Sep 6, 8, 12, 13, 2023, 7:00 pm (doors) 7:30pm (performance)

Marcus Pal: Harmonic Exclusion


Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Friday, September 8, 2023
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Over four nights at Blank Forms, Marcus Pal will present a series of realizations of Harmonic Exclusion, an iterative work that the composer has been carefully developing since 2018. These performances will mark the first time this work has been presented publicly, and Pal’s solo New York debut more broadly. Emerging from years of experimentation with just intonation piano tunings of their own design, Exclusion is a study of the perceptual effects and intangible qualities of harmonic sound. Trading on the psychological reverberations of modulation, the work carefully builds upon the “after-images” of tones and the resulting subtle shifts between liminal psychic spaces in the listener. 

Although just intonation has lingered as a staple of Western composition since the mid-twentieth century—outsized examples include their mentors La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano (1974–) and Catherine Christer Hennix’s keyboard work—Pal’s approach scouts new possibilities and limitations to intervallic tuning. The tonal setting of Exclusion is non-octave-repeating, allowing for an immense arsenal of chords, modes, and affective environs, which Pal burrows into through a semi-improvised yet rigorous array of compositional strategies. Glimmers of Olivier Messaien’s distinctive approach to harmonic color and jazz-fusion shredder Allan Holdsworth’s unorthodox “chord-melody” voicings percolate.

Marcus Pal (b. 1991) is a sound-artist, composer and theorist working with harmonic sound. Their work focuses on the phenomenology of intensity, clarity and possibility as it manifests in the perception of tones, chords, harmony and other forms of harmonicity. Pal is interested in how our ways of conceptualizing harmonicity, and perceptual experience more generally, limit and shape the possibility space of listening. In their theoretical work, they are drawing on tenth and eleventh-century Buddhist and Pratyabhijña Śaiva epistemology and philosophy of mind. As a composer, Pal works extensively with just intonation harmony and composes for both acoustic instruments and digital sound synthesis. In 2013 and 2014, Pal studied with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela while living in the Church Street Dream House in New York. Since 2014, they have worked regularly with Catherine Christer Hennix. They also have a long-standing collaboration with Ellen Arkbro.

This program is made possible with generous support from the Consulate General of Sweden, New York and the Swedish Arts Grant Committee.