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Composing with the Slonimsky Thesaurus
A guide to a significant collection of music made from this unique library of scales, modes and patterns
The Slonimsky Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns

The composer and lexicographer Nicholas Slonimsky (1894 - 1995) created this collection of nearly 2000 patterns to provide a comprehensive vocabulary of melodic phraseology for modern composers and performers. The contents, arranged in the form of a practical manual for pianists, can provide ample material for imaginative composition and improvisation. The materials are classified according to the division of the octave into two, three, four, six and 12 equal parts upon which highly ornamental designs are built.

John Adams and the Earbox

Nigel Morgan shares with American composer John Adams the occasional use of material from Nicholas Slonimsky's Thesaurus. Adams has a special Earbox module built into his MIDI sequencer 'so I can take any passage I've composed and multiply it by one of the modes in the Earbox to create a different colour or emotional effect'. Adams first employed 'the Earbox' in the second movement of his Chamber Symphony (1992) and subsequently in the Violin Concerto. He has even written a piece that celebrates his use of Slonimsky patterns called Slonimsky's Earbox.


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Nigel Morgan, Prudential Buildings, 55 Westgate, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 1BW, United Kingdom Tel: 01924 383017 e-mail: tonalitysystems@mac.com

This website and associated content 2013 Nigel Morgan unless otherwise stated.