Jump to content
Mander Organs
David Pinnegar

How many instruments in Unequal Temperaments by Mander?

Recommended Posts

Since hearing of the Mander organ at Cranleigh School having been built in Kellner temperament I've had strong admiration for Mander's work in bringing forward alternatives to equal temperament.

It's really sad that Cranleigh had to be returned to Equal Temperament but I'm wondering how many instruments have been built by Mander in Kellner or other temperaments and the tuning has survived to be available to be heard?

How many people play organs not in Equal Temperament? Of those who regularly play in Kellner on the organ how universal is it as a tuning for the whole repertoire? Is there anything really objectionable heard through its lens?

In the past few years I've focused on harpsichord and piano tuning in particular and am trying to introduce the piano world to non-equal temperaments, and piano technicians and tuners especially with a seminar on 6th May.

In my youth I grew up with an organ I'd tuned to Werkmeister III and eventually it got to me and I grew to hate it. Ab major was killing, and more recently I tuned an upright piano to it and B major was hideous beyond description. But temperament can be particularly vital as last year I demonstrated with a talk to the Friends of the London Mozart Players in which I demonstrated that the tuning was key to the Mozart Fantasias for Mechanical Clock https://www.academia.edu/37951978/THE_COLOUR_OF_MUSIC_IN_MOZARTS_TIME_A_journey_from_Couperin_to_Chopin_Examination_of_reconstruction_of_Mozart_Fantasias_K594_and_K608_for_Mechanical_Clock

With regard to the piano my thesis is that Equal Temperament has led to people not listening to the sound that the're producing, and that the instrument for many has been reduced to a mere technical challenge of playing fast, loud and accurately - a mere entertainment rather than a communication of emotion through the literature of musical vibration. As a result, it being permissable to cut budgets for entertainment, we're losing education in the essentiality of classical music as part of what makes us human.

For four decades since the early issues of the BIOS magazine in which historic temperaments have been espoused on the organ, organs and organ builders have led the way. Can such a revolution be achieved with the piano?

Best wishes

David P

 

tuningseminar.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Ahrend organ in the Reid Concert Hall at Edinburgh University is tuned to Werkmeister III, and is to my mind an incredibly versatile instrument. I once heard a performance of the Brahms fugue in Ab minor on it, which was fascinating and surprising, and really opened my ears to the possibility of playing 19th century music in an unequal temperament.

Most of my practice is done on a toaster with a limited selection of historic temperaments, and I tend to leave it in Werkmeister, finding it to be more interesting than Kirnberger or Valotti, and more versatile than Meantone or Pythagorean (the other options). 

As far as piano tunings are concerned, there were some interesting comments in the obituary thread for Jean Guillou on this forum regarding Serge Cordier and his temperaments, which were designed for the piano, although translated to other instruments such as organs. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi

My home digital has a range of temperaments - but I'm never sure what's the most appropriate for a particular piece.  I'm currently working on a C.P.E. Bach Sonata, and there's one particular passage that sounds very strange in ET (And no - it's not due to wrong notes!).  It's an interesting area to study - if I ever have time & inclination.

Every Blessing

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would be really appreciated if anyone could bring further enlightenment about the numbers and possible whereabouts of Mander Well Tempered instruments!

What's really interesting is that in the piano tuning world some tuners are erring towards perfect fifths and stretched octaves. Using Pianoteq software simulation the thirds are widened in the stretched tuning scheme more and more unpleasantly than the thirds in remote keys that people refer to being as unpleasant in unequal temperaments. But in the stretched octave scheme no-one seems to notice. Organs of course are tuned "straight" so thirds are not widened further than they start out to be . . .

Best wishes

David P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That’s very interesting, David. I’d be interested in hearing more about pipe organs tuned in unequal temperaments whoever has built them. Particularly if anyone has experience of a pipe organ so tuned in a major Anglican parish church.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a delightful instrument in an Anglican church in the Kew or Kingston area built by Matthew Copley. It was audibly unequally tuned and very exciting. It sounded to me like Meantone but upon asking Matthew he swore it was Werkmeister III.

