Microtonal music is music that uses pitches that fall between the standard 12 notes used in western music. Xenharmonic is a synonym of “microtonal”, but it often connotes a deliberate effort to incorporate microtonality in a noticeable and essential way.
Xenharmonic isn’t a musical genre exactly, but a characteristic that can apply to music of any genre, from hip hop to pop to rock to metal. However, it is a genre, in the sense that there are people who are especially interested in producing or consuming xenharmonic music. And xenharmonic music does have a predilection towards instruments for which microtonality is easiest to achieve–namely electronic synthesis, guitar, and voice.
Besides its musical characteristics, the most notable thing about xenharmonic music, is that it is outsider music. If you look for xenharmonic music, most of it is not commercially produced, and is instead very roughly produced by enthusiastic individuals still finding their footing (that’s the nice way of saying it’s bad, but FWIW it’s also me). Xenharmonic communities such as the Xenharmonic Alliance are more geared towards creators rather than listeners. If you’re a listener, it takes some dedication to find the stuff that resonates with you most. But that also means you can find some truly unique creative visions.
To help the would-be listener of xenharmonic music, I’m providing a list of “stars” in the xenharmonic scene, artists who are fairly popular within this space.