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Argerich Performs Chopin's Sonata No. 3 Live
During Symphoniker Hamburg's Internet festival the world was fortunate to be able to enjoy Martha Argerich solo - something which is utterly sensational as the legend these days exclusively appear in concerts with orchestras and in chamber music collaborations. Read more >>

Topic: CALL FOR PAPERS AND INTEREST - restoring of emotion through tuning  (Read 1906 times)

Offline latrobe

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The appreciation of music in schools has been so impoverished in the UK that it even made headlines in newspapers at the beginning of January 2019. But in the manner in which music has been delivered during the past century and particularly in recent decades, it's lost relevance, rarely seen other than only as a matter of technical exercise and challenge in Japan and China and as a matter of entertainment rather than the necessity of the means of emotional communication beyond the limitations of words.

When I was young, upon being told that I should be able to hear the difference between the keys, and not being able to, I thought that I was a bad musician and gave up thoughts of being a musician. Research in my teens into historic organ tuning, and thence a decade of experiment and research instigated by contemplating Chopin's 2nd Sonata in Bb minor brought a realisation that it's the modern tuning that has robbed us of the differences between the keys, and that it wasn't my ears at all. It seemed as though Chopin was deliberately intending the effect of the key of Bb minor to express the cold wind whistling over the graves and I knew from historic organs that that is what the tuning would do. The colour has been robbed from us and the true meaning of "Chromatic" is so lost to us now that Colour isn't mentioned in the relevant Wikipedia article.

The consequence of this is that our classical music has been reduced in the number of dimensions in which it communicates and that this has led to increasingly mere mechanical performances that don't engage so well emotionally, leading to a degradation in musical appreciation and of its value as emotional communication and literature.

The result of this is a willingness to cut budgets in musical education and now an uptake of instrumental playing at catastrophically low levels.

Thus an urgency in bringing new direction, new understanding, appreciation and enthusiasms.

The Chopin 2nd Sonata indicated that contrary to established opinion it seemed that unequal temperaments were in use and exploited during the period of our 19th century classical piano music and so I started to do the experiments with the whole repertoire and willing performers using mainly one of the temperaments using 7 perfect fifths.

These experiments started to be picked up on the forums and years ago I started a thread about the 24 Chopin Preludes https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=39288.0

Much research has focused on documentary sources but often documents are made by people wanting to change things rather than to record things as they are. The direction from which I've come has been to take the witness statements from the music itself and it's in this task and direction that the historical pianist has a particular role to play in research rather than in mere repetition of performance. In recent times there have been few other people taking this approach of taking the witness statements from the music but of which the CDs of Enid Katahn are a notable if not singular example. 

The desire to take musical witness statements has resulted in a number of recordings publicly available on YouTube and if anyone's interested I can send a list of landmark ones. The recordings of all Chopin 24 preludes* have been referenced in the more recent academic literature (https://zapdoc.tips/the-influence-of-unequal-temperament-on-chopin-s-piano-works.html p36) and
is a key recording of the 2nd Sonata. The comment by one "A Yuu" is relevant and gives us an indication of the importance of this neglected subject to the wider appreciation of music and how it might reach more with more enthusiasm:
"The moment the unequal temperament starts, I feel the vast emotions. I was entirely captured throughout the UT piece. I felt grief, sweet sorrow, and saw moving images of a person trying to cope and control the meltdown near the end of the piece. For this piece, this is the first time I'm hearing it in full. I am able to only recognize the first few seconds. But other than that, I've never heard of it. I'm not a person who easily cry or get moved by music. But I'm very surprised that the UT made me feel so much emotions and touched. Almost bring me to near tears. As for the ET, I feel nothing. Indifferent. Thank you so much for sharing this. I've learned something new!"

In my experiments I'd dismissed meantone tuning during any period of the influence of the piano but whilst researching for a presentation to the Friends of the London Mozart Players upon consideration of an 18th century barrel organ, putting the Mozart piano sonatas under the lens of meantone tuning brought revelations which I believe to be valid, documented in 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 and in an appendix to which I outline a chronology of others tentatively exploring similar ideas.

A subsequent experiment has been made possible by a willing friend putting Beethoven's Tempest through the lens of Meantone on an 1802 piano
and I believe the strangeness, the mysterious quality we here in that performance cements the link to Shakespeare's play which until now has been a matter of mere legend. Whilst this is in Meantone, I though Kirnberger III would display similar characteristics and
is the experiment on an 1819 Broadwood.

The comments of piano technician Fred Sturm on the Beethoven Tempest recording typify the predisposition to pure Equal Temperament by the trade and are at odds with the evolving literature on the use of temperament in composition by Beethoven, Schubert and particularly Chopin as referenced above. Assumptions have been made and I believe them to have been damaging to musicianship and appreciation of music as art.

On account of the above and of increasing interest in the subject it seems that it might be appropriate to put temperament on the table for discussion, as an alternative to the ubiquitous tuning of the now modern universal piano which in my opinion has removed interest from our music and led to its decline in relevance to most.

Whether it is too soon or not remains to be seen but a group of friends have earmarked 6th May at Hammerwood Park, East Grinstead, England, and possibly a similar event at the Conservatoire de Nice in France.

The Hammerwood Conference will have access inter-alia to instruments from which such musical witness statements can be derived
Stodart 1802 in meantone, helpful to examination of 18th century music
Broadwood 1819, Beethoven model
Emerich Betsy, 1854, from which Brahms Streicher derived
Broadwood 1859,

Bechstein 1885
Broadwood 1905.

In addition in absence of two identical modern pianos from one of the leading manufacturers, one tuned to Equal Temperament and on e tuned to a "Well Temperament" we're delighted to have sponsorship of www.pianoteq.com with the use of their software to demonstrate virtual instruments in different tunings on the fly.

There are three potential issues of relevance - (1) historical authenticity, and irrespective of (1),  (2) enhancement of resonance of the piano by means of numerous notes of the musical scale being tuned to the harmonics of many of the strings themselves, (and whether this is relevant to historical pedalling techniques) and (3) whether use of unequal temperament has a value in re-engaging modern musicians in encouragement to listen more to the sounds and the emotion, together with audiences for classical music on a wider basis.

Any expressions of interest from anyone who would like to participate in any way, perform, speak or merely to listen are welcome and it would be great to hear from you on my email address antespam@gmail.com or telephone 01342 850594.

May 2019 be a year of classical music revival!

Best wishes

David Pinnegar

* Chopin 24 Preludes in Unequal Temperament
Chopin 4th Ballade
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage https://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament https://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline g_s_223

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This book has an interesting angle on the issue of tuning: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2177870.Grand_Obsession

Offline latrobe

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Thanks for reminding me about that book. Brilliant! The piano isn't just about the hardware - the tuning is the software upon which it works its magic.

In doing some more research on the battle of concepts of the scale, an important article on minimum entropy scales https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=...pt=sci_arttext has a very helpful diagram

One major assumption of the authors of that concept is demonstrated by that particular chord - it's not one we see often in music - the tuning that derives from its logic is a theoretician's rather than a musician's scale.

The result of the stretched octave logic tunes the instrument's scale to its own inharmonicity. The inharmonicity is what takes the instrument into the realms of the metallic. This might be the sound that piano manufacturers want but it's not the sound through which to express meaningful music, or rather music meant to convey meaning.

We can see the logic of stretching the scale so that that E above middle C has both the red and the purple harmonic coinciding. And then actually the major third C-E becomes wider and more harsh. Who's been jibing at wide thirds in Unequal Temperaments? This concept makes them worse, universally so none are sweet.

If instead we start out from the concept of Kirnberger III which has a perfect C-E third, and we don't stretch the middle three octaves at all, and we tune Tenor C downwards harmonically - that's C2 downwards, then for the chord of C major we have perfect C2E2, C3E3, C4E4, beatless. We have C1 tuned so that its 4 harmonic falls on C3 and the 5th harmonic on E3 and 3rd and 6th harmonics very near to their respective G2 and G3. The sound is wonderfully pure and resonant. When we shift up to C# then with a perfect fifth on C#G# the even harmonics add up, and the 3rd coincides too, and the 5th harmonic is so shifted from F3 it's not associated with it at all. This means that we remove it from resonating with the sustaining pedal down. So at once we remove confusion in the sound, allowing Chopin and Beethoven pedalling to be sustaining passages for many bars, and as the pantalon, and we make the sound more coherent in the technical sense, more resonant. And as we slip from one key to another we really do get a different timbre in the built up chords, chromatically, as in a spectrum that we see in the rainbow.

is in Kirnberger III temperament. This genre of temperament has much to give the instrument both musically and in improvement to its tonality, and the modern instrument likewise.

Best wishes

David Pinnegar
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage https://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament https://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

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