What's really interesting about strong unequal temperament on organs is that one doesn't need a large specification with which to convey emotion. As briefly mentioned above and explained in the link on Academia the Mozart fantasias for Mechanical Clock did all they were meant to achieve, and all that it takes modern organists the resources of a huge specification to achieve, with just a single rank of stopped pipes and short resonator reeds in the bass tuned to meantone.

which I simulated from knowledge of the Colt Collection Holland Barrel Organ at Hammerwood Park.

It's a great pleasure and privilege to be welcoming Martin Renshaw to the tuning seminar at Hammerwood on Monday, the programme of which is in  the attached PDF, as he tuned for many of the experiments conducted by Padgham et al and resulted in Padgham's book "The Well Tempered Organ". Research that started with the organ has a lot to give to the organology of other instruments, particularly the piano world, and to music more generally.

Best wishes

David P

 

 

Programme HP 6th May Tuning Seminar.pdf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for drawing attention to this. Perhaps it explains why on my pipeorgan as a teenager in Werckmeister III I came to hate it absolutely on account of Ab major! However perhaps it was my aural tuning.

It might be appropriate to take issue on one thought:

Quote

 Like some other authors on temperament both then and today, Padgham seemed obsessed by the subject to the extent he fell victim to his own zealotry. One of his more outrageous statements accuses those whom he saw as restraining the widespread adoption of unequal temperaments of "conservatism, fear of the unknown and ignorance". 

😉

On account of a fellow member 

 perhaps his conclusions explain exactly why Padgham and I and the other member might come to similar conclusions.

Certainly in the piano world it is a matter of ignorance and fear of the unknown. Temperament has not been an issue on the table for pianists and those having spent monies of significant sums on a precious instrument fear the idea of someone suggesting to them that the "experts" to whom they've abrogated tuning care of their instrument don't know the whole of their subject and that alternatives are available. This is what our forthcoming seminar is aiming to address, and gratifyingly a number of piano technicians are actually interested and coming. So times are changing.

Another issue that I'd take in defence of Padgham is that certainly in the case of strung instruments, probably harpsichords of relevance to the historical temperaments and most certainly pianos of today is that the sounding pitch drifts easily + or - 1 cent so one's really lucky to be able to tune within one cent. For that reason and before the days of digital tuners taking Padgham to task about being relaxed by the detail of 1/2 cent might be a little severe. When 1 cent at 440 represents only 1 beat in around 4 seconds, as far as piano tuning is concerned the sound has significantly died away in that time whilst organs might be a little more critical. . .  False accuracy is a bane of the digital age and when modern writers specify a 1.98 cent deviation it's appropriate to remind them to call it 2!

Best wishes

David P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You spoke of 'false accuracy', though I'm unsure what that means.  If something is accurate, then it's accurate, and vice versa.  I think precision is the word which better describes what you mentioned above. 

