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Angelswort (2013)

This album was my dissertation piece for my doctorate at Northwestern.  

The story of Angelswort is told through the course of the album in the lyrics and the artwork.  Each of seven scenes were conceived by the composer and rendered into seven panels of artwork by Alex Mitchell.  It is recommended that the listener observe the corresponding panel while listening to each of the scenes.  Some details of the narrative are only expressed visually.  The first scene is a description of a vivid dream I had featuring some symbolic imagery.  The characters and mood of the album grow from that initial scene.


I enlisted some composer-friends to play the album with me.  We also performed half od it on my doctoral recital in 2012.


Alex Temple: piano (II, VI), synth (IV), and melodica (VI)

Chris Fisher-Lochhead: viola (I, III, VI) and electric bass (II, IV)

David Reminick: soprano sax (III, IV, VI) and electric bass (I)

Ben Hjertmann: voice (I-VII), harmonica (VI), piano (I, III), and percussion/sampling (III, IV, V, VII)

Kenn Kumpf: voice (III)


I recorded this album myself with some very modest gear.  It is released under KLWHNNA Recordings and is available on Amazon, Itunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp.

        <keep reading for some fun, geeky music theory>

Most of the harmony in Angelswort is derived from combination tones.  The most clear example of this technique is demonstrated in Scene III which is comprised of two tenor voices (x, y) and some of their combination tones (x±y, 2x±y, 2y±x), all of which are harmonics of the L’Homme Armé cantus firmus in the bass.  Each of the other movements include harmony and/or melody composed from combination tones.


The form of Angelswort is wrapped in a golden spiral.  An alternate listening order is V, VI, VII, I, II, III, IV.  In fact, any starting point for listening is acceptable, as long as the forward progression of the scenes is maintained in order.  The form of the entire work is divided by the golden section 34 times.  The first ten or so divisions govern the larger form of the work, and the sections of each movement, the next ten or so control the tempo and rhythmic structure of the section surrounding the global golden section.  The final 14 divisions of the golden section extend into the audible pitch range and are perceived as an equally-spaced chord, with each pitch 833 cents apart, “The Golden Chord”.

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