David Fiuczynski

Director, Planet MicroJam Institute

Berklee College of Music

Professor, Guitar & Ensemble Dept.

Band Leader, Screaming Headless Torsos


Iconoclastic and prolific microtonalist, jazz-rock guitarist and RareNoiseRecords artist David ‘Fuze’ Fiuczynski, a jazz player who “doesn’t want to play just jazz,” and has been hailed by the world press as an incredibly inventive guitar hero, who continues to deliver with music that is unclassifiable, challenging and invigorating. An innovative musician who has released 10 CD’s and a double live DVD; Fuze is best known as the leader of the Screaming Headless Torsos and has played with MeShell Ndegeocello, Hiromi, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Stewart Copeland and most recently Jack DeJohnette.

David was born in the US and raised in Germany. He returned to the US for college, and was awarded a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory in 1989 and a Masters in Music in 2008. In recognition of his unique artistry as an instrumentalist, writer and arranger, David is a past nominee for the Herb Alpert/Cal Arts “Genius” Award for outstanding musical achievement and is a current 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship winner. He is also the director of the Planet microJam Institute at Berklee College of Music.

Fuze’s recordings are an experimental mix of tradition with modern sounds and rhythms, a mélange of other-worldly sounds: Chinese melodies, Arabic calls to prayer and Indian invocations with Fuze’s signature brand of highly funky jams ranging from rocked-out madness to drumn’bass, GoGo to plaintive meditations and moving, emotional ballads topped with Fuze’s unique writing, extraordinary soundscapes and passionate soloing. In response to the less than supportive environment for his unusual and uncompromising music in the corporate recording industry, David started a record label, FuzeLicious Morsels, to release his own recordings, with a current catalog of nine CD’s and the live DVD. Planet MicroJam is his first CD on RareNoiseRecords.

“I love painters,” says Fiuczynski, director of the Planet MicroJam Institute at Berklee College of Music. “I very much think in colors. That’s a big thing for me. I like painters that mix Eastern and Western elements.” From American Delta blues to the Arabic call to prayer, Chinese and Moroccan melodies, jazzy improvisations and funkified grooves, Fuze has concocted a tasty non-tempered gumbo on Planet MicroJam

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New Planet MicroJamz® – Shape of Jamz to come?


Now that we are at the beginning of the 21st century, it is exciting to witness new movements and innovations in Music. I'm very curious about microtonal developments. Microtonality is a way of measuring notes that do not fall into the Western 12-note-per octave system. I experiment with avant-garde classical 24-, 36-, 48-, 72- note per octave systems and am very interested in Turkish, India and Chinese tuning systems.  What is new about my approach is stacking so-called "non-western" scales into chords. This is basically unheard of in traditional styles and jazz or popular/groove musics. At the crossroads of innovative rhythms, microtonal harmonies and eastern melodic inflections and improv concepts, I think brand new musical ideas are on the horizon. This is what we experiment with at the Planet MicroJam Institute at Berklee College of Music.

Planet MicroJam® – Shape of Jamz to come?

This is a 2014 microJam update on an article titled "Global MicroJamz" from Berklee College of Music's Fusion magazine 08 February 2009

By David Fiuczynski

New Planet MicroJamz - A case for microtonality?

At the crossroads of heavy grooves and innovative rhythms, microtonal harmonies, and eastern melodic inflections and improv concepts, new musical ideas are on the horizon. 

