ajsphead Posted May 20, 2011 Share Posted May 20, 2011 I have been further investigating pitch and temperament in Victorian England with a view to more informed practice and have been left with some inescapable facts of significance. The main body of our organs in this country is predominantly Victorian, yet how many of them do we hear as their maker intended. I would wager that at least 90% of them are or claim to be tuned to equal temperament and at least half are at A440. The evidence for equal temperament prior to about 1895 is not strong, certainly not as strong as well temperament like Moore or a Broadwood type or the earlier Young types. Looking at the disposition of thirds in particular, in some of the better known temperaments of the period, I feel confident that our Victorian organ sound is a lot duller by virtue of tuning than theirs was. There has been much made of pre 19th century temperament for organs, but seemingly very little for 1850-1900 when most instruments were made - unseen by most, but by weight of numbers alone, a glaring omission resulting in an unnecessary dull period oeuvre with associated comment. Even the best that we laud now might be better still. Time to move the industry on to tune Victorian organs in a period well temperament or something like EBVT. As they are so usable and colourful without dissonance it might start to educate a whole generation and more to the sound they should be hearing and producing depending on which side of the coin they are rather than plodding acceptance of the norm, which is easy but not particularly defensible. Artistic piano tuners can manage it, so why can't more organ builders. There are clearly associated repertoire implications as well which others might wish to take forward. As for pitch, the period was one of great flux, but it has been interesting looking at the chosen regular pitches of our major makers, sadly without temperature modulation but we can take an educated approach about that. Some serious education of users is necessary as many seem unaware of the implications of temperature differentials between then and now, and the effect on instruments. Seeing so many instruments with pitch dogmatically changed to A440 at 18'C without knowledge of the building heating, organ position and makers historical intention (sometimes equating to A440@18, so we can't be too quick to criticise), with pipes tuned by all manner of externally applied means where for example a simple change to A444 at 16'C would settle everything down. There's enough change in scale between the 2 to hear a difference too. So our major body of instruments are very likely not to sound the way they should - on the dull and less interesting side - by virtue of enforced standardisation. Just a few thoughts for now. AJS Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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