credit: cedillerecords

Easley Blackwood Jr. 1933-2023

I learned of Easley Blackwood’s passing while studying his microtonal music, and it was completely shocking. There was only a brief time in which we got to interact in Chicago and I feel extremely lucky to have had this interaction. He was a man who not many people knew deeply, being a guarded person, but his microtonal etudes have been inspiring as a golden oldie, a completely unique cross section of Western tonal ideas and Xenharmonic chord progressions. He has truly impacted the next generation of microtonal musicians in a positive way, and this is evident in the recent enthusiasm for his microtonal works – many have come out of the woodwork with analyses, MIDI renderings, and even arrangements in some cases! It is truly a shame that E.B. has missed these things; witnessing his place as an Internet phenomenon, and hearing his work on acoustic instruments instead of older synths (the only tools he had as an early pioneer)! Perhaps it takes the approximate amount of a composer’s lifetime for listeners to give it the attention it deserves, and doesn’t simply happen shortly after their death as the saying goes. From his writings, you can see that Easley Blackwood was a man who clearly understood microtonal intervals and had original thoughts about them, which is surprisingly rare. It’s refreshing to see someone who cares passionately about these things, and the world lost him too soon. Rest in Peace, Mr. Blackwood, and thank you for your dedication to music. The world will continue to appreciate your work.

Blackwood studied with Nadia Boulanger, Olivier Messiaen, and Paul Hindemith. It was Hindemith though that sparked his imagination to look deeper into other intonational systems. Besides his compositions, he wrote the influential book The Structure of Recognizable Diatonic Tunings. From 1958 to 1997, Blackwood taught at the University of Chicago [editor}.