1. Akt – 1. Szene

Ich kannte sie, Herr Kollege

The first scene of the first act features a fictitious dialog between the two professors that were shut by the philosophy student, one of them is deadly wounded – the other one will survive. The latter, puzzled by her crime, praises her intellectual accomplishments while his moribund colleague tries to get his attention.

The scene was written entirely in the Bohlen-Pierce scale, a consonant scale that subdivides the interval of a twelfth in thirteen equal steps. As this scale, not having any octaves, is an intellectual achievement in itself, it symbolizes the abstract, academic world of a university department.

This part is based on the syllables „Ei-ne“ and consists of mainly two parts, a short instrumental overture and a duet in which the professors are accompanied by two microtonal keyboards („secco“) followed by a short coda.

The Bohlen-Pierce scale

This equidistant scale which was described independently by two researchers (Stanford professor John Pierce and German engineer Heinz Bohlen) is characterized by an extraordinary number of unusual, yet consonant intervals in close approximation.


Step Cents Just Interval Cents Deviation
1 0 1:1 0 0
2 146 12:11 151 5
3 293 32:27 294 1
4 439 9:7 435 4
5 585 7:5 583 2
6 732 32:21 729 3
7 878 5:3 884 6
8 1024 9:5 1018 6
9 1170 63:32 1173 3
10 1317 32:15 1312 5
11 1463 7:3 1467 4
12 1609 81:32 1608 1
13 1756 11:4 1751 5
14 1902 3:1 1902 0


Table. Marked in red are small integer ratios based on odd numbers
which relates the scale to the clarinet spectrum.

The overture

In my piano composition Fingerprints, I experimented with the ratio 3:5:7:9 on a metric level. Therefore, creating analogies on metric and harmonic levels seemed the next logical step. I decided to base the overture on 3 different elements:

  • a fast ascending melodic figure, using the „strong“ intervals of the scale. A kind of crescendo was achieved by increasingly subdividing the theoretical time span between successive entries of this motive. (6x as the result of the interpolation between 3x and 9x)
  • a slow trill between a and b quarter tone flat with a rhythmic counterpoint (5x)
  • spectral chords derived from Brasch’s sentence and approximated to the Bohlen-Pierce scale; in chronological order, mostly arpeggiated (7x)

Other elements are:

  • Sampled sounds of breaking glass and pouring water (symbolizing the injury of the human body)
  • A short sample from Monteverdi’s Orfeo („Tu se morta…“)

The duet

The tenor and bass lines of the two professors as well as the keyboard accompaniment was first written in standard tuning based on triadic harmony, stylistically somewhere between Kurt Weill and Alban Berg. This texture was then translated into the Bohlen-Pierce scale by

  • approximating the voice and linear keyboard lines to the closest scale steps
  • matching the harmonies to approximated speech spectra (in free order)

The coda closes this part with an harmonic and melodic ascent followed by the sound of a flushing toilet.

Listen to recording


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