"He's a person who clearly has a bigger role in American just intonation history than most people would ever know."
– Johnny Reinhard, director, American Festival of Microtonal Music
Paul Gallagher (1954–2011) saw a world at war with itself and responded with untempered harmony — an experience of sublime sonic cohesion evoking the interconnectedness of all existence.
Starting in 1980 – when microtonality was even more unfamiliar to audiences than it is today – Paul Gallagher developed an approach to just intonation that extended the ratios of the natural harmonic intervals to all elements of the composition.
"From the outset," he wrote, "it was clear to me that the quality and richness of these harmonies, drawn untempered from the overtone series, would demand their own language and syntax...so I began to develop a style that unfolds from the intervals themselves and the way they relate to each other. Rhythms, melodies, phrase structures, etc., were all derived from the same proportions as the harmonies."
"Thus the material – melodic, harmonic, rhythmic – reflects itself in the overall structure and at all levels between."
Born in Pittsburgh, he received his undergraduate degree in music from the Pennsylvania State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in composition from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he studied under Morton Feldman and Lejaren Hiller.
Paul Gallagher's orchestral, instrumental, and vocal compositions in just intonation have been performed in New York, Copenhagen, and Pittsburgh. His legacy includes a rare feat, a symphony for full orchestra in just intonation, the premiere of which was enthusiastically received at the American Festival of Microtonal Music in 1987. Premiering at the following year's festival was his composition for solo flute, "Lure." His other just-tuned instrumental compositions include two works for piano and another for piano and violin, a work for trumpet with woodwinds and vibraphone, a wind orchestra, and a single-movement work for chamber orchestra.
Even more important than just tuning's metaphorical appeal, Paul Gallagher was captivated by its clarity. With pitch intervals dictated by natural frequency relationships, just intonation produces a harmonic cohesion not achieved through traditional tunings tempered into equally divided octaves to facilitate modulation and transposition.
"My use of just intonation stems from an interest in harmony both aurally and philosophically," he wrote. "Each partial of an overtone series is itself a fundamental, casting its own series of partials. Yet, this myriad of partials and fundamentals is not heard as a complexity but as a single composite sound."
"In each facet of Being can be seen both its fundamental identity and its relative or partial identity," he wrote. "To observe that each facet constantly embraces both poles is to see that they are in fact a single identity and to understand harmony as an inevitable reality."
Read: Harmony for Our Time