Default Microtonal / 24-EDO Accidentals


May I suggest that in some future update of Dorico you reconsider the default set of accidentals for 24-EDO?

In my experience the majority of microtonal music with quarter-tones written today uses the Stein-Zimmermann notation of course with some variations such as arrows to indicate smaller than 1/4 tone approximations (natural 7ths, eigth-tones etc).

I don’t know anyone using the default 24-EDO notation that Dorico features (Maybe Nono is close or some older examples?), and while it’s great that there are so many options in Dorico, both in terms of available fonts/glyphs, and the customisability, I reckon it would be helpful to switch to what’s most common in current practice.

Furthermore I’d also argue more generally that certain glyphs of the default set are counterintuitive to read, and so should be avoided, e.g. three-quarter tones flat and five-quarter tones flat - I’ve never seen these in the wild before (and I wouldn’t recommend a student to use them if they want to either hear what they want and/or be friends with the musician).

Here are just a few examples of composers working with the Stein-Zimmermann set to qualify my point. Please feel free to share composers using the Dorico default, or explain the decision - I’m curious, but either way I’d say it’s incontrovertible that Stein-Zimmerman is more widely used and that it therefore makes sense to adopt it as a default.

Patricia Alessandrini
Julian Anderson
Georges Aperghis
Joanna Bailie
Natasha Barrett
John Croft
Chaya Czernowin
Steven Daverson
James Dillon
Brian Ferneyhough
Michael Finnissy
Beat Furrer
Bernhard Gander
Philippe Hurel
Clara Iannotta
Mauro Lanza
Liza Lim
Tristan Murail
Hector Parra
Enno Poppe
Kaaija Saariaho
Rebecca Saunders

Obviously some other interesting people are working with Just Intonation or have devised their own systems or elaborations e.g. Ferneyhough’s 3rd and 5th tones.

…Just a suggestion for discussion, the lockdown is bringing out the fastidiousness in me as I continue to learn Dorico :slight_smile:

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Completely agree. Have mentioned this before.

Thanks for the feedback. We adopted the current set because it’s what is recommended by Gould in “Behind Bars”. The scheme she proposes has a nice consistency to it, with everything raised or lowered by way of an arrow, but of course we’re open to alternatives.

Interesting! For sure it’s logical, just not what’s most ‘common practice’. I don’t understand why Gould endorsed it, especially when it’s not common among Faber composers, as far as I know.

Hi—in my experience nmrz is quite right about the need to change the default 24-EDO accidentals. I strongly recommend a rethink for Dorico 4. With love and respect to Elaine, her book doesn’t reflect majority practice in the hundreds of new-music scores I see. The so-called ‘Stein-Zimmermann’ accidentals are beyond question the defaults in C21st ‘new music’—used by almost everyone, even if they don’t know that that’s what they’re called! It’s generally now considered bad practice to use an arrow for a quarter-tone, because arrows are reserved for divisions smaller than, or not cognate with, a quarter-tone, including eighth-tones and the lowering from EDO of the 5th partial (i.e. the just major third in a triad). In every case, an arrow requires explanation in the performing directions, so it has no assumed meaning other than ‘some kind of alteration in this or that direction’.

Also, as nmrz suggests, let’s drop the crazy ‘five-quarter-tones flat’ stuff from the defaults… Dorico has done such a good job at establishing best practice in many aspects, so it would be great to have these defaults sorted out. Of course it’s admirably easy to change them, but defaults can be quite influential for young/student composers…

Daniel—I’m happy to help further if required, but might also be worth checking out current Faber best practice (for example recent pieces by Martin Suckling). Best wishes, Clement

Thanks for the feedback, Clement. Certainly I’m not opposed to us including the Stein-Zimmermann 24-EDO accidentals as a default option in new projects.

Since we have experts in the room, slightly OT do you folks have recommendations for getting started in microtonal or general references? When I studied composition as a teen I learned about the work done in in the 60’s I believe, but have done nothing with it since, and I’m interesting in becoming current and also trying my hand at it. @cpower @nmrz

Great. As I say, it’s really only the use of arrows that are (dare I say it) wrong! Elaine Gould was influenced heavily by Olly Knussen’s views on microtones, which were pretty negative, shall we say. She also had direct experience of Xenakis’ solutions, which are logical all right but very impractical. Also she came from a copyist’s perspective looking at much older stuff (like the Bartok 2nd vln conc) where the microtones are just expressive pitch bending, not harmonically functional. Things have changed a lot recently!

Always happy to share!

Just as a quick start, I got into microtonality mainly via the so-called spectral composers working in France in 70s, which became a sort of style in new music… here are some decent pieces to get stuck into (imo)

Gérard Grisey
Espaces acoustiques -
Vortex Temporum -
Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil-

Tristan Murail
La Barque mystique

But yes it’s worth exploring the people mentioned in the first post, because there is a rich diversity of aesthetics within microtonality , beyond spectralism, and even then, because I was focusing on the notation my list doesn’t include all the Just Intonation folk, which is a whole other world.

If I may toot my own tiny trumpet for a moment you can discover and listen to recordings of many of the composers mentioned above on my group’s website, Explore Ensemble, which I direct:

Otherwise you can find a lot on youtube and other places - it’s so easy compared to 10 years ago :smile:




…just to continue this truly fascinating topic… :wink: the main divergence I notice these days is which glyph to use for the normal quarter-tone sharp: U+E2E3 (one vertical and one horizontal line, which is actually from the extended H-E set) or U+E282 (one vertical and two horizontals, from the Stein set). Both are in widespread use, my bet is that the former is a teensy bit more common. Either would be fine as a default.

… oops, my mistake! I meant to write that the latter option for the quarter-sharp is more in use (1 vertical, 2 horizontal) in ‘normal European’ new music — i.e. stuff that isn’t explicitly related to just intonation. So that would be the preferred default. The fact is that most players would hardly notice the difference—which goes to show that they really are the new normal for tempered quartertones.

…and since I’m here causing trouble :wink: I’ll just point out a very small glitch in Edit Accidental: if the last thing you do is change the pitch delta, then click OK, then the pitch delta information isn’t registered. You have to edit something else after it, for some reason (or just do the pitch delta change first of course). Now I promise to :zipper_mouth_face:

I usually hit the Tab key after changing the pitch delta; then the number is saved when I click OK.

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