There are two issues here which are often confused.  One is the fact that acoustic instruments cannot realistically be tuned to minute fractions of a cent, though even if they could, you quite rightly point out that it would be a waste of time because of subsequent tuning drift.  However the second issue is that it is also proper and necessary when doing arithmetic to maintain numerical precision to fractions of a cent (desirably two decimal places) throughout calculations on temperament, otherwise there is a danger that truncation or rounding errors will accumulate excessively in the final step.  There is nothing new in this - one should always use at least one more decimal place in the intermediate steps of a calculation than that required in the answer.  Padgham himself agreed and said so (though it is then unclear why he broke his own rule later on in his book!).  Exactitude necessarily lies at the heart of temperament studies of the sort Padgham undertook, otherwise we can't decide at what point to call off certain debates before they become meaningless.  One example is the difference between the fifth (Syntonic) comma and sixth (Pythagorean) comma meantone tunings (this latter being the so-called Silbermann temperament).  As you doubtless are aware, the relative merits of these continue to excite discussion, but I sometimes wonder whether the fact they are very close is missed by certain interlocutors.  This is because the two commas are nearly equal - the fifth comma equals 4.30 cents whereas the sixth comma is 3.91 cents - and note the two decimal places!  So, less than half a cent between them, or three parts of naff all in practice to a tuner.  This being so, can the subjective and allegedly musical differences between these tunings really merit the amount of scholarly time that has been spent on them?  Plus the fact that, if you tune one of them as best you can, it will have drifted off anyway in one direction or the other by the time tomorrow comes?  I do suspect that those who have immersed themselves in this and similar issues might have misled themselves through the use of digital instruments, which of course can hold their tuning precisely to fractions of a cent, whereas acoustic instruments cannot.

Another issue, and one which Padgham appreciated, is that some so-called unequal temperaments are to all intents and purposes equal.  This is true of Silbermann's sixth (Pythagorean) comma meantone tuning for example.  One cannot realistically use all keys of course unless one is in a particularly masochistic frame of mind, and in this sense the temperament is unequal.  Yet in the 'good' keys in which the Wolf fifth does not appear there are no differences in key flavour, just like in equal temperament.  This arises because, apart from the Wolf, the remaining eleven fifths are narrowed or flattened by the same amount.  This makes it an equal temperament for the 'good' keys.  Another similarity with equal temperament which is of practical interest to tuners is that the beat rates in sixth comma meantone are exactly twice as fast as those in ET.  This might be why Silbermann is reputed to have switched easily between his (allegedly preferred) sixth comma meantone and ET, to pacify people (allegedly such as Bach) who objected to his Wolf.  One can switch easily because of the simple relationship between the beat rates just mentioned, since a tuner accustomed to tuning one by ear will have no difficulty tuning the other merely by shifting to an adjacent octave to lay the bearings.

Which brings us back neatly to where we came in.  These insights only attract our attention because we (should) undertake theoretical temperament studies to a degree of precision which is inappropriate for practical tuning in the real world.  There is therefore a place for exactitude, but I agree with you that it does have to be kept in its place.

I hope your piano tuning seminar will be all you hope it to be, though if it were me I would soft-pedal your belief that (quote) "in the piano world it is a matter of ignorance and fear of the unknown"!  I had always assumed that world contained quite a few clever, rather than ignorant, people.  One of them is Fred Sturm, who wrote a multi-part, highly detailed and very scholarly series of articles in the Piano Technicians' Journal which are among the best I have ever seen on temperament.  If you haven't come across it I commend it to you.  But maybe pianists don't lurk on here though, so you might be OK. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, Colin Pykett said:

Which brings us back neatly to where we came in.  These insights only attract our attention because we (should) undertake theoretical temperament studies to a degree of precision which is inappropriate for practical tuning in the real world.  There is therefore a place for exactitude, but I agree with you that it does have to be kept in its place.

Brilliantly explained, Colin. Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Colin - thanks so very much for your insight and comment on Padgham's researches and in particular with respect to differences between 5th comma and 6th comma Meantone temperament not being very dissimilar. It also clears up confusion where some say that Mozart liked Equal Temperament - in your point out that 6th Comma Meantone is an equal temperament in its way. As a musicological device I like 1/4 comma meantone beyond merely Couperin and the Baroque almost as an x-ray into the music taking to the extreme what other temperaments lead to and ensures that we don't miss it. We can then either remain in 1/4 comma or, having taken note, transfer nuances into more subtle 1/6 comma or Werkmeister >> Vallotti series of temperaments whilst retaining the spirit.

