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just intonation symphony NEW SKY

In 1985, Paul Gallagher composed a work that remains notable in the world of contemporary classical music to this day.

 

As a modern American, multi-movement symphony for full orchestra, New Sky qualifies as uncommon. The fact that it was composed and performed entirely in the non-standard tuning known as just intonation makes it a rarity. 

 

Novelty aside, the composition's traditional symphonic structure is bound up with its success as a work of art, even as the music transcends it. Exactly why the composer chose a formal vehicle for a large-scale realization of his tradition-flouting ideas remains unknown, but it is perhaps possible to directly hear how the music's appeal comes from its originality as well as its tie to Western orchestral tradition.

Its conventional set-up — a coherent progression through four movements differentiated by tempo, texture and timbre — provides the listener with a familiar framework for experiencing the unconventional use of untempered harmony that constitutes the sonic and thematic heart of the work.

In addition to formal structure, New Sky makes ample use of dynamics and orchestral color as a way of evoking materiality, movement, sensory awakening, and atmospheric expansiveness. In that regard, it stands as a departure from the minimalist-influenced explorations of exquisite but subtle harmonic development that characterize much of the modern just intonation ensemble repertoire.

The title "New Sky" was the composer's later choice for the symphony that premiered as "Way of the Hopi" in 1987.  

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 view score

 

Read Harmony for Our Time

 

The full symphony can be downloaded from Bandcamp

Hear New Sky
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