Khyam Allami and Julia Tieke discuss and share their research on the issues of microtonality in Arabic music and persistent efforts to expand its sonic landscape by allowing its performance on the Western piano and more. Following Allami’s premiere of his new solo project at CTM 2019, Kawalees: Part II; - which utilises a hybrid virtual/acoustic microtonally tuned piano using his custom developed software patch, Comma - they will discuss Allami’s endeavours and Tieke’s research-in-progress about the Piano Oriental, developed and promoted by Lebanese entrepreneur Abdallah Chahine from around 1930 until his death in 1975.
A prototype of this piano is exhibited at the music store of Abdallah Chahine in Beirut, still open and managed today by his grandson. As part of a commission by Deutchlandfunk Kultur, Allami composed two new pieces specifically for this piano, making use of the instrument’s tuning and mechanical idiosyncrasies. These were performed by Lebanese illustrator and pianist Joseph Kai both, on the Piano Oriental and on Allami’s hybrid piano, and recorded for an upcoming radio broadcast. Both Comma and the Piano Oriental can be framed as projects that aim at broadening the musical possibilities of given musical structures. Whether a musical instrument or audio software, neither was designed to cater for the specific needs of Arabic or other microtonal music, but in both cases expanded to do so.
The conversation will also touch on issues surrounding the microtonality of the Arabic maqam system, and the historical Cairo Congress of Arabic Music of 1932, during which European and Arabic musicians and musicologists discussed the past, presence, and future of Arabic music, heavily arguing with each other, especially about standardising Arabic tunings and the use of the piano in Arabic music.
Born in Damascus to Iraqi parents and raised in London, Khyam Allami is an active multi-instrumentalist, audio engineer, label head, researcher, composer, and more.
Julia Tieke works with and around text and sound. She is affiliated with the Radio Art Department of Deutschlandfunk Kultur, where she has been directing the daily ultra-short, experimental Wurfsendung since 2007.