I was put onto the effects of 1/4 comma meantone by Orde Hume's book on Barrel Organs. He said that it was very difficult to adjust our ears to their tuning as it made us wince and was intended to do so. So this led me to look at how music was heard, performed and appreciated in such a temperament. One of the pieces which demonstrates something really interesting is the Beethoven Tempest. In Meantone the ethereal passages come through making the connexion with Shakespeare's "Enchanted Isle" https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_tempesta (use google translate) as plain as daylight.

When we take this into Kirnberger III

and on a more familiar sounding instrument

and by a different performer in Equal Temperament

Whilst this relates to piano repertoire the same principles are relevant with organs and why Mander's venture into Kellner is particularly commendable and to be encouraged very much.

Best wishes,

David P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the seminar the other day we were most privileged to have been joined by Martin Renshaw. He enlightened me that Willis organs were in their own temperament, not equal, and that nor were Cavaillé-Coll's . . . 

I haven't seen much about this from other sources. Does anyone know of any?

Best wishes

David P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding Willis, I was mightily struck last year at St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, at a great overall improvement in the sound of the organ.  I had played it every day for nine years as Master of the Music and subsequently whenever visiting Orkney (I married an Orcadian), so I reckon I know the instrument inside out.  I knew that the present Willis firm had in the last few months done some restoration on the reeds, but the whole ensemble seemed much better than it had been before - the rough edges had gone.  I wrote to David Wyld congratulate him on the results and he told me that the organ was now tuned to the "Willis Scale", as opposed to equal temperament.  I didn't know such a thing existed, but there was no doubt about the difference it made.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hesitate to keep banging on about temperament as it's a subject which inspires a spectrum of interest ranging from complete indifference to neurotic obsession.  In addition, it's fruitful ground for those who enjoy discoursing about things which by definition have no end point, not unlike philosophy or theology for instance.  So I'll just mention a couple of things and then go away.

Firstly Cavaillé-Coll's and Willis's temperaments almost certainly evolved during their lifetimes, as did those of most builders during the 19th century as temperaments and the sheer mechanics of tuning moved away from the vaguenesses of late 18th century practice (which are often the subject of present-day anachronism by some who insist things were better defined than they actually were).  There were several reasons for this which I won't go into.  So when one asks questions like "what temperament did they use", one also has to ask "and when were they using it and in which instruments".

But another point is that people do not perceive temperaments (i.e. small tuning differences) in the same way.  Some are extremely sensitive to it, whereas others are pretty laid back., so even if they notice it they might not bother overmuch.  As just one example, how many people know (or did know) that most analogue electronic organs from the mid-1970s until their demise were tuned to a mildly unequal temperament in which two fifths were tuned pure right across the compass (D-A and Eb-Bb)?  (Yes, I know they were awful, but bear with me).  In ET, which they were supposed to be tuned to, all fifths should be slightly flat (narrow) from pure.  And this was fixed precisely by the way they worked, so even if the overall tuning drifted, these intervals maintained their relative tuning and remained exactly pure.  Did it matter?  Well, having tuned some digital and pipe organs to it more recently, I find it quite attractive, but then, I'm not an impartial observer since I had a priori information, having known about the phenomenon anyway.  The more important point is whether it was noticed by those who didn't.  This only goes to show what a slippery subject the whole thing is, not a million miles away from trying to pick up water.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, Colin Pykett said:

The more important point is whether it was noticed by those who didn't.  This only goes to show what a slippery subject the whole thing is, not a million miles away from trying to pick up water.

From one point of view I can agree with you but from the other, already in this thread we've heard from David Drinkell about the improvement of tone of the instrument that the subtle change of tuning has created - no bad thing - and by bringing nicer sounds into the aural realm there's their effect on more sensitive musicians who create music to make a beautiful sound, and so don't just go faster and faster. Certainly in the pianistic world the difference that tuning can have on performance is quite profound even if the audience themselves haven't picked up on the intervallic discrepancies from the norm.

