REMS "Temperamental Music" - a talk by John Belling, REMS committee member, former REMS Secretary and keen organist
Today, most Western music is played in a tuning (temperament) known as ‘Equal Temperament’, where the ratio between the frequency of any note and the semitone immediately above is 12√2, which implies that the character of all scales is essentially the same.
This was not the case in previous times: there were many different tunings devised where certain intervals are made ‘pure’, to conform to an ideal Pythagorean scale. This was the equivalent of trying to square the circle, and all such temperaments had compromises, which resulted in music played in certain keys would sound painfully out-of-tune, while others could sound strangely beautiful.
This talk will firstly present the Pythagorean scale, and show how other temperaments are derived from this. There will be some interesting oddities along the way – for example, how a 53 note per octave scale results from some simple maths – and an instrument with 53 notes per octave was actually built!
Speaker: John Belling, REMS committee member, former REMS Secretary and keen organist