Drawing on unique elements of western classical microtonality and ethnic folk melodies organized in a jazz/groove context, unheard of harmonies and counterpoint are possible. What sets this microJam apart from other microtonal music is its method of organization. Unlike the microtonal chromaticism of Julian Carrillo, the athematicism of Alois Haba, the micro free improv of Joe Maneri and the post-Scriabin style of Ivan Wyschnagradsky, all venerable microtonal pioneers, this MicroJam is not so much MICROtonal as microTONAL. The emphasis is on microtonal harmony that has an unorthodox "non-western"- jazz based modal origin. New harmonic colors can be expressed vertically through the stacking of a Turkish makam pitch set (a type of Turkish scale with rules) into chords based on 3rds or 4ths over a tonal center. In other words, harmony derived from a microtonal chord scale. This is not done in "non-western" music traditions nor is the groove or tonal aspect emphasized in modern classical music. Music from the Middle East and Asia rarely has chordal harmony and in the modern western classical tradition tonal centers are either avoided or harmony is often the consequence of counterpoint. In our ever-shrinking/expanding global village could Planet MicroJams be a shape of Jamz to come?

My particular bent is a sound that is raw with simple but rich ingredients like a 21st century Gauguin painting* – a raw, powerful, extremely colorful mix of eastern and western elements. I was initially attracted to microtonality through “eastern blue notes” – the heart wrenching pitches in an Arabic call to prayer that are outside of our 12 tone equal temperament just like our very own blue notes that one cannot find on a piano. Most of these scale tone gems are roughly a quarter-, sixth- or eighth tone off of our tuning system. With new microJams (or microGems!) in 24, 36, 48 and 72 note per octave equal tempered (or non-12tone divisible or just intonation) systems, I would particularly like to find new rhythmic contexts, because microtonality needs a brand new platform so it can be seen in its own framework.

Also, within this Planet MicroJam concept I would like to introduce concepts of “open form”, “Seyir” and “Jor”. Within open form a soloist can cue different sections at will and not be boxed in by a preconceived solo form. Jor is the section from an Indian raga after the rubato introduction (alap) and before the metered composition (gat). Jor is playing in pulsed time recapping the material introduced in the alap. I’ve seen heightened creativity when soloists and rhythm sections are untethered from time signatures and can freely express themselves. Seyir is a Turkish concept of unfolding a makam - a pitch set with melodic rules. These concepts force an improviser to shape their solos, but in a freer manner that still draws on the motifs of the composition at hand.

But now, why microtonality? I believe the study of microtones is important. In the past composers like Schoenberg and Busoni, historians like Robert Morgan (author of "20th Century Music") and now more and more musicians are asserting that our 12 tone equal tempered language is exhausted. And considering 70-80% of the world's music is microtonal why not tap into this vast reservoir and try out new ideas? I'm moving in this direction not just because of my own interests, but because of the needs of my students. They are both pushing me into the past and the future. Many foreign students come to Berklee College of Music to study Jazz and popular music styles, but then come to the realization that they have their own tradition. But many of those also realize that they do not want to return home and e.g. become traditional Indian or Chinese players but want to incorporate their jazz and groove knowledge into their own music. But how? This is where the Planet MicroJam Institute steps in and gives students a way of measuring and notating microtonal melodies and harmonies. This allows players e.g. from Japan, Iran and Croatia to communicate with and to each other how to precisely play their musical ideas. Planet MicroJam merely gives students a "ruler" and instructs them how to measure melodic intervals without imposing one musical system over another. This creates mutual respect where all musical cultures are equal instead of pushing lets say a Euro-centric 12 note per octave system as the one and only means for musical expression.

But not only are my students burgeoning forward into the 21st century with new ideas but they are also looking "backward". Microtonal notation can also be used to document songs and music cultures that are dying out. It warms my heart that two students of mine are using their microtonal knowledge to resurrect musical cultures in Bahrain and the Republic of Georgia. I can't wait to see what the future and past will reveal on our ever shrinking and expanding global and universal village!!

David Fiuczynski, ©2014

Planet MicroJam Institute, Director

Professor, Guitar & Ensemble Dept.

Berklee College of Music

Screaming Headless Torsos

*Note - When I invoke a "21st century Gauguin" I'm looking for new colors and ideas without the racism and sexism inherent in Gauguin's paintings. I love his sense of color but look forward to a new way of "painting" music that mixes eastern and western elements while still respecting the cultures these elements originate from.