1st Edition

Maqam Melodies Pitches, Patterns, and Developments of Music in the Middle East and other Microtonal Writings

By Peter Thoegersen Copyright 2024
    148 Pages 15 Color & 49 B/W Illustrations
    by Jenny Stanford Publishing

    148 Pages 15 Color & 49 B/W Illustrations
    by Jenny Stanford Publishing

    This book discusses microtonal tunings in the Arabic maqam, prevalent in the Middle East and Central Asia, which employs microtonal intervals from Pythagorean tuning by perfect fifths. The ratio 3/2, as the fifth overtone in the overtone series, is used as a multiplier leading to numeric ratios for all pitches in the tetrachords and pentachords of the maqam. Musicians today are highly curious about expanding the pitch palette and are already employing microtones in their music, from folk rock to classical music. The maqam is among the few extant analyzed systems of music from antiquity that reflect the methods of the Greek Genera, in terms of tuning and function. The book also discusses Charles Ives's use of microtones, Bach and his use of microtones, and a score of Hypercube, the seminal composition discussed in the author’s first book, Polytempic Polymicrotonal Music, which was not published in its entirety in the former book. The text covers microtones philosophically, questioning the efficacy of such tunings. This book is accessible to the beginners in the field and will be beneficial to musical analyses in colleges and universities also by showing detailed analysis of Bach chorales in their original modes, and how their tuning presented complete character shifts by the microtones they contained by mean-tone temperament, an offshoot of Pythagorean tuning during the Baroque.

    1. Microtonal Modes and Scales in the Middle East and Central Asia

    2. Bachian Modality

    3. Hypercube Score and Notes

    4. Quartertones Are Not Out of Tune: You Are!

    5. Charles Ives's Use of Quartertones: are they structural, or expressive?

    6. Polytempic Polymicrotonal Music and Freedom: a modern day music manifesto


    Peter Alexander Thoegersen was born in Los Angeles, USA, in 1967. He earned his doctorate in music composition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, in 2012. He wrote his thesis on polytempic polymicrotonality, previously untouched as a stylistic genre, with only a single precursor in the literature, Charles Ives’s Universe Symphony (1915). Polytempic polymicrotonality offers expansive potential for the re-emergence of pitch and rhythm in contrast to extended technique noise gestures prevalent today. Dr. Thoegersen, a drummer, extrapolates rhythms and explores polytempo and four-way independence, wherein each independent “limb” becomes its own part, or voice, with its own tempo, and ultimately, its own microtonal system—approaching a radical new polyphony not yet practiced in musical literature. He has had his works premiered in Europe, Australia, and the United States. His eponymous CD Three Pieces in Polytempic Polymicrotonality (2019, New World Records) has had nine reviews and made to three top ten lists for 2019’s best CDs. His song cycle Facebook: What’s On Your Mind? was released on Flea Records in April 2021. Dr Thoegersen's most recent album, Alien Music (2022 Magic&Unique Records), is available for streaming on Spotify and Apple and is also available at Amazon.


    Polymath Peter Thoegersen’s doctoral dissertation, published in 2022 as Polytempic Polymicrotonal Music: The Road Less Traveled, went around the world and through the whole of musical history to explore man’s attempts to use differently tuned scales and competing simultaneous tempos. Here he focuses his extraordinary erudition on the scales of Arab music throughout history, as defined in treatises by medieval scholars like Safi al-Din and Qutb al-Din; he then moves giddily through an exploration of pre-Bach theories of modes as prelude to an exploration of quarter-tones in Western music after 1900, including his own multidimensional music. Once again, the historical sweep and wealth of detail are astonishing.

    Prof. Kyle Gann

    Bard College, USA

    Author of The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician