9 October 2021

My new piece, Five and Seven, is now on BandCamp. It's playful with just intonation harmonies and for solo horn with a quartet of horns. The solo part could be suitable for high quality high school students and a sound file of the quartet will be available. https://thebrasswhisperer1.bandcamp.com/track/five-and-seven

Andre Avanessian of Radio Airplay said this in his review: 

"With its incredibly quirky yet mature sense of melody and harmonic development, "Five and Seven" is a brilliantly conceived Brass based composition that is both musically daring and strikingly playful in nature. Michael Hugh Dixon has crafted an intriguing and fascinating piece that contains many a bold twist and turn, ensuring listeners are kept firmly engaged from start to finish. This was a highly absorbing listening experience, well done Michael! 
This is an extremely well-performed piece, and the performances really do inject the composition with an abundance of added character as well as doing a great job of incorporating many of the unique techniques associated with the brass family of instruments, this results in an incredibly accomplished and assured performance that does a very fine job of bringing Michael's musical vision to life. Melodically this is an extremely exciting piece, and through its use of unconventional harmony and compelling counterpoint, a marvelous amount of musicality is achieved, and Michael's careful handling of the piece's thematic development ensures that the arrangement flows exceptionally well. Ideas have been woven together meticulously and this culminates in a seamlessly free-flowing piece of music that never feels disjointed."


17 August 2021 

I got notification that Epictetus The Elder received 3rd prize in the Academia Musica 2nd International Music Competition. I turned the audio recording into a video which can be seen here: https://youtu.be/jaRi7Q1MO10  




New work for 2 horns in extended just intonation will be heard in the upcoming IHS (International Horn Society) Symposium (August 2021) online. The video performance is by myself and Annalisa Solinas. The work is titled arapacana and an excerpt can be heard on this site.


June 25 Cut Common Magazine put this article online -




April 2021: Beaut surprise this morning, number 1 in the March chart of NewAgeMusicGuide Radio


Byron Westbury, trumpet and Ray Avard, piano recorded my piece (now called Epictetus the Younger) and Daniel Woo did a short education video of the recording process. John Lewis did the sound for us.

The trumpet is microtonal, playable on a standard instrument and by advanced high school students. 

The name of the piece is on contrast to Epictetus The Elder which is a longer work for flute, violin, horn, cello. That can be heard on Bandcamp as well as Spotify and other streaming services. 

22 February 2021

I'm excited to be performing (live stream) at the Microtonal University (AFMM) on 11 November this year. 

30 November 2020

I am adding recording a few horn ensemble works over the next month or two. It seems easy to put them online into SoundCloud: 



October 2020

In some of my music I use what I call a Symbolical Sonographic Language. I'll assign a pitch to letters of the alphabet for a particular text. This, for me, provides an organising structure. In my mind, the visual and auditory elements point to an unseen and unheard structure that both arise out of. 

In my most recent effort involving this mode of writing, I have assigned an entire chord to each letter of the alphabet and assigned each chord to it's own position within a stereophonic image. 

Here is the first part (produced with Dorico and Cubase). Let me know if you find it interesting (or not). Let me know if you want to hear it and can't access it through SoundCloud. 


21 September 2020

I've been feeling my way into the relationship between stereo panning (over 180°) and a full mandala. I know it possible to 'pan' audio 'images' over 360° but this rarely done and requires the appropriate gear from the listener. 

However, can we fill in the auditory space subconsciously? Perhaps over time. 

Does anyone silently process a musical entity for the same length it was audible? 

I know sleeping silently processes much of our experience, this would be more like a meditation and related to the Indian thoughts on sound - those that are heard emanating from those vibrations that are not heard. 

The two thoughts, no doubt at first, seem unrelated. That's what can happen when waking in the early hours.

Blog 19 


Here is the transcript of the Introductory video in a series exploring the microtonal possibilities of the (French) horn. 

Music starts Our Days (13-limit just intonation) 

‘The horn is an excellent instrument for exploring non-standard tuning systems. A significant compositional resource is provided by the available harmonics of the standard double horn.’ 

‘Savvy viewers will notice this instrument is actually a triple horn (F, B-flat, E-flat made by Engelbert Schmid). I’ll be using this throughout the series simply because it is the best horn I have! I promise to only use the F and B-flat sides.’ 

‘A player can produce 13 or more harmonics on the shorter tube lengths and up to 24 on the longest tube lengths.’ 


B-flat horn harmonics 1 - 13 

A horn harmonics 1 - 14 

A-flat horn harmonics 1 - 15 

G horn harmonics 1 - 16 

G-flat horn harmonics 1 - 17 

F horn harmonics 1 - 18 

E horn harmonics 1 - 19 

E-flat horn harmonics 1 - 20 

D horn harmonics 1 - 21 

D-flat horn harmonics 1 - 22 

C horn harmonics 1 - 23 

B horn harmonics 1 - 24 

‘The higher harmonics are not easy to produce reliably and the tone quality on longest tube lengths is less clear. In all the double horn has 16 tube lengths. Why 16?’ 


B-flat horn valves 1 & 2 then 3 

F horn open then B-flat horn valves 1 & 3 

E horn then B-flat horn valves 1, 2, 3 

F horn valves 1 & 2 then valve 3 

‘The 12 chromatic tones plus 4 alternatives. It may not be practical to use all 16 in one composition, yet some possibilities exist such as my piece Seven Small Wheels Revolving for horn and bassoon. There is a Spotify link in the text below the video.’ 

‘Traditional techniques of lip and right hand adjustments along with valve slide adjustments add tremendously to the possibilities. The performance of compositions in extended just intonation, and other non-standard tuning systems, is discovered to be within the realm of expertise of players using the standard double horn.’ 

