Joel Mandelbaum (born in 1932) is an American music composer and teacher, best known for his use of microtonal tuning (notably the Just intonation tuning and the 19ET and the 31ET). He also has written the first Ph.D. dissertation on microtonality, in 1961. He is married to stained glass artist Ellen Mandelbaum, and is the nephew of Abraham Edel.
Mandelbaum received his Ph.D. from the University of Indiana in Music Theory in 1961. His thesis was focused on the 19-tone equal temperament. He was teacher at Queens College of the City University of New York from 1961 to 1999 and was chairman of the music department.
It has been claimed that Mandelbaum became interested in microtonality after listening to a lecture by Paul Hindemith in which Hindemith inadequately debunked various alternative forms of tuning. He began a correspondence with Prof. Adriaan 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.
Mandelbaum's motivation to use the 31-tone temperament arose from its close approximation to just intonation; Mandelbaum preferred the equal temperament to exact just tuning out of convenience, as it produced one tuning of a keyboard with which it was possible to explore approximations of chords to just tuning in any key. In spite of being well known for exploring alternate tunings, Mandelbaum still uses conventional tuning in about 80% of his music. Mandelbaum attributes his use of conventional tuning to his reluctance to use keyed instruments (such as woodwinds) in tunings other than those that they were designed for.
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