Seminar about tuning - is Equal Temperament the only tuning to use?

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David Pinnegar
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Seminar about tuning - is Equal Temperament the only tuning to use?

Post by David Pinnegar » 02 Feb 2019, 19:37

Ed Foote who writes on this forum https://www.piano-tuners.org/edfoote/index.html and https://www.piano-tuners.org/edfoote/we ... piano.html is a great hero of the musical world and he and his work is worthy of greater acclaim and application.

I came to conclusions independently of his and on 6th May 2019 am organising a seminar about tuning, demonstrating the applicability of unequal temperament to the modern piano and its tonal and musical advantages over standard tuning. Hopefully tuners and technicians will be interested to come, as well as pianists interested in the historical repertoire and performance. More details will be announced but a call for papers and interest is below.

Best wishes

David Pinnegar 01342 850594

CALL FOR INTEREST AND PAPERS FOR PRESENTATION ON THE EFFECT OF TEMPERAMENT AND EMOTION IN CLASSICAL PIANO REPERTOIRE

Dear All

The appreciation of music in schools has been so impoverished that it even made headlines in newspapers at the beginning of the year. 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.

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.

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-un ... works.html p36) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgA1-I5MfNY 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_C ... ical_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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV0bkcSr_Kg 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 think in Kirnberger III would display similar characteristics.

The comments of Fred Sturm, leading piano technician, 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, I believe substantially similar to Chopin's 1848 Broadwood but in more original condition in terms of sound than the Chopin instrument which has had new tuning plank and been restrung, no doubt in thinner gauge wire
Bechstein 1885.

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdsFLIo9l88 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A34K-fj5nHs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpqrynlohR4 Chopin 4th Ballade https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJT5Q6HooyA

chrisw
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Re: Seminar about tuning - is Equal Temperament the only tuning to use?

Post by chrisw » 04 Feb 2019, 15:08

An interesting article David and worthy of reply. I can accept your thesis that a piece of music may sound more alive if played in the temperament appropriate at the time of composition but the notion that interest is being lost and/or the universal use of equal temperament is responsible for the decline of music teaching in schools, I find more difficult to accept. Perhaps I have the wrong end of the stick because your post is quite long and I need to read it rather more carefully. One of my musical interests is playing with other people and therefore I wouldn't want my piano tuned in any other way than in equal temperament.

David Pinnegar
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Re: Seminar about tuning - is Equal Temperament the only tuning to use?

Post by David Pinnegar » 06 Feb 2019, 23:09

I've demonstrated that tuning the instrument unequally doesn't at all inhibit playing with other people.
https://youtu.be/7O-guxH7Ggg

Other tunings are viable. Ed Foote writes here https://www.piano-tuners.org/edfoote/index.html and some might have heard of Bill Bremmer who says that an unequal temperament can get over problems of scale in some pianos.

A couple of years ago some friends with a concert Kawai asked me to tune their instrument. With trepidation I looked at this gleaming prestige instrument and wondered if what I was about to do was the right thing to do. It gleamed, black and impressively and the sound shone shimmeringly . . . and harshly. Upon tuning to a temperament with 7 perfect fifths with the bass octaves tuned harmonically to the relevant scale notes of the central and tenor octaves the instrument lost nothing and gained musicality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCWcwSFp_Pc was the result. The bass exhibited not only strong 5th harmonic but 7th 9th and 11th harmonics strongly. But putting the scale notes to fall on many of the 3rd harmonics and some nearer pure the 5th harmonics, the sound warmed and the metallic tendencies became irrelevant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z3o0x4dKJI is a Steinway Boston and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7AoF3zvcaI a concert Steinway accompanying violin.

It's long experience tuning, experimenting and recording the results that indicates the time might be ripe to raise the issue and awareness and for people to be able to come and experience the alternatives for themselves.

Best wishes

David Pinnegar

David Pinnegar
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Re: Seminar about tuning - is Equal Temperament the only tuning to use?

Post by David Pinnegar » 04 May 2019, 14:58

I've just seen this thread in addition to another about tuners willing to tune other temperaments. The programme for Monday http://hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/tuningseminar.jpg is on http://hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/program ... eminar.pdf and we hope that music lovers, pianists will come as well as piano tuners.

Conventional tuning results in a fuzziness of sound such that the untrained ear doesn't really know when the instrument is out of tune other than perhaps feeling a "zing" when the instrument is freshly tuned. But tuning with the historic tunings can produce such a clarity, like a breath of fresh air, that you instantly know when the instrument's got stuffy again.

So whilst a tuning seminar sounds an event just for technicalities and technicians, it's really for anyone with ears who enjoys music, and here discussed and demonstrated by five brilliant musicians, one of whom was a principle inspiration of other tunings nearly 50 years ago working with Padgham who wrote the landmark book which is now particularly sought after as you can see on https://www.abebooks.co.uk/products/isbn/9780906894132 .

It would be great to know how many coffee cups to put out so please do send an email on antespam@gmail.com or phone 01342 850594 if you'd like to come.

Best wishes

David Pinnegar

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Jack091
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Re: Seminar about tuning - is Equal Temperament the only tuning to use?

Post by Jack091 » 25 Jul 2019, 14:47

I like to participate in piano events.

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