All roads lead away from Rome

an Interröbang Cartel song

Title Dr HotSalt (March 2007)
Music and recording Doctroid (August 2008)
Art Anonymous
All Roads Lead Away From Rome PDF (early draft)
All Roads Lead Away From Rome MP3

Dr HotSalt proposed an IC album, Rules for Dysfunctional Patterns, suggested by a post from John Winston. Talysman further suggested it should be a prog rock album. Soon after I was working on “All Roads Lead Away From Rome”, decidedly art rock — if it’s rock at all.

A month later I uploaded a preliminary version, along with the explanation:

As the Cartel moves into its prog rock era, I see them taking on a nerdly keyboards guy who, having joined the band, foists upon them a long, serious, intellectual, instrumental piece for the new album. Not to be outdone by the gods of 1970s prog rock like Emerson, Wakeman, and Waters, he ventures into the weirdness of microtonal 15-tone equal temperament. Needless to say, there is immediate talk of firing him from the band.

He wasn’t fired, but the piece went on the back burner for a long time. In August 2008 I uploaded a revised, but not final, version: available technology and my own skills prevented me from putting it into satisfactory shape at the time. But in the following months I installed some better software, learned a few things, and came up with the final version, released in February 2009.

Scale details

The piece’s sections are based on various 15-ET scales, analogues of pentatonic, diatonic, whole tone, and chromatic scales. The score is written using Melody Assistant’s microtonal capabilities. I’d come across this page on scales based on 15 tone equal temperament — which refers to an article by Easley Blackwood, whose “Twelve Microtonal Etudes” knocked me for a loop in the early 1980s. Armed with that, and some ideas of my own, I set forth.

I used a somewhat different notation, though, for reasons which seemed good at the time but which I don’t remember. In the 12 tone equal temperament we’re all used to, A sharp is the same as B flat and so forth. In other tunings that’s not the case — A sharp is slightly higher than B flat. Or slightly lower. Depends. Anyway, the point is, in Melody Assistant you can make A sharp and B flat be different notes, and the scheme I used was as follows:

Note number Note name Pitch (cents above C) Nearest 12-equal note
1 C 0 C (+0)
2 C# 80 C# (-20)
3 Db 160 D (-40)
4 D 240 D (+40)
5 D# or Eb 320 Eb (+20)
6 E 400 E (+0)
7 F 480 F (-20)
8 F# 560 F# (-40)
9 Gb 640 F# (+40)
10 G 720 G (+20)
11 G# or Ab 800 G# (+0)
12 A 880 A (-20)
13 A# 960 Bb (-40)
14 Bb 1040 Bb (+40)
15 B 1120 B (+20)

The scales used in the various sections are:

Introduction and oboe solo: C C# Eb E Gb G A# C; 7 notes, step sizes between notes are: 80 240 80 240 80 240 240 (scale 1 in diagram below). This is what’s known as a moment of symmetry or MOS scale (I hate that term, but it’s standard and we’re stuck with it). It can be generated by starting on C, going up 320 cents to Eb, 320 more to Gb, 320 more to A#, 320 more (and then down an octave, 1200 cents) to C#, 320 more to E, 320 more to G, and stopping there. You stop there because if you stop earlier you have step sizes of 80, 240, and 320, and if you keep going you have step sizes of 80, 160, and 240, but if you stop at G you have only two step sizes, 80 and 240. It’s analogous to a conventional diatonic scale.

Piano ostinato: C D F G A# C: 5 notes, step sizes 240 240 240 240 240 (scale 2). This is an analog of the minor third scale (C Eb F# A C in conventional tuning).

Guitar solo: C Db D E F Gb G A A# B C: 10 notes, step sizes 160 80 160 80 160 80 160 80 160 80 (scale 3). This is obviously derived from the preceding scale by splitting each 240-cent step into a 160-cent step and an 80-cent step.

Calm melody: The melody uses D Eb F F# G Ab Bb B Db D: 9 notes, step sizes 80 160 80 160 80 240 80 240 80 (scale 4). Frankly, I have no clue where this scale came from. On the repetition, the harmony uses D Eb F F# G Ab Bb C D: 8 notes, step sizes 80 160 80 160 80 240 160 240 (scale 5). Again, wha? This is a subset of scale 6, but I don’t know if that was intended.

Tympani ostinato: This recapitulates the Piano ostinato section, with parts entering in a different order.

Chorale: C C# D Eb F F# G Ab A# Bb C: 10 notes, step sizes 80 160 80 160 80 160 80 160 80 160 (scale 6). This is the Guitar solo scale turned backward, in a sense.

Coda: This is just a descending chromatic scale using all 15 tones (scale 7).

Diagram of the scales

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