Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/89

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TEMPERAMENT.

where. This was called the method of Unequal Temperament, in which the notes played by the white keys were left in the meantone system, while the error was accumulated on those played by the black keys. The more usual scales were thus kept tolerably in tune, while the remote ones were all more or less false. Such a make- shift as this could not be expected to succeed, and the only purpose it served was to prepare the way for the adoption of equal temperament. The meantone system is sometimes described as an 'unequal temperament,' but wrongly, since in it the so-called 'good keys' are all equally good ; the ' bad keys ' are simply those for which the necessary notes do not exist when the system is limited to twelve notes per Octave. The de- fect therefore lies not in the system itself, but in its application, and the only legitimate remedy is to increase the number of notes, and so pro^ vide a more extended series of Fifths. This was well understood from the first, for we find that as early as the i6th century many organs were constructed with extra notes. 1 Salinas tells us that he had himself played on one in the Domi- nican Monastery of Santa Maria Novella at Florence. Similar improvements were attempted in England. In the deed of sale of the organ built by Father Smith in 1682-3 for the Temple Church, London, special mention is made of the additional notes, which were played in the fol- lowing manner : two of the black keys were divided crosswise ; the front halves, which were of the usual height, playing GJJ and Eb ; the back ones, which rose above them, A b and Djf. About 1865, this organ was tuned for the first time in equal temperament, but the extra keys were not removed till 1878. The same method was followed in designing another organ of Father Smith's, which was built for Durham Cathedral in 1684-5, although the additional notes do not appear to have been actually supplied till idpi. 2 A different but equally ingenious plan of con- trolling the extra notes was used in the organ of the Foundling Hospital, London. 3 Here the key- board was of the ordinary form, without any extra keys ; but by means of a special mechanism four additional notes, Db, Ab, DJJ, Ajf, could be substituted at pleasure for Cj, GJ, Eb, Bb of the usual series. Close to the draw-stops on either side there was a handle or lever working in a horizontal cutting, and having three places of rest. When both handles were in the mid position, the series of notes was the same as on an ordinary instrument, namely

Eb-Bb-F-C-G-D-A-E-B-Fj-CS-GjI ; but when the handles on both sides were moved in the outward direction, the Eb and Bb pipes were shut off, and the DjJ and AJ were brought into operation. The use of this mechanism was

1 The extra notes were sometimes called ' Quartertones,' not a very suitable name, since a Quartertone is not a sound, but an interval, and the Semitone is not divided equally in the meantone system.

2 See vol. ii. p. 593, note.

s The history of this instrument has been carefully Investigated by Mr. Alexander J. Ellis. F.B.8. The facts given in the text were derived by him from a MS. note-book made by Mr. Leffler (died 1819), organist of 8. Katherine's (then by the Tower), and lather of the singer WILLIAM LEFFLE&. [See vol. ii. p. 112.]

��TEMPERAMENT.

��73

��afterwards misunderstood ; the levers were nailed up for many years, and at last removed in 1848; but the tuning remained unaltered till 1855, when the organ itself was removed and a new one built in its place. The history of the old organ just described is of special interest, as bearing on Handel's position with reference to the question of temperament. Unfortunately all that we can now ascertain on the subject amounts to this : that Handel presented an organ to the Hospital ; that he performed on it at the opening ceremony on May I, 1750 ;* and that it was still in existence in 1785.* We first hear of the extra notes in 1 799, but there is nothing to show that they did not belong to the original instrument given by Handel half a century before. Assuming this to have been the case, it would tend to show that the great composer was not in favour of abolishing the meantone system, but of remedy- ing the defective form in which it was then employed. His example, and that of Father Smith, found few imitators, and those who did attempt to solve the problem seem often to have misunderstood its nature. 7 The difficulty how- ever could not be shirked ; for the development of modern music brought the remote keys more and more into common use ; and as instruments continued to be made with only twelve notes per Octave, the only possible way to get rid of the ' wolves ' was to adopt equal temperament.

The long contest between the different systems of tuning having practically come to an end, we are in a position to estimate what we have gained or lost by the change. The chief advantage of equal temperament is that it provides keyed in- struments with unlimited facility of modulation, and places them, in this respect, more on a level with the voice, violin and trombone. It has thus assisted in the formation of a style of com- position and execution suited to the pianoforte. It is the only system of intonation which, in concerted music, can be produced with the same degree of accuracy on every kind of instrument. Its deviations from exact consonance, though considerable, can be concealed by means of unsus- tained harmony, rapid movement, and soft quality of tone, so that many ears never perceive them. By constantly listening to the equally tempered scale, the ear may be brought not only to tolerate its intervals, but to prefer them to those of any other system, at least as far as melody is con- cerned. It has proved capable of being applied even to music of a high order, and its adoption

< Brownlow, ' History and Objects of the Foundling Hospital,' p. 78.

5 Burney, ' Sketch of the life of Handel,' p. 28, prefixed to ' Account of the Commemoration.'

6 See remarks by an anonymous writer In ' The European Maga- zine,' for Feb. 1799, who, however, states (1) that the organ with extra notes was not given by Handel, and (2) that it was built under the direction of Dr. Kobert Smith, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. The contradiction between this writer and Burney might be removed by supposing that a new instrument was built between 1785 and 1799 ; but of this we have no record. If the extra notes were designed by Dr. Smith, It must have been before 1768, as he died in that year, aged 79. In 1762 he had published a ' Postscript ' to his treatise on 'Harmonics,' recommending an arrangement of stops by which a meantone series of nineteen notes to the Octave (Db to F##) could be played with the ordinary keyboard. He had this plan carried out in a harpsichord constructed by Kirkman.

7 See account of Benatus Harris's Invention, Hopkins, ' The Organ, in Bimbault's ' History of the Organ,' pp. 121, 122.

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