Some responses to John Howell's posting:
>I have a simple (I hope) question for the real tuning people out there.
>often have to re-tune harpsichords for rehearsals or, occasionally, for
>performances. I'm not trained, and I don't pretend to understand the
>but I can usually get a useable meantone (sometimes meaner than
>more or less equal (which I hate!) temperament. (I'm a musician, and
>rather trust my ear than the meter on a tuner. I seem to be in the
>minority on this.)
I applaud this view, and encourage it in amateur and professional
musician friends, because there is a payoff: the better you can set a
termperament, the better you can hear it, whether it's you, someone
else, or a recording that's playing. It enhances one's experience of
music. Not a bad payoff.
Instead of using an A-fork, I prefer to start by
>setting C to a C-fork (523.25 hz) because it seems to me that C major
>should be the center of the circle. As a result, of course, I end up
>an A that is probably higher than 440 hz.
Where your A ends up will depend on the temperament. If you can get to
the point that you understand a termperament, be it meantone,
Werckmaister, equal, on the level of how it functions musically, you can
jump into it at any point and set the whole thing from there. That's a
bit advanced, but not too much so from the standpoint of A vs C. It's
different for each termperament, but you develop a little mental toolkit
with three or four that will cover most situations, and you carry a book
or notes for specific others (Valotti, etc.)
After a while you find that you can manipulate the matrix of temperament
to yield the results you want, and the game gets really interesting.
Recently I was recording with Ed Parmentier the Bach Toccatas, and I
knew the F# minor was coming up, and I hadn't dealt with the proper
temperament to use for it. [As a policy I like to use the temperament
that is farthest from equal but still appropriate to the piece,
historically and musically.] I ended up making a map of the key areas
that dominate that rather peculiar work, and comparing them to common
temperaments of the period. What I noticed was that the predominate
tonal areas were a half-tone sharp of the "good" key areas in
Werckmeister (or any of the usual modified meantones of the time). I
immediately thought "transposing keyboard", and furrowed my brow,
thinking "If only Bach had a transposing keyboard!" I talked with John
Koster at the Shrine to Music Museum about it, and he pointed out that
North Germany and indeed Thuringia seems to have been a center for such
devices, as they appear on some of the earliest instruments there.
So... we tuned the Jacques Germain instrument in Werckmeister transposed
a half step, and the result was magical. I don't know if others have
made this discovery, but it was great fun.
Joseph Spencer [log in to unmask]
The Musical Offering Classical Record Shop & Cafe
2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
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