Photo: Shervin Lainez
Chris P. Thompson is a percussionist and composer, a longtime member of Alarm Will Sound and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). He has collaborated and performed with artists including Björk, Medeski Martin & Wood, Nico Muhly, They Might Be Giants, and many more. His new album True Stories & Rational Numbers will be out next Friday; you can preorder it on Bandcamp. We’re premiering the video for the track “Five ‘Til” below.
True Stories & Rational Numbers is a nine-movement work composed, performed, and produced by Thompson. It represents his investigation of just intonation, the tuning system based on the natural harmonic series that uses simple whole number ratios of frequencies, and will also be published as a fully notated score for live performance.
The album is composed and programmed entirely in modern piano roll notation, not unlike the work of 20th century American composer Conlon Nancarrow, who created pieces for player piano that would be unplayable by a human being with the regulation number of arms, hands and fingers. Thompson says, “this recording represents an idealized realization of the score from a near future where four grand pianos can dynamically re-tune themselves to an infinite lattice of pitches, and dance to the rhythmic relationships of simple mathematical ratios.”
The album is inspired by the life of German scientist and philosopher Hermann von Helmholtz; the music theory Thompson employed for the piece is derived from Helmholtz’s book On the Sensations of Tone. Other influences include Aphex Twin (whose music Alarm Will Sound recorded on 2005’s Acoustica, before Thompson joined the ensemble), drum and bugle corps music, and the chamber music of Ben Johnston and Harry Partch.