offered on this website. Included with these is a rendition of Ivor Darreg's Prelude in D Major, in 7 limit just intonation.

In addition to his work with the Harmonic Series and Extended Just Intonation, he has researched the Meantone tuning, as used on 19th century pianos, and has recorded some examples, which are presented here.

He has written several articles on related subjects, and those will be presented here as we find and scan them.

Music in the Harmonic Series and Just Intonation

by Ralph David Hill (c)

-Antipodal Harmonies

-Venusian Cataclysms

-Darreg Prelude in D Major

-Study 3


-Chord Progression on the Harmonic Series

-The Artistic Cat

-Dufay L' Homme Arme Song and Kyrie

-Brief 11 Ratio Composition

-The Second Swan

All selections composed by Ralph David Hill

7 and 11 limit Harmony Explorations

on just tuned piano

by Ralph David Hill (c)

Mini Composition*
Flow Gently Sweet Afton
St. Theodulph
Adeste Fideles
Veni Immanuel
King Wenceslas
Beethoven: Passage from Pathetique Sonata Transp.to Eb
Scales Demonstration*
Improvisation on Mixolydian modal scale on A*
Improvs exploring 7 and 11 ratio harmonies  roots Eb and Bb*

More Piano Music in Harmonic Series and Just Intonation

The Second Swan*
Careless Love
Improvisation in D minor*
The Artistic Cat*
Corrido de Camanea
Corrido de Benito Canales
St. Theodulph
Silent Night
Improvisation on Natural Harmonic Series*

* Composed by Ralph David Hill

  Unmarked selections are Traditional in Public Domain

  All performances by Ralph David Hill


Observations about Thirds

by Ralph David Hill       

I'm trying to get down concrete observer evidence for some surprising "reverse parallels" between how replacing the 81/64 Pythagorean major third with the 5/4 just major third in the 1400s changed music over the course of that century and how the later replacing of the 5/4 just or mean tone major third with the 126/100 equal tempered major third towards 1900 changed music at the later time.

        The change in the 1400s made music sound much more beautiful than it sounded before in the Ars Nova times.  In the reverse direction, (at least many) people of the 20th century unfamiliar with the sound of the earlier mean tone music and who are used to the sound of equal tempered music find the mean tone music to sound strangely beautiful.

        The just or nearly just 5/4 major third in chords seems to have the ability to tap into the brain's reward system.

        In brief, I think I have at least a partial answer.  Fellow creatures communicating - sound production mechanism a horn with integer ratio partial frequencies - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 .....    blowing leaves, rolling rocks, babbling brook - sound component frequencies not related in such an integer step way.  Integer frequency steps cues one that a fellow living creature is making the sound - probably a communication that's important.
              Towards 1476 the music theorist Johannes Tinctoris wrote regarding the striking change in musical art brought about through the influence of English music which had taken place earlier in the century : "... At this time, consequently, the possibilities of our music have been so marvellously increased that there appears to be a new art, if I may so call it, whose fount and origin is held to be among the English, of whom Dunstable stood forth as chief.  Contemporary with him in France were Dufay and Binchoys, to whom directly succeeded the moderns Ockeghem, Busnoys, Regis and Caron, who are the most excellent of all the composers I have ever heard..."

        Again in the preface to a book published in 1477 Tinctoris wrote: "...although it seems beyond belief, there does not exist a single piece of music, not composed within the last forty years, that is regarded by the learned as worth hearing.  Yet at this present time, not to mention innumerable singers of the most beautiful diction, there flourish, whether by the effect of some celestial influence or by the force of assiduous practice, countless composers, among them Jean Ockeghem, John Regis, Antoine Busnoys, .... who glory in having studied this divine art under John Dunstable, Gilles Binchoys, and Guillaume Dufay, recently deceased.  Nearly all the works of these men exhale such sweetness that in my opinion they are to be considered most suitable, not only for men and heroes, but even for the immortal gods.  Indeed I never hear them, I never examine them, without coming away happier and more enlightened."
           A music student auditioning at Florida State University in 1998, summing up her feelings regarding the difference between the sounds of same score passages of piano music played with the piano tuned in quarter comma mean tone temperament and with the piano tuned in equal temperament wrote at the end of her listening preference test:          
        "I appreciate the sound of mean tone tuning; it's just different enough to be almost exotic.  I think it's just beautiful."
   A former university tutor in physiology with whom I shared a passion for music and with whom I'd kept up left me a phone message responding to a cassette tape I'd sent him in 1998 on which I'd recorded several familiar hymns played on my piano tuned to quarter comma mean tone temperament.  This is his message (relevant parts):

        "Hi Dave, Ed Redgate.  I received your tape and just played it a few times.  Indeed it does have a distinctive sound - a very rich harmony - I'd forgotten .... These harmonies, they're great!  What have you done anyway?  And then you're selecting numbers which push all my buttons.  When my hair stands up on the back of my head and tears well up in my eyes I know you're pushing some emotional buttons.  Yes it's a great tape ....  and your technique is amazing - you hit all the keys exactly at the same time with exactly the same force to exert  .... to elicit the harmonies.  I'm actually quite surprised.  
        What's in these comments is not "new" and yet they add up to underscore the fact that, as much or more than the 3/2 fifth, the 5/4 major third is psychologically important in music and it needs to be close to exactly 5/4 to have its full psychological effect.  I feel that somehow, this fact is still underappreciated.






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