For this reason I believe the subject to be more worthy of attention than one attempting to pick up water. It goes to the heart of music and why we make it. Whether an organ or a piano and whether or what the builder or brand, the instrument is only the conveyance of the sound. Where does the sound come from? The pipes or strings. Where do the sounds of those come from? The vibrations of the air inside or surrounding them. Where do those vibrations come from? Their tuning.

Tuning is at the heart of instruments, and of music itself. 

Best wishes

David P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/05/2019 at 17:44, David Pinnegar said:

At the seminar the other day we were most privileged to have been joined by Martin Renshaw. He enlightened me that Willis organs were in their own temperament, not equal, and that nor were Cavaillé-Coll's . . . 

I haven't seen much about this from other sources. Does anyone know of any?

Best wishes

David P

As regards Willis, there are no sources, not even Mr Renshaw, who essayed this myth fully twenty years ago after misconstruing or accepting a misconstruction by others of a paper dating from the 1970s showing the order of intervals used by Henry Willis and Sons Ltd for laying the bearings. In the method used by Willis (and in all other methods of laying the bearings for Equal Temperament) the beat rates of the fifths from C-G and the quicker rates for the fourths from C-F increase regularly as they ascend so that, in the Willis order of intervals, the test fourth C#-F# fits perfectly between C-F and D-G. Whether using the Willis order or anybody else's, the skilled tuner will produce the same, indeed the only, Equal Temperament result.

Of Cavaillé's method of tuning, I have no partcular knowledge. But I do know that he was scientifically minded and skeptical. His methods of scaling, winding and action design are all logical  and mathematical. He eschewed irregularity of any kind though no doubt with reconstruction work or awkward sites he had on occasion to compromise. So I doubt that his standard tunning temperament was irregular.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I can contribute much more to a debate which hinges on what someone said to someone else - surely the simplest thing is to go back and ask the originator to expand and clarify?  I'm sure this would be incomparably better than further huffing and puffing on my part.  But in the meantime, it might be relevant to recall that Willis was close to Wesley, who mourned the passing of unequal temperaments.  And Cavaillé-Coll's temperament(s) are being re-examined as the following example of several known to me shows:

http://www.isabellelagors-christianott.fr/files/downloads/Les_temp--raments.pdf

The first paragraph says:

"A few decades ago, the vast majority of musicians, organists, organ builders and musicologists were convinced that Aristide Cavaillé-Coll had always left his instruments in equal temperament. But the information we have today shows that he used unequal temperaments! "

But as I said in a previous post, these things are not fixed, they evolve over time.  What a builder might have done at one time and in one instrument isn't necessarily what applied to another at a later date.  And the preferences of the customer and consultant can exert an influence as well, over and above what the builders themselves might prefer to do.  For instance, this might have applied to the temperaments sometimes used by Willis at Wesley's insistence, though the evidence here can be rather flaky.  But none of this is really surprising.  In this era (the first half of the 19th century roughly speaking), one has to set temperament in general and tuning practices in particular against the contemporary zeitgeist.  It was not much earlier that written tuning instructions were still of the form "let this fifth be nearer perfect than the last tho' not quite"!  No mention of beats, and therefore nothing on beat rates either.  Helmholtz and Rayleigh had still to come along and give some real theoretical underpinning to the science of acoustics, which at that time was still poorly understood.  Only a few milestones exist in the codified literature before that, in particular a remarkable book by Robert Smith c.1750 who was one of the first to understand what 'tuning' should actually entail.  Among many other things he said that "times of beating may be measured by a watch that shews seconds or a simple pendulum of any given length".  But he was a mathematician and a classicist and his book remains difficult to read even today, so whether the average tuner would have bought it or even come across it is doubtful.  And most of them couldn't have afforded it anyway.  All this underlines the importance of what Bruce Buchanan said above about the scientific abilities of Cavaillé-Coll, which are all the more remarkable when one sets them against the background of his time.  (I mean, how many other young organ builders were giving lectures on theoretical acoustics to the Parisian Academy of Sciences or comparable institutions elsewhere?)

