Juhani Vesikkala, Ph.D.


(international stage name J-T Vesikkala Wittmacher)


Carrying the Noise-Pitch Continuum –
Voice-leading Stances on Two Indeterminate Frontiers

My doctoral project has started in October 2018 and charts the remaining corners of two major
topics that were at the focal point of music about 100 years ago, microinterval music and music
with noises. The corners I selected are in their respective fields the least researched into, due to
their complexity. To this day, few studies exist into the topics of music using free pitch space and
music using noise with pitch cores (Froise, a term coined for my research). Both acoustic and
electronic music exemplifying these topics, however is slightly on the rise and the related
compositional tools are becoming more commonplace among composers.

The term 2018–2019 concentrated on advanced research within microtonality, continuing my
long-time fascination with the topic.
I presented preliminary results at two conferences in Brussels and in Freiburg in early 2019,
created and presented a module for microtonal music studies at HAMU, and gave a lecture at
the invitation of Prof. Fekete at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music Budapest. During the term, I
browsed and researched music collections in over 20 libraries, both general and specialised, in
11 European countries, since literature on this topic is scarce and combining different branches
of research and theory formation are necessary. Interviews were made in person with composers
Pierluigi Billone and Alessio Elia. An article for the Tempo Journal (Cambridge University
Press) was commissioned and written on the piano multiphonics focusing on the mathematical
basis of their spectral content.
A computer program was developed for analysing and visualizing the spectral structures of
microtonal chords. The dissertation promotes a free and flexible use of the microtonal pitch
continuum, a perspective that is underrepresented in the literature that mostly considers
microtonal systems based on equally divided intervals or intervals from the harmonic series. The
term also resulted in 3 new miniature compositions and 6 new larger compositions for various
instrumental setups.
Research in the year 2019 has been partially financed by an SGS grant.

The term 2019-2020 will concentrate on the musical uses of noise – Rauschen in German is a
slightly more accurate term than the English one which has many meanings – , and especially on
the type of noise that lies between noise and pitch. These sounds are noises that have one
frequency core or several, for which I originally coined the term Froise . The main focus is on the
intentionality of the Froise sound and on its spectral analysis, and secondarily on
psychoacoustics and individuals' perceptions of it.

Building on this elementary knowledge, the main research question forms: What is the auditory
perceptual ground that allows composing with free microtonality and sounds of the Froise
category? The applied questions follow. What roles does (microtonal) pitch have when its
conventional carrying role in music has become a secondary one in many of the recent
compositions considered, perceptually overpowered by timbre as the carrier of the salient sound
streams? What types of conventional voice-leading as known from pitch streams in tonal and
early atonal music have been recontextualised, and what new types of voice-leading have been
invented to let timbre carry the sound stream? More generally, in which ways has free pitch
space and the noise – pitch continuum been brought to interaction in recent repertoire?

Several similar studies on timbral classification of sounds and uses of timbre have been made
and continue to be made by researchers and composers. The present study will do its best at an
initial dialogue between the various viewpoints. Observations will be made from repertoire
works from the 1990's to the 2010's where these sounds feature prominently. The research will
delve into the repertoire by late 2020.
Some of the works include electronics, which widens the scope and the technical, analytical and
aesthetic questions involved.
The dissertation will also be complemented by interviews with professionals of various related

The term 2020-2021 will concentrate on writing and tie together the various branches of
existing research. The dissertation will as its main output present analytical and compositional
principles based on selected repertoire for voice-leading when the perceived “voices” in the
conventional sense are absent or not meaningful and listeners follow to streams carried by
timbre instead, especially by noise or Froise. A term akin to “blending” is presented as an
overarching concept between microtonality, noise, and spectral interference and fusion
structures. The dissertation shortly introduces literature on standard and advanced microtonal
and noise topics as well as the software developed. Voice-leading strategies are exemplified by
specific pieces of music and complemented by composer interviews and interdisciplinary

A part of the results will be delivered in the form of audio examples. Throughout the project, I
will compose music exemplifying these questions. Publication and defense of the dissertation is
planned for the summer of 2021.

Selected events details

2018 :
November 22nd
Presentation of compositions at the HAMU composition seminar

December 2nd
Essay: “In praise of the noises self-abundant and in-between”, including definition of Froise as
frequency components in balance with noise components, examples of Froise sounds on

December 11th, HAMU Gallery, Prague
Premiere of Readings. Kawara (2014), composition with piano multiphonics

2019 :
Feb 27th, Brussels, Koninklijk Conservatorium
Lecture at Polyphonic Performance Spaces Symposium on topic “ The underlying microtonality
and spectrality in listening to trichords
”, including presentation of the Spectrescence computer

March 22nd, at HAMU
A course of microinterval music, course materials “A Microtonality Logbook for the 2020's” and
“The 2020's Microtonality Wishlist” published

April 16th, at HAMU
Doctoral seminar lecture with title “ Intermediate Stances in Pitch Space ”, including chart of 10
sound categories and presentation of research methodology and of the Spectrescence computer

April 25th, at HAMU
Analysis presentation “ Complex use of (in)determinate pitch space in two textures by Beat
” on Beat Furrer’s opera Wüstenbuch (2009-2010), movements 2 and 5.

April 28th, Tallinn
Discovering Young Composers of Europe (DYCE) competition finals
Premiere of “ Chosen families ” (2019) for sextet.

May 1st, Echofluxx, Paralelní Polis, Prague
Premiere of two miniatures from “ Insulae " (2019) for free instrumental setup, by Ensemble
Terrible; http://echofluxx.org/ECHOFLUXX19/E19pgm1.pdf
A third miniature was premiered at HAMU on May 21st, 2019
( https://www.hamu.cz/cs/kalendar-akci/700/ ).

May 3rd, Budapest
Trip for an interview and a lecture in the spectral music series, at invitation by Prof. Fekete at
the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music “Zeneakadémia”.

May 25th, Freiburg im Breisgau
Lecturing at EUROMicroFest 2019

October 30th, HAMU
Curated a concert of new music from Helsinki
and Prague for the kantele concert instrument,
including a premiere of Mind Crimes for concert
kantele and electronics.
Juulia Pölönen, concert kantele

November 8th, 2019, HAMU
Premiere of Versa est for orchestra
Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra (Zlín)
Petr Louženský, cond.

November 12th, Helsinki Cathedral
Premiere of Wahnsinnspfeiff for organ with
half-drawn registrations
Hiski Wallenius, organ

November 21st, 2019, HAMU
Premiere of In Oversight of Allegory , for dectet

In early 2020 :
New work for ensemble, duration 12’, commission by the DYCE competition finals.
New microtonal work for quartet.
New work for male choir and small ensemble.
23rd to 25th of April, Prague
Curating an international festival and symposium of microinterval music, with lectures and
concerts; https://microintervalinstitute.wordpress.com