The Pythagorean Comma

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Description: 

Radio Play by Gavin Bryars and Blake Morrison, loosely based on the Jules Verne short story "Master Ray Sharp and Miss Me Flat", produced by Judith Kampfner

The Radio Play

The original story Master Ray Sharp and Miss E Flat is set in the 19th century in a remote Swiss village but this new version is transposed to the present day, and to a location in a remote Scottish island. 

In Verne's Swiss village there is a church taht had an organist who was known far and wide. As the organist gets old and deaf he stops playing and the church organ falls silent. One day, organ music is heard from the church and it transpires that a mysterious Hungarian organist/composer has arrived in the village. We eventually learn that he wishes to develop a new organ registration, the "voix d'enfants". He visits the village school and explains to the assembled children that each child has his or her own note which is peculiar to them and when they sing that note, there is a special resonance in their bones. He gets the children to sing, and makes a note of which pitch is peculiar to them.

There are two children who appear to sing the same note - one boy sings D sharp, and a girl sings E flat. However, he explains, that while these notes appear to be the same, they are arrived at from different directions in the harmonic cycle of fifths. Instead of getting back to the original note when you go round the cycle, there is a slight difference so that E flat and D sharp are not quite the same  - the difference is the "Pythagorean comma"...

The radio play reworks the story and includes music for organ and for children's choir. The music was recorded at Oakham School with the Jerwoods Choir, conducted by Peter Davis, with organist Thomas Chatterton

 

 

 

 

 

Audio: 

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