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Colin - THANK YOU SO MUCH for that gem of research. Fascinating. I'll have to dissect it in greater detail but it's very intriguing.

For anyone interested the seminar is on

with a better edit of the section in the middle on

and a recent concert with the piano tuned in Kellner as Mander chose for many organs

Best wishes

David P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I the only member of this Forum who does not feel any enthusiasm for unequal temperament? I’m afraid I can’t work up great excitement for pure thirds and fifths. It seems to me that Bach regarded well tempered  tuning as a great improvement over what had gone before ((I know it may not be quite the same as equal temperament). And I’ve never been able to understand how it relates to the intervals produced by other instruments, such as strings, or wind, the tuning of which is not fixed, as well as by voices. I’d be fascinated to see some statistical research into the precise intervals sung by choirs performing unaccompanied, say, a motet by Palestrina. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not necessarily just about intervals - it's about beats, difference frequencies being discordant, and tone.

When you're tuning an intrument and are close to the sound source, pipes or strings, an equal temperament major third will produce a difference note two octaves down but a quarter tone sharp which grates. If the major third is wider then the difference note is further away than the two octaves down and less associated. If it's purer, then it reinforces. The major third is the 4th and 5th harmonic of a fundamental, so create a false fundamental in just the same way as playing 5ths on pedals produces a false 32ft sound.

On a well tuned instrument extra notes can sound resulting from harmonics, and this makes the sound richer. So play a C an octave below tenor C, an E above tenor C and then you'll find an extra note sounding as an E above middle C. In equal temperament it's merely a beating fuzz but on a well tuned instrument the note is there, solid.

And it's in this that the resonance of the instrument and the acoustic can be changed, and for the better.

Those of us who are brass players will lip notes into tune to bring perfect intervals together and string quartets likewise.

 The demonstration of the Kakaki, for the announcement of the arrival of the Emir, shows what happens when resonance is arranged properly:

 

Later on I demonstrated with the Sesquialtera the relationship between beating harmonics with temperament:

This has an impact on how Tierces sound in an instrument and the composition of the mixtures which have an enormous bearing upon the tone of the instrument and the tone colours which can be represented in the music.

Best wishes

David P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Zimbelstern said:

Am I the only member of this Forum who does not feel any enthusiasm for unequal temperament? I’m afraid I can’t work up great excitement for pure thirds and fifths. It seems to me that Bach regarded well tempered  tuning as a great improvement over what had gone before ((I know it may not be quite the same as equal temperament). And I’ve never been able to understand how it relates to the intervals produced by other instruments, such as strings, or wind, the tuning of which is not fixed, as well as by voices. I’d be fascinated to see some statistical research into the precise intervals sung by choirs performing unaccompanied, say, a motet by Palestrina. 

If some keys in a particular temperament are 'better' than ET in the sense of having purer thirds or other intervals, then as night follows day there will be other keys which are worse than ET.  This is a problem which cannot be worked around if we are to retain keyboards with only twelve physical notes to the octave.  If the problem could be fixed easily, there would be no temperament issue worth discussing in the first place.  Although I'm sure you will know this, it might be worth mentioning.  So adopting an unequal temperament means that, yes, you might get some purer-sounding keys which some people might find attractive, but there will also be some which are less so, and some of these can be unusable in certain temperaments.

It's largely subjective as to how people judge the importance of these matters.  In my opinion everybody is entitled to their view, and they shouldn't be criticised if they decide that unequal temperaments are not for them and they are quite content to live with ET.  Or, on the other hand, others might really love the differences in key colour which a particular temperament offers and which can be exploited deliberately by composers.  So don't take any notice of those who might badger you to forsake ET - just tell them to live and let live (politely, naturally ... )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The idea that better keys means worse keys is obvious, but is it necessarily true?  In terms of simple maths, of course it is.  But consider the opening of David's post above in which he remarks (with a brief explanation) that the ET third is especially discordant - more so than a slightly wider third.  This opens the possibility that a "worse" key may have "more acceptable" errors.

Paul

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The interesting thing about Kellner as chosen by Mander is that the very "worst" thirds aren't very much more unacceptable than equal temperament thirds.

Organs are a particular specie of instrument with continuous tone and exact mathematical relationship of interlocking tuning, as well also as an inability to vary the sound. That's why arguably those with valid objections to unequal temperaments on the organ have a point that becomes very real and especially when the temperament becomes more extreme 

possibly this being as far as this instrument might be taken, perhaps even beyond although it's particularly great

and certainly remarkable for Bach

with a sound that's undeniably exciting, and of which the tuning is a part. So horses for courses but this is a modified meantone. Kellner as chosen by Mander is much gentler, more subtle, and will play with a large acoustic to build resonance in a most harmonious way.

My experience recently is with tuning pianos where the temperament is important and behaves in a different way than with organs, and where the effect of scale notes resonating with harmonics of the bass is a real tonal improvement and a matter of great excitement. It enables pedalling as specified by both Beethoven and Chopin to be restored. 

At both Canterbury and at St Paul's London the acoustic would support Kellner most wonderfully and I believe at no loss to the expression and interpretation of the repertoire.

Here's the testimony of a singer . . . 

and an organ builder who relates how an Oxford College is currently using an unequal temperament without even realising it. . . 

And this raises interesting questions as to who was tuning to what temperament. In the piano world Montal in the 1830s wrote a book about tuning equal temperament and himself manufactured upright pianos. These were not concert platform instruments. When the piano became the home entertainment centre for people to bash out the latest popular songs equal temperament never sounded wrong. Always fuzzy the sound can go fuzzier without people realising it's out of tune. So we seem to look at composers composing in the equal temperament soundscape throughout the 19th century. But there is a problem when we move forward to the 20th century with Fauré and Debussy. . . . whose music sounds really wonderful, and particularly more beautiful on the piano in an unequal temperament.

So might there have been a difference between tuning for home instruments and those for the top musicians and concert halls?

Because of inharmonicity and the stretching of piano tuning, a stretched equal temperament third isn't much different from an unstretched Kellner worst third using Pianoteq piano simulation:

I'd still like to know where it's possible to hear Mander organs tuned to Kellner!

Best wishes

David P

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Zimbelstern said:

Am I the only member of this Forum who does not feel any enthusiasm for unequal temperament? I’m afraid I can’t work up great excitement for pure thirds and fifths. It seems to me that Bach regarded well tempered  tuning as a great improvement over what had gone before ((I know it may not be quite the same as equal temperament). And I’ve never been able to understand how it relates to the intervals produced by other instruments, such as strings, or wind, the tuning of which is not fixed, as well as by voices. I’d be fascinated to see some statistical research into the precise intervals sung by choirs performing unaccompanied, say, a motet by Palestrina. 

You are not alone Zimbelstern! Whilst this is a very interesting and illuminating discussion here I have no interest at all in the actual sound of other temperaments. Each to their own of course and by all means keep up the debate but I thought I’d let Zimbelstern know he has allies!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Phoneuma said:

You are not alone Zimbelstern! Whilst this is a very interesting and illuminating discussion here I have no interest at all in the actual sound of other temperaments. Each to their own of course and by all means keep up the debate but I thought I’d let Zimbelstern know he has allies!

Are you not remotely interested in how music would have or might have sounded to our favourite composers before Equal Temperament was adopted? It’s a massive subject and sometimes just trying to get to grips with the basics can feel overwhelming but remember that SS Wesley and some of the great British organ builders of the 19th Century fought against what they saw as something that would reduce the effectiveness of the traditional pipe organ sound.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...