Contemporaneous hearing

@LyrebirdMusic raised an excellent point regarding contemporaneous versus contemporary viewpoints.

Re Valloti for BWV 988, for me, as a contemporary player, I find Variation 25 unlistenable and sour. So, after reflecting on recent temperament discussions here, I realise of course that temperament recipes and historical evidence are one thing, but our ears are on the end of all this. Of course, others have said that we choose what we like in terms of thirds and so on. Naturally. But my reflection today is, given what I hear as unsatisfactory sourness of Valloti in this instance, did Bach not hear the same, or did he want that to emphasise the affect of pain or suffering, or did he just not care, or something else? [This is presuming Bach used Vallotti or similar - that is not the topic I wish to discuss here.] Obviously we can never really know, but it’s an interesting question.

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Le 08/01/2023 02:54, Andrew Bernard via The Jackrail écrit :

@LyrebirdMusic raised an excellent point regarding contemporaneous versus contemporary viewpoints.

Re Valloti for BWV 988, for me, as a contemporary player, I find Variation 25 unlistenable and sour. So, after reflecting on recent temperament discussions here, I realise of course that temperament recipes and historical evidence are one thing, but our ears are on the end of all this. Of course, others have said that we choose what we like in terms of thirds and so on. Naturally. But my reflection today is, given what I hear as unsatisfactory sourness of Valloti in this instance, did Bach not hear the same, or did he want that to emphasise the affect of pain or suffering, or did he just not care, or something else? [This is presuming Bach used Vallotti or similar - that is not the topic I wish to discuss here.] Obviously we can never really know, but it’s an interesting question.

I think they enjoyed the variety offered by the different keys in
unequal temperament and their different characters and colors. I was
playing through Christian Ritter’s suite in F sharp minor today. The
first section of the Allemande, for instance, ends on a C sharp major
chord. No matter what unequal temperament you choose, the major third is
going to be wide, wider than an ET third. In the Neidhardt temperament I
use, I like the sound of the chord in this context. It’s easy to
transpose the piece up to G minor. The third becomes objectively much
better, but… less interesting. Why would Ritter have written in such a
key, and prominently used the wide third if that’s not the sound he
wanted? I also like to play L. Couperin’s F sharp Pavane in this same
temperament (though I realize, of course, it’s unhistorical in this
case, though less unhistorical than retuning to something else). Why
would he have written in such a key if he wanted “good” thirds? All this
is even more obvious for organ music, where we know the instrument
wasn’t tuned for a specific piece or a specific repertoire.

He could not hear the same or want that or don’t care.
Intervals have not been heared the same in the history of music: dissonances are now consonances and vice versa. But I don’t think this to be likely, as we should have more music pieces showcasing the same intervals as var. 25.
I bet on Bach wanting that effect.

By the way, what a temperament could be sweet in var. 25 without ruining any other variation? Just asking, I don’t know. My guess is such temperament doesn’t exist, as I hear the same harsh intervals by any player who surely will use different temperaments.

Dom

I will offer a few thoughts with no footnotes that I know of (except the first).

  1. In Peak, Anders Ericsson writes about absolute pitch, that it is not a mysterious genetically determined ability. He cites a study in Japan that had 100% success in creating young children with absolute pitch by exposing them to musical training at an early age. People like Mozart and the Bach family would have grown up in an environment full of the musical stimulus needed at the appropriate age to create absolute pitch capabilities in the children.
  2. In my experience of 25 years in the Piano Technicians Guild, I believe that almost all aural tuners who achieve very high accuracy in setting temperament use the rather complex set of interval comparison tests that were mostly invented in the 20th century.
    However, there is a very small group of tuners who “just do it.” They often don’t even know the “scientific” tuning tests that are the pride of those of us who have learned them, yet they tune very accurate temperaments, often on the first pass with very little correction.
    Three people I have known who have this ability have one thing in common: Their fathers were piano tuners! I recall one of them saying “I don’t know what I do. I just do what my father did.”
  3. This leads me to risk suggesting that Bach may have had a very unusual accuracy of hearing, and basically “just knew” how he wanted his harpsichord to sound.
    To go further, suppose that either intentionally or habitually he tuned the pure fifths of Vallotti just a little bit contracted, hardly enough to notice, but they would have “sounded just right.” Then perhaps F#-A# would have been, instead of 21 cents wide, perhaps 17 cents wide. Would that be enough to retain the tension in the third, but dull the knife edge a little?
  4. Final thought (with my steel neck collar in place): Tuners using programmable digital devices can imitate this idea. Start with the list of “tuning offsets” for a given temperament (say, Vallotti). Multiply each by a decided factor (say 0.5 or 0.66) and enter the new values in the tuning program. The result will be a compromise between Vallotti and equal temperament, “Half-Vallotti” or “Two-thirds Vallotti.” It will have the general circular quality of Vallotti. The mid-circle thirds A-C# and Eb-G will be identical to Vallotti, but the extremes will be a little less extreme.

A post was split to a new topic: Absolute pitch

Le 09/01/2023 21:28, Ed Sutton via The Jackrail écrit :

To go further, suppose that either intentionally or habitually he tuned the pure fifths of Vallotti just a little bit contracted, hardly enough to notice, but they would have “sounded just right.” Then perhaps F#-A# would have been, instead of 21 cents wide, perhaps 17 cents wide. Would that be enough to retain the tension in the third, but dull the knife edge a little?

Well, this is about the value of Neidhardt’s widest thirds in the
temperament I may have mentioned. So perhaps, instead of tweaking
Vallotti (which he’d never heard of), Bach simply tuned by ear something
close to Neidhardt (which he may have heard of).

I use Vallotti because of Claudio’s discussion of the similarity of Vallotti to the Barnes temperament (i.e. that Bach may have used a temperament very similar to Vallotti, but with a different name), but all of this is secondary to what I am trying to communicate.

  1. That there is evidence that people who have intense early experiences of music and tuning may develop very exceptional pitch and interval recognition of a sort that cannot be developed later in life, and that if this is correct, it may influence our understanding of certain musical questions.
  2. For those who are tuning with digitally programmable equipment, I am suggesting a way to make subtle, controlled changes in the intensity of any non-equal temperament.

I do NOT undertand why Valotti comes into this discussion at all. Is there any reason to think that JSB relied upon his opinions, or was even aware of them? As far as I know, neither he nor any other tuning theorist is mentioned by the sons of JSB either.

David

Isn’t it because my OP was asking people what they use for BWV 988, or what would be good, and Claudio suggested Barnes or Vallotti?

If so, Claudio should, and does, know that both are a red herring in the context!

David

This post was not meant to be an argument in favor of Vallotti. I have edited it slightly in hopes that what I intended to communicate becomes clear and does not push the V-button. Ed

I will offer a few thoughts with no footnotes that I know of (except the first).

  1. In Peak, Anders Ericsson writes about absolute pitch, that it is not a mysterious genetically determined ability. He cites a study in Japan that had 100% success in creating young children with absolute pitch by exposing them to musical training at an early age. People like Mozart and the Bach family would have grown up in an environment full of the musical stimulus needed at the appropriate age to create absolute pitch capabilities in the children.

  2. In my experience of 25 years in the Piano Technicians Guild, I believe that almost all aural tuners who achieve very high accuracy in setting temperament use the rather complex set of interval comparison tests that were mostly invented in the 20th century.
    However, there is a very small group of tuners who “just do it.” They often don’t even know the “scientific” tuning tests that are the pride of those of us who have learned them, yet they tune very accurate temperaments, often on the first pass with very little correction.
    Three people I have known who have this ability have one thing in common: Their fathers were piano tuners! I recall one of them saying “I don’t know what I do. I just do what my father did.”

  3. This leads me to risk suggesting that Bach may have had a very unusual accuracy of hearing, and basically “just knew” how he wanted his harpsichord to sound.
    To go further, suppose that either intentionally or habitually he tuned the pure fifths of his temperament of choice just a little bit contracted, hardly enough to notice, but they would have “sounded just right.” Then perhaps F#-A# would have been, instead of 21 cents wide, perhaps 17 cents wide. Would that be enough to retain the tension in the third, but dull the knife edge a little?

  4. Final thought (with my steel neck collar in place): Tuners using programmable digital devices can imitate this idea. Start with the list of “tuning offsets” for a given temperament (perhaps some accepted historical temperament we will call Xxxx). Multiply each by a decided factor (say 0.5 or 0.66) and enter the new values in the tuning program. The result will be a compromise between the chosen temperament and equal temperament, “Half-Xxxx” or “Two-thirds Xxxx.” It will have the general circular quality of Xxxx. The mid-circle thirds A-C# and Eb-G will be probably be identical to Xxxx, but the extremes will be a little less extreme.

Le 10/01/2023 13:47, David Pickett via The Jackrail écrit :

Is there any reason to think that JSB relied upon his opinions, or was even aware of them?

Why wouldn’t he have been aware of them? He had only been dead for 29
years when they were first published, and Padua is not that far from
Leipzig.

@Dennis, very droll. :slight_smile:

Claudio argues that the recipe was widely known well before Vallotti published and Tartini (1754), for one example. Just saying!

Le 10/01/2023 14:38, Andrew Bernard via The Jackrail écrit :

Claudio argues that the recipe was widely known well before Vallotti published and Tartini (1754), for one example. Just saying!

And I argue that Bach might also have been well aware of the more or
less near-equal temperament recommended by his son C.P.E., who had
probably learned it from him! Or of other German temperaments of the
first half of the 18th century. In any case, the proof of all this
pudding is in the playing of the WTC. Play the exotic P&Fs in Vallotti,
and play them in something more equal (such as Neidhardt), and tell us
which temperament sounds better. Whatever you come up will with
certainly work for the Goldbergs, including Var. 25.

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I wonder how much he knows about music. One study in Japan is hardly conclusive, and has it been cross checked and replicated?

From the Penguin Books site in Australia:

Professor Anders Ericsson is the world’s reigning expert on expertise. His research into what makes ordinary people achieve the extraordinary was the inspiration for the 10,000-hours rule – the popular theory that 10,000 hours of any type of practice will allow an individual to excel in any field. In this book, he describes how a particular type of extended practice leads to exceptional performance.

From the Smithsonian Institute:

Many other studies have debunked this ‘rule’.

No personal disrespect intended in any way @EdS.

If we are going to debunk theories about Vallotti we better debunk this one too.

If the 10,000 hour rule had any substance, by now at my age I would be the world leading expert and performer in a dozen areas or more and you’d be reading about my achievements in the daily newspaper.

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The 10,000 hour rule is a popularized misrepresentation of what Ericsson wrote.

For me the most helpful part of his book was the statement that daily repetition of the same things does not produce long term improvement, and may even degrade performance. Rather what is needed is practice that adds just the right degree of stress to existing skills. This has lead me to a creative search for what can be just the right degree of added demand to keep advancing my skill.

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Well let the publisher Penguin Books know, because that is where the quote came from.