Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/90

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may be considered an artistic success. From a j commercial point of view, the change has been highly advantageous. It has enabled the maker of the pianoforte or the organ to obviate a serious imperfection without disturbing the tra- ditional structure of the instrument; while, on the other hand, alterations both in the internal mechanism and in the form of keyboard would have been necessary if musicians had insisted that the ' wolves ' should be got rid of without abolishing the old tuning. Trade usage will, therefore, be strongly on the side of equal tem- perament for a long time to come, and any at- tempt to recover the meantone system can only be made on a small scale, and for special pur- poses. Still, as many writers have pointed out, such a limited restoration would be useful. It would enable us to hear the music of the earlier composers as they heard it themselves. The ecclesiastical compositions of Bach, and all the works of Handel and his predecessors as far back as the 1 6th century, were written for the mean- tone system. By performing them in equal tem- perament we fail to realise the original intention. This would not be matter for regret if the old music were improved by our alteration; but such is certainly not the case. The tuning in which the old composers worked is far more harmonious than that which has replaced it. This much is generally admitted even by those who do notfavour any attempt to restore the meantone system. They sometimes appeal to the authority of Se- bastian Bach, and quote his approval of equal temperament as a reason why no other tuning should be used. But in reality very little is cer- tainly known of Bach's relations to the subject. We are told that he was accustomed to tune his own clavichord and harpsichord equally, though the organ still remained in the meantone system. This statement is borne out by internal evidence. In Bach's organ works the remoter keys are scarcely ever employed, while no such restrictions are observable in his works for the clavichord. With his preference for a wide range of modula- tion he would naturally find the limits of the old-fashioned meantone organ irritating, and we can easily understand that he would have fa- voured any tuning which made all the keys available. He would doubtless have welcomed any practical method of extending the meantone system ; but to provide this was a task beyond the inventive capacity of that age. His authority, then, may fairly be quoted to show that all the keys must be in tune to the same degree ; but this condition can be realised by many other systems besides temperament when a sufficient number of notes is provided in each Octave. If the question were to be decided by an appeal to authority alone, we might quote the names of many musicians of last century who were ac- quainted with both kinds of temperament, and whose judgment was directly opposed to that of Bach. But this style of argument, always in- conclusive, will appear peculiarly out of place when we consider what changes music has passed through since Bach's day. That the de-


fects of equal temperament were not so notice- able then as now, may be attributed both to the different kind of instrument and the different style of composition which have since been de- veloped. The clavichord which is said to have been an especial favourite with Bach, was cha- racterised by a much softer quality of tone, and feebler intensity, than the modern pianoforte. 1 Again, composers of a century and a half ago relied for effect chiefly on vigorous counterpoint or skilful imitation between the various melodic parts, and not on the thick chords and sustained harmonies which have become so marked a fea- ture in modern music. Owing to these changed conditions the evils of temperament are greatly intensified nowadays, and the necessity for some remedy has become imperative. There is but one direction in which an efficient remedy can be found, namely in the use of some more har- monious form of intonation than that which at present prevails. It is only by the help of an instrument on which the improved systems of tuning can be employed in an adequate manner, that the student will be able to estimate their value. Such an instrument we will now proceed to describe.

If we wish to employ any other system of tuning than equal temperament, we must increase the number of notes per Octave, since the ordinary twelve notes, unless tuned equally, are useless for anything beyond illustration or experiment. The methods used by Father Smith and byHandel can- not be followed nowadays. The ordinary keyboard is already so unsymmetrical, that the insertion of a few additional black or white keys would make it almost unplayable ; and the changing of levers would be a troublesome interruption of the performance. The only way to bring the improved systems of temperament within the range of practical music, is to remodel and simplify the keyboard. This has been done in different ways by several inventors of late years. At a meeting of the Musical Association ot Lon- don on May i, 1875, an organ on which one of the stops was tuned according to the meantone system was exhibited by Mr. R. H. M. Bosan- quet, of S. John's College, Oxford. The key- board of this instrument which is now in the South Kensington Museum is arranged sym- metrically, so that notes occupying the same relative position always make the same musical interval. There are twelve finger keys in the Octave, of which seven as usual are white and five black. The distance across from any key to its Octave, centre to centre, is six inches ; each key ia three-eighths of an inch broad, and is separated on either side from the next key by. the space of one-eighth of an inch. As the Octave is the only interval in which all systems of intonation agree, keys an Octave apart are on the same level with each other. The rest of the keys are placed at various points higher or lower to correspond with the deviations of the pitch of their notes from equal temperament. Thus the G key is placed a quarter of an inch

i Bosanquet. 'Temperament,' pp. 28, 29.

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