Thursday, January 19, 2017

California sea lion: "How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)", Singing Harmony for Happiness?, And now for something completely different, yet related, speaking of tuning ~ The Curious World of Great Highland Bagpipe Tuning, Piobaireachd, Barber_Shop_Quartet_Singing, Virtual Choir, World University Music School, Singing Harmony, Singing Descant

"How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)"

is a book by Ross Duffin about why it is impossible to be perfectly in tune when playing a keyboard instrument.  It helps explain why Bruce sometimes tells us to tune a little higher or lower than the pitch we get from the piano.

It ends, after 160 pages, with this quote:

"Do not be afraid to be out of tune with the piano.  It is the piano that is out of tune.  The piano with its tempered scale is a compromise in intonation." -- Pablo Casals.

Anyway, I picked it up awhile back at the Friends of the Library book sale, and would be happy to share.  It will be in my slot when I remember to bring it in.



Thanks, Robert, and Hi, All, :)

And now for something completely different, yet related, speaking of tuning ~

The GHB bagpipe in tuning hovers around B flat in mixolydian mode (where the 7th is natural).  But, curiously, Great Highland Bagpipers play the A written on sheet music (both low A & high A) as B flats. (To say it slightly differently, Great Highland Bagpipers would play the As on this "The Desperate Battle" Piobaireachd sheet music, which I've attached somewhere around a B flat). I think this emerges out of bagpiping culture over centuries. (I now only play the Scottish small pipes which is in A mixolydian).

For your interest, I'm attaching the sheet music for the Piobaireachd (Pibroch) "The Desperate Battle" published by the Piobaireachd Society Book 7 in Glasgow in 1938 - for the Great Highland Bagpipe. It's a classical piece of GHB pipe music also called Ceol Mor which complements GHB light music or Ceol Beag. Have fun with exploring singing it in voice, if you'd like :) 

If you'd like to hear the Piobaireachd piping "idiom" with its very unique timing and 9 note scale, there are three great versions played by great pipers here -,_Piobaireachd_or_Ce%C3%B2l_M%C3%B3r (at World University and School's Pibroch page before WUaS, of which I'm the founder, moves into a new wiki; there's also a "Virtual Choir" wiki subject and other choral resources too). 

And the book you mentioned, Robert, "How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)" is available in the growing online "Open Library" - - but not yet as an eBook. 


I wonder if this is related to the fact that, in the baroque period, the pitch of A was roughly 432 Hertz, as opposed to today's 440.  In fact, some orchestras (especially French ones) use up to A 443 for a "brighter sound".


Perhaps, Steve, 

I just googled this definition (for my own clarity)" "An equal temperament is a musical temperament, or a system of tuning, in which every pair of adjacent notes is separated by the same interval."

So be inventive hertz by hertz riffing equal temperament-wise relative to the piano when exploring harmony, perhaps (I might explore in these ways)?

In the GHB piping world (with relative little exploration of harmony within the mixolydian mode of a B flat scale), I hypothesize that GHB pipers in their separate world of playing mostly only with drums over the centuries went a half step higher, from A - to B flat because it sounded brighter (or sharper) to pipers in the aggregate / as a collective culture ... and all over the world ... but this hypothesis would be impossible to prove musicologically - and isn't explaining questions about equal temperament or harmony.  A famous Grade 1 Pipe Band in 1996, Shotts and Dykehead, was supposed to have won "The Worlds" (a main piping competition in Glasgow in August) playing with their As tuned to 496, where GHB pipers' A these days, now with tuning devices, are often around 466 (which I think is b flat) - taste for tunings takes some getting used to ... But the GHB scale is an interest reference scale relative to the piano's equal temperament.  

Pitch is rising, rising, rising perhaps ... But I continue to ask myself what series or tones, and harmony-wise - and in which tuning modalities - can generate the greatest happiness neurophysiologically in our brains / my brain ... ? 

Happy MLK jr day!



When I was in graduate school, I started singing in a chorus that sang Renaissance music.  The conductor taught us to sing in pure (or Pythagorean) temperament: the frequency ratio of a fifth was exactly 2:1, of a third was exactly 5:4.  It was actually not that hard to learn to do that, because the sound of the pure intervals was quite distinctive when we got it right.

I believe that part of the Beach Boys' sound is partly that they were singing pure intervals.  And I've been told that some barbershop quartets aim for pure intervals as well.  It truly is a fascinating area.

The composer Harry Parch  (Sp?) once "operated on" a reed organ and tuned it to his own system of tuning (I seem to recall it had 51 tones per octave).  I heard a concert of his music once, and it was strangely beautiful (he made many of his own instruments).



(re-sending this to choir friends, S, B, R, P, and J) ... and re equal temperament and tuning too ...

Looking forward to singing with you on Thursday, 1/19. I'm writing because I won't, however, sing with you Sunday morning, 1/22, (since I'm heading to the SF Quaker Meeting where I'm a member, for a SF Friends School breakfast, and for networking for partly Friendly-informed CC MIT OCW-centric World University and School, which is planning I.B. high school degrees, in addition to university degrees). I would however, like to RSVP to your event Sunday evening, 1/29, Jack (which I've just noticed is in about 11 days, and not this Sunday). 

Have, or are there, any UU Choir barbershop quartet spinoffs happened/happening? I'm particularly interested in eventual real, real music making online re World University and School partly in an exploratory way potentially via Google or similar (e.g. and and - and re singing for generating happiness neurophysiologically and explicitly.

Thanks too for your great email (below) re equal temperament and harmony, Steve. I'm interested in learning further about perfect harmony. And singing harmony, Beach Boys and Barbershop could be a great way to explore this. 

Warm regards, Scott

See, too 

Singing Harmony - 

Singing Descant - 



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