‘I will tie in practical knowledge with a deep understanding of harmonics by classifying harmonic use according to just intonation prime-limits. This links in with the long and rich tradition of just intonation and other microtonal exploration.’ 

‘Episode One will show the octaves, harmonics 1-2, 2-4, 4-8, 8-16 as the space that we build our framework within. The relation between harmonics 2 & 3 is the real foundation of standard tuning for horn players (and Western music).’ 

‘Episode Two, in showing the relation between harmonics 4 & 5, brings forth our most accessible microtone.’ 

‘And thus the presentations will follow on up the harmonic series . . .



Britten 'Prologue & Epilogue' in his Serenade for tenor, horn & strings 

An excellent example of the way in which intervals of the harmonic series occur in music comes from the Prologue to Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor solo, Horn and Strings.  Britten asked that the player use only natural harmonics, a simple enough task for the horn player who produces the overtones above a given fundamental by altering the vibrations of the lips.  Britten exploits certain harmonics for their tonal effect in a most masterful way.   

In bar 1 of the score we see the familiar interval of…

Read more

Notating in DORICO 

Pitch and intervals are so interesting. (I won’t relegate rhythm to a lesser status, just musing with pitch as all good brass whisperers do.) 

Many of the just intonation pieces I write have a different ‘tonic’ or reference pitch from each other. This makes preparing a large set up of pitches in the music software (Dorico) time consuming for each work. The issue with making a large set is deciding which pitch will be the reference and minimising the complexity of the calculation of notation symbols and…

Read more

'Brass' instruments that can play the 7th harmonic 

‘Brass’ instruments that can play the 7th harmonic 

(and probably the 2nd , 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th)

Here’s more of my exploration of harmonics and instruments played by vibrating the lips.


For the player of a standard brass instrument, knowledge of lower harmonics from early years comes through lip slurring practice although this is done primarily for muscle flexibility and strength building rather than tuning. Few give much attention to the odd numbered harmonics beyond 3 and 5. Some will play the 7th

Read more

36 divisions played on the French Horn 

In a previous post I looked at playing 19 equal divisions of the octave on my horn with a modified stopping valve slide. My composition Epictetus The Younger uses a few pitches from the 36-division equal system. This piece is for standard B-flat trumpet and piano and can be played by French horn and piano.

The usefulness of this 36-division system is that there are 12 notes in common with a standard tuned piano. The usefulness of this for brass player is being able to play in duet with a pianist. This is…

Read more

‘Brass’ instruments that can play the 5th harmonic 


The la-pa in China also known as the tongjiao has a range of harmonics 2 to 5 (Sachs 1964: 238). It is made of telescoped metal sections, like the Tibetan dung-chen yet is shorter. The same instrument in Taiwan is used in shadow play accompaniments. Harmonics 3 and 4 are most played, occasionally the 5th harmonic is added.1


Many labrosones are made of wood yet those previously discussed are played producing only one or two harmonics. Carved and fashioned from a manuka tree in New Zealand, the pūkāea…

Read more

Third-tones (and 6th-tones) for trumpet to combine with a piano part 

I recently performed the compositions to observe sea and sky by Donald Bousted. He wrote it for the flute to play in 12 equal divisions of the octave (standard tuning) and the horn in 19 equal divisions of the octave. This combination worked well and I got to thinking about how close the divisions of 19 are to dividing a whole tone into 3 parts. This gives 18 divisions of the octave, basically a modified whole tone scale. I don't really want to write in whole tone scales, though of course there are only…

Read more

Knowing the chords in Just Intonation 

The contemporary music quartet LOCANA (Janine Grantham - flute; Rachel Westwood - violin; myself - horn; Matthew Farrell - cello rehearsed in Brisbane on Saturday August 18 and Sunday August 19 in preparation for the Sydney MicroFest 2 in Sydney September 22 and 23. We spent a lot of Sunday practising my composition The Wound even without the other 3 musicians who will take part (Wendy Dixon - soprano; Greg van der Struik - trombone; Edwin Diefes - tuba). Although the parts are without notation errors…

Read more

Horn playing 19-division tuning 

In 2017 I worked out how to play 19-equal divisions of the octave on a standard french horn which is pitched in F and B-flat. My solution was to flatten the 1st note of the scale using the right hand. I started on written F (top of the treble staff), which is concert B-flat. Bending this pitch by 63 cents and all lower octave written Fs is easy, though there is a change of tone colour.

The 2nd valve slide is lengthened enough to produce the longer semitone, below written F, of 126 cents, which is not too…

Read more

'Brass' Instruments that can play the 3rd harmonic 

BLOG 11 

‘Brass’ instruments that can play the 3rd harmonic and probably the 2nd also


This blog presents some more exploration of the wide range of instruments that make a sound from the vibrating lips of the player. I found the research really interesting when I did it in 2010. I'm sure there is more to discover . . .


Players of the kakaki of west Africa use a musical style with abrupt rhythms and pitch changes between the 2nd and 3rd harmonics. The interval between these harmonics is often wider than…

Read more

Nexus of pitch matching between brass and strings 


Nexus between brass and strings in just intonation


Temporary conclusion: the best nexus pitch is a C.


I’ve been composing a just intonation piece for 6 horns and decided to re-write some of it for a mixed ensemble of flute, 2 horns, violin, cello, double bass and soprano. In this blog I’ll show some of the tuning detail and the issues of working with strings and brass. Most of the tuning issues will be the same when composing in equal divisions.


  • 2 main tuning issues


1.Brass players and…

Read more

What to find on this site