Temperament has ratings and 54 reviews. Isacoff examines the tuning of the Western diatonic scale, the problem of obtaining pure, harmonious intervals. Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization. Front Cover. Stuart Isacoff. Knopf Doubleday. Six Questions with the Author: Stuart Isacoff on Temperament Excerpt from Temperament: The Idea That Solved Music’s Greatest Riddle.

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Six Questions with the Author: Stuart Isacoff on Temperament | NewMusicBox

Instrument tempeament is something that even music dorks consider something out there even by music dork standards, but Temperament attempts to put the debates over how to tune an instrument into historical context. Playing a piano for which this was not true would be like playing a game of chess in which the rules changed from moment to moment.

Temperxment 04, Pages Buy. This tuning allows a musical pattern begun on one note to be duplicated etmperament starting on any other; it creates a musical universe in which the relationships between tones are reliably, uniformly consistent—a universe of greatly expanded possibility, one that allowed Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, Debussy, and all those who followed to compose the piano music we listen to today.

Along the way, they pointed up the conceits and follies of generations of theologians, musicians, philosophers, and scholars who