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How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care) [Format Kindle]

Ross W. Duffin
3.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Présentation de l'éditeur

"A fascinating and genuinely accessible guide....Educating, enjoyable, and delightfully unscary."—Classical Music

What if Bach and Mozart heard richer, more dramatic chords than we hear in music today? What sonorities and moods have we lost in playing music in "equal temperament"—the equal division of the octave into twelve notes that has become our standard tuning method? Thanks to How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony, "we may soon be able to hear for ourselves what Beethoven really meant when he called B minor 'black'" (Wall Street Journal).In this "comprehensive plea for more variety in tuning methods" (Kirkus Reviews), Ross W. Duffin presents "a serious and well-argued case" (Goldberg Magazine) that "should make any contemporary musician think differently about tuning" (Saturday Guardian). Some images in the ebook are not displayed owing to permissions issues.

Wall Street Journal

A delightfully informative and provocative argument that we should rethink our common musical habits at the most basic level.

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3.0 étoiles sur 5 Texte intéressant, mais images absents. 8 juillet 2015
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Le texte est à la haureur de mes attentes, mais l'absence des images et schémas n'était pas indiquée avant l'achat.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 étoiles sur 5  55 commentaires
76 internautes sur 84 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 How DID equal temperament ruin harmony? 25 mars 2007
Par William A. McNair - Publié sur Amazon.com
Ross Duffin's book is good. He gives an excellent history of the various temperaments used in Western music until the 20th century when one temperament -- Equal Temperament -- became the standard. I was surprised, however, that he never really answered the question posed in the title -- how did ET ruin harmony? He does a pretty good job of describing what sounds different about certain intervals -- thirds and fifths in particular -- but he never really discusses harmonic progressions and how temperament affects how they sound. He also discusses how unequal temperaments cause one key to sound different from another and how composers were sensitive to these differences. But again, no real discussion of why erasing these differences with equal temperament 'ruined' harmony.

The great challenge here is writing about something that really must be heard. I frankly agree with Duffin that unequal temperament makes music from the 17th - 19th centuries more interesting to hear. I was hoping he would find words to describe why.
34 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Timely Book 21 mai 2009
Par M. De Sapio - Publié sur Amazon.com
In this book, musicologist Ross Duffin examines an acute but little-known problem in classical music today: a great many professional musicians do not know how to play in tune. The problem has its roots in the mid 19th century, when the equal temperament system of tuning keyboard instruments (in which the purity of all intervals other than the octave is compromised in order to accommodate modulation) gained currency, eventually becoming the standard tuning system. Then, at the beginning of the 20th century, musicians such as Sarasate and Casals started advocating "expressive intonation", in which the upward or downward pull of various notes in the scale was exaggerated (yielding overly sharp leading tones and flats that are too flat). "Expressive intonation" turned out to be a poison: after a while, it became an ingrained habit, and musicians no longer remembered what the notes and chords were supposed to sound like in tune. The problem was exacerbated by the 20th-century innovation of continuous vibrato on string instruments (which tends to muddy intonation) and the fact that intonational subtleties eventually stopped being widely taught. It wasn't until the early music movement of the late 20th century that musicians revived old tuning systems and rediscovered their beauty. A majority of conventionally trained musicians, on the other hand, are still mired in the past: they do not know what a pure third sounds like, or are unaware that there are tuning systems besides equal temperament. It is ironic that back in the 1970's, the "early music" pioneers were accused of producing performances that were amateurish and out-of-tune; in reality, they were the only musicians who knew how to play IN tune (though the difficulty of period instruments sometimes proved an obstacle to putting this knowledge into practice).

Duffin's thesis is that equal temperament ruined harmony, but I would suggest that it had a detrimental effect on melody as well. Who can deny that chromatic passages in Bach or Mozart sound infinitely more interesting in an unequal temperament, in which the size of the half steps varies? Not to mention that equal temperament flattens out the distinction between consonance and dissonance when all intervals are slightly out of tune. Duffin missed the opportunity to explore these points more extensively. Another "minus" for me were the sidebars with biographical blurbs of various figures in the history of temperament (these were pointless and distracting), and the silly cartoons which were out of place in a serious book about music. But whatever the book's flaws might be, the importance of its message is undeniable: to awaken mainstream musicians to the subtleties of tuning.
87 internautes sur 99 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Problem with Playing the Same Old Tuning 16 mars 2007
Par Rob Hardy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Piano players in some ways have it easier than other musicians. For instance, a pianist, if called upon to play a perfect A, presses a button on the instrument, and out comes a perfect A (if the piano tuner has done his job right). Violinists, slide trombonists, and even singers run the risk of sliding around and being too low or too high. But I was surprised to find that there is controversy in such things as how a piano ought to be tuned, or how scales are to be divided. I am not a musician, but in _How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)_ (Norton), Ross W. Duffin asserts that even classically trained musicians are not aware that there is more than one way to divide scales, and he also asserts that the current predominant system, Equal Temperament (ET), is not necessarily the best for all purposes. "It's all wrapped up in recent evolutions in musical performance and teaching, the result of decades of delusion, convenience, ignorance, conditioning, and oblivion." Musicians are going to get much more out of this book than I did; Duffin says, "It's for everyone who performs or cares about music," but many of the technical aspects of his argument were often above the head of this "carer". Nonetheless, this is an important book to give, again, the vital lesson that much of what we take for granted, much of what we consider fundamental, is only the result of the past's convenient compromises.

The difficulty with dividing up the scale is one of physics and aesthetics. Scales divided into octaves don't quite contain perfectly the fifths (Duffin explains all this) and one solution is to narrow (in musical terms, to "temper") each of the twelve fifths by one twelfth of the missing fit. That is an equal temperament (ET). Even Duffin agrees that equal temperament is an elegant solution to the problem, but like all solutions to complicated problems, it has disadvantages, especially that it makes major thirds dissonant. Musicians originally were not ready to tolerate such harsh major thirds, and so irregular (non-equal) temperaments were preferentially used until the nineteenth century, and Duffin makes the case that even into the twentieth century equal temperament was not the enforced standard it has come to be. In the twentieth century, however, there were many social forces to make temperaments equal. The piano became a central piece of furniture for homes of all classes, and the piano (and to a lesser extent, the organ) became the main instrument that other instruments had to play around. With music instruction becoming more popular, makers of those other instruments found it simpler to make them based on the basic equal temperament system.

Duffin writes that equal temperament has been so thoroughly adopted "... that most musicians today are not even aware that any other systems exist, or that if they exist, that they have any musical worth whatsoever." The biggest drawback in such ignorance is that pre-equal-temperament compositions, of course, have to be fitted onto equal temperament instruments and playing. The enthusiasm for historically accurate performances, even with historic instruments, can never be fully successful without accepting that the composers and players of the time were using historic temperaments rather than the current monolith. "I'm not saying that harmonic intonation should replace ET entirely and substitute its own tyranny," says Duffin, "only that ET is not necessarily the best temperament for every single musical situation encountered by today's musicians." Duffin's book is scattered with sidebar pages to introduce concepts like temperament itself or pure intervals, and also to give accessible capsule biographies of musicians, composers, and music theorists who have taken part in the history of temperaments. One of the musicians so profiled is the cellist Pablo Casals, with whose words Duffin gleefully winds up a mind-stretching work: "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."
22 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Kindle Edition Is Missing All Illustrations by Design! 27 août 2011
Par Payman Akhlaghi - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Warning! The following "disclaimer" appears at various points of the Kindle edition of the book:
"Images in this book are not displayed owing to permissive issues."

(This Review applies to the digital (Kindle) edition of this book, as of August 2011.)

Indeed, no diagrams, drawings or other images, often referred to in the text, almost all which would be necessary for a proper comprehension of the subject, are included in the digital edition.

This is a highly disturbing matter for the readers of the digital books. I wish the publisher will take the steps to make amends, as soon as possible, the least of which would be updating the file by including the missing images, and sending an update to those who have already bought the "image-missing edition", at no additional cost.

In any case, this is a practice which should be strongly discouraged by the growing population of eBook readers. Amazon is advised to remind publishers to make such differences emphatically clear in their Book Descriptions, and if at all possible, avoid altogether discriminating against the eBook audience by producing such unnecessary discrepancies between the digital versus the printed copies of the same work.

As for the text, it's well-informed and lively, with a penchant to explain a complex issue such as intonation in a most plain and comprehensible language. The subject is further brought to life by the author's subtle sense of humor. It's an enjoyable read, for anyone interested in the subject, even as one could reasonably take issues with some of the positions taken by the author against the widely adopted Equal-Temperament, or his quick dismissal of another author's position on this (Stuart Isacoff) early in the book. Overall, it's a nice addition to the ongoing debates on intonation, good enough to help me ignore the missing images and give it a 4 star for the content. (Meanwhile, I've considered to order a paperback copy of the book, as well.)

© 2011, Payman Akhlaghi, August 26th, 2011, Los Angeles
32 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Much-Needed Contribution 21 novembre 2006
Par Jonathan D. Bellman - Publié sur Amazon.com
This is a clear and entertaining explanation of one of the most crucially important (and resolutely ignored) problems in the contemporary performance of historical music: TUNING. The issues are clearly laid out, and the mathematical material deftly presented in a way that even innumerate readers such as myself can understand. This concise book is a great help to me, and is quite accessible to the nonspecialist reader. VERY highly recommended!
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