davidh Posted February 3, 2013 Share Posted February 3, 2013 UK television viewers have had the opportunity to see the first two parts of this series. Howard Goodall has an exceptional ability to communicate some of the technicalities of music in simple and easily understood terms, and I can easily forgive the excessive use of graphics (probably not his fault) and the appalling electronic keyboard which he uses for demonstrations. A simple account of some difficult topics can't take account of the more subtle nuances, but even so I have to disagree with some of his opinions, and note one definite error. He said carefully that the "selling point of the piano, making it different from the harpsichords, clavichords, spinets and virginals was its ability to play soft and loud, that is "piano e il forte". Accurate but misleading; the clavichord was never "loud", but it was capable of a wide dynamic range, perhaps wider than that of the early piano, although at a lower level. In explaining temperament he said that Western Music needed "at least" (careful words) 19 subdivisions of the octave, and that close sharps and flats are subsumed into the best approximation on a single key. To illustrate this he showed a diagram of a set of 19 organ pipes on which an ascending 19-division scale was played. Unfortunately these were labelled C natural, D flat, C sharp, D natural, E flat, D sharp, E natural, E sharp, F natural, etc whereas D flat in 19-division temperament is HIGHER than C sharp, so the series should be C natural, C sharp, D flat, D natural, D sharp, E flat, E natural. E sharp, F flat, etc Few modern scholars would now maintain the old view that Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier was intended for equal temperament, but Goodall said that it was the most conclusive evidence that equal temperament worked. I am not convinced either by his statement that it made easier for different instruments to play together in tune. As for our organ, equal temperament results in mutations that clash with the harmonics from a fundamental note, and equal temperament resulted in the death of the traditional English Cornet stop. He did say, very wisely, that we now all hear music through the filter, or some would say "distortion" of equal temperament, and ... everyone now hears music as "in tune" or "off key" as, say, everyone in 1600. David Hitchin Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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