Dennis Johnson makes an analogy, between the tonal colors that different
tunings provide, and colors in movies:
> ..... If somehow in the future, the color
> in all of our modern films was lost, but so that they were otherwise
> perfectly preserved, future generations could still understand the plot,
> and even learn something about our time. But in black and white the
> experience could never be the same.
I believe a more precise version of this analogy would be to consider
videotaped movies -- the color you see is partially determined by the TV,
not the tape. If the TV is severely "out of tune" you see green flesh or
pink trees. And, IMHO, the tuning variations of the different temperaments
is more a matter of different color schemes, not a matter of color vs.
black and white.
Very few people in my experience actually pay much attention to the
color tuning of their TV -- they fiddle with the knobs a bit, to get things
about right, then they forget about it. Broadly speaking, most people
are very much more interested in the plot than they are the color balance.
And I think this is true in music as well -- again, in my experience, as long
as things are approximately "in tune", the vast majority of people, and the
vast majority of musicians ignore the tuning.
Dennis goes on to substantiate this point:
> But I can tell many, many stories of artists who came and
> played on my unequal tunings and never knew the difference, but told others
> how much they enjoyed the instrument. These are pianists whom I know
> without question would have had a major problem if they knew something was
It seems fairly clear that awareness of the nuances of tuning has diminished
significantly since say, the time of Bach. I wonder if this trend can
be blamed on the advent of the modern piano, which is *so* difficult to
tune that only a very tiny fraction of owners even consider the possiblity
of tuning their own instrument?