In addition to the discussion of tuning which frames the piece in one way, this song is also named after the river Hranfá near Skagaströnd, in the Northwestern Region of Iceland. The field recordings and the flute recordings were done at the river side, in the raven valley. Hranfá means raven river, Hranfa being Raven, and the ending Á meaning river. The metal tongue was found at the river side as well. The piece is meant to explore the transitions between tradition and modernity, specificity and empiricality, the natural world and the digital word, and interrelations between different generations of technology.
Hranfá is polymicrotonal piece featuring a number of approaches to microtonal and xenharmonic tuning. Firstly, we have an instrument created by a metal “tongue”: a found object shaped loosely like a marimba key. This “tongue” was recorded by striking it with a rock at various places to create as many possible natural harmonics of the object (which exhibited moderate inharmonicity). This was done by balancing the “tongue” at various nodes, such as in the 1st node (2nd harmonic), and the 2nd nodes (3rd harmonics) like how a marimba key is positioned, and then striking other nodes. These samples were then mapped to a midi keyboard, so different keys would trigger different harmonics, and then the tracks for the piece were recorded. Secondly, we have a field recording of a river which was modified by the use of a resonator plug in to create a drone. This drone was tuned to a root, 150¢, 710¢, 950¢, and 1197¢. Empirically chosen which neutral intervals and the sharp fifth which often accompanies them as a guide. This drone is concluded by the 710¢ pitch gradually dropping to 650¢. Thirdly, we have parts of the “tongue” recordings doubled, with the doubles pitch shifted to empirically chosen locations. These are too numerous and empirical to systematically list the details of this effectively. Fourthly, we have a digital piano track played in 17ed2, 17 equal divisions of the octave. Near the beginning, the piano is processed by effects to change the timbre, and have moderate-small sections pitch shifted down (each section remains in 17ed2 relative to itself. The finale of the track has the piano in an unmoving 17ed2. Fifthly, we have a track played by a 4-holed wooden end-blown flute, similar in design to the Japanese Shakuhachi. This is not tuned specifically, but is in relation to its own harmonics in a similar but contrasting way as the metal tongue is. This section ends by the flute becoming affected by a resonator which is tuned to 0¢, 132¢, 150¢, 174¢, and 290¢, again creating some amount of buzz in the area of the neutral 2nd, and this time also in the subminor 3rd, preluding the final transition to 17ed2. Finally, we have the pitches of the field recording. This includes the different shades of white noise from the rivers, and the voices of the birds. The final bird calls were chosen to their seemingly arrhythmic and inharmonic call and responses.
Noah is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer from Vancouver, BC. who works with number of retuned pianos and guitars, among other devices and instruments. He has been working with microtonality and forms of intentional tuning for about 10 years, creating works in projects such as Redrick Sultan (prog-jazz-rock), Bad Canada (lo-fi indie), Seaborg and Norb (acoustic folk), as well as works for solo piano (The Devil, The Moon, in some loung). He is now in Iceland, recording a full length project which will contain this track: Hrafná. Noah’s work is focused on the relationship of the boundaries of our perception with contextual, cultural, and physical relationships within sound.