Joel Mandelbaum

Joel Mandelbaum was born in 1932 in the United States. He received a Ph.D. at the University of Indiana in Music Theory in 1961. Title of the dissertation: "Multiple Division of the Octave and the Tonal Resources of 19-tone Temperament". He taught at Queens College of the City University of New York from 1961 to 1999 and was chairman of the music department.
His interest in microtones was first stimulated by a lecture by Hindemith in which the noted composer first thrillingly presented various historical theories of tuning and then unconvincingly debunked them. He began a correspondence with Prof. Fokker which led to a six-week stay in Haarlem in 1963, during which he composed to Euler's genera under Fokker's tutelage. The result was "10 Studies in 31-Tone Temperament" premiered at the Fokker organ in Haarlem.
In his opera "the Dybbuk", the interrogation and exorcism scenes are in 31-tone temperament with Channon and Leah singing in parallel natural sevenths. The interrogation scene was premiered at Teylers Stichting on 1 Nov. 1970 on the occasion of the introduction of the Archifoon.
Other microtonal works composed in or around the 31-tone system include "3 Dream Songs" (1971), "4 Miniatures for Archifoon" (1979), "Study on the 7th Partial" for Woodwind Quintet (1979), "Xenophonies #1" (1966), "Sonata in 31-tone temperament for Two Violins" (1987), "Woodwind Quintet #2" (1991). Substantial passages in his "Kaddish" and "The Village" also have a microtonal basis. Though most of his works use ordinary instruments in traditional tuning and a conservative, tonal style, he regularly calls for true 7th partials for the French horn and, to match them, often has flutes tune one third of a semitone flat. Solo string passages will often call for matching such pitches as well.
Through his initiative a 31-tone variant of the Scalatron (a variable-pitch instrument designed by Richard Harasek for the Motorola Corporation, the variant designed by George Secor) has been installed at Queens College where it is available for illustrations in the history of tuning and for performances and composition.