Diabolus in musica

Diabolus in musica

for twelve woodwinds

hard | 10 minutes

performed by Megan Williams, Desmond Juarez, Jordan Frazier, Robert Snider, Taryn Albin, Ashley Rubio, Charlie Hammerle, Brad Smith, Ryan Shelander, Conor Bell, Caleb Fletcher, and Ben Smith

Program Notes

“Mi contra fa est diabolus in musica.”  This well-known verse is echoed in Johann Joseph Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum by Aloysius who instructs his pupil, Jospehus, to avoid melodic and harmonic intervals of a tritone. For centuries, the tritone had been avoided by musicians because it was difficult to sing and sounded so foreign that it became associated with Satan. Even to this day, many ears find the sound of the isolated tritone displeasing and are eager to label it as jarringly dissonant. Diabolus in musica is my attempt to alleviate the stigma associated with the tritone.  From Paul Hindemith, we have learned that the tritone is not dissonant but rather full of energy and ambiguity. This piece is born in tonal ambiguity and ventures from this foreign territory to our world of harmony and back. On the way, the tritone assumes a variety of connotations. It is my hope that the listener will learn to appreciate the sound of the tritone and the numerous functions it serves in music.

Austin Brake
October 2012
Canyon, Texas