[Bell Historians] Musical scales

Andrew Wilby andrew at NiPzDxTdoZRVdFT4oGvOwFlZHskxIu9nUYvws3kN5YnHc6TgPhWm9rscNqHhe9AnatSekkINhkcgzA.yahoo.invalid
Mon Dec 4 10:17:58 GMT 2006

I'm not sure what point Bill thinks I was making from his reply. 

I was addressing the nomenclature of scales and attempting to set out the case for using the correct names within a particular scale and not seeing the issue from the perspective of an equal tempered keyboard where the same note can have two names.

BillH<I believe it is now generally accepted that Bach was not composing 
for equal temperament but for an unequal temperament of his own 
devising. The pieces in the '48' are written to take advantage of, 
and avoid the disadvantages of, the different effects of the various 
keys, i.e. it is clear from the details of the compositions that each 
key would have sounded different. The reason there are 48 is simply 
that there are two pieces for each of the 24 major and minor keys. 
Instruments did exist around Bach's time with split 'black notes' 
providing both versions of e.g. C# and Db but I don't think Bach was 
composing for these.>

Yes I agree and that is why I chose my words carefully using the words "by developing equal temperament", which was certainly what his enterprise in this field was leading towards.

> the "sweet" (ie in tune key) was say C, a more distant key such as 
> say E would sound rather coarse and distorted.
> The classic example of this is to play in Ab major on a keyboard 
> tuned in meantone, a sound so vile as to drive one in pain from the 
> keyboard. What Bach was demonstrating in the 48 was not that all keys 
> sounded the same in his 'well' temperament, but that the worst 
> horrors of the remote keys in meantone had been removed while still 
> keeping a distinct difference between keys.
> Just as it is not possible to demonstrate bell partials by striking 
> chords on a piano (cf the Coventry case in the 20s) it is also of 
> limited value to demonstrate different temperaments on an electronic 
> instrument. 
Are we discussing the same thing?
Are you making assumptions about the nature of the "virtual digital" 
instrument that I referred to?

> I discovered to my surprise a while ago when analysing recordings by 
> very good unaccompanied choirs, that choirs do not sing in Just 
> tuning as theory might suggest, but in something nearer equal 
> temperament. The reason I believe is that we have become accustomed 
> over the last 100 years or so to the sharper thirds of equal 
> temperament - the flatter 'correct' thirds of Just sound, well, flat! 
Exactly my point, we have become dumbed down by our exposure, from 
cradle to the grave, to equal temperament.
However I doubt that this is a natural state or a standard state in all 
musical communities around the globe.
> Finally, I believe that none of this applies to the tuning of the 
> nominals of change-ringing bells, .....
Not the issue?
> I do agree that, whenever the subject of enharmonic notes comes up on 
> this list, we seem to repeat the same debate, when the underlying 
> musical theory and terminology is well established (e.g. 
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enharmonic and many other references).
> Cheers,
> Bill H
Ah! So that's a yes then!?

You and I are in harmony, writing in support of Michael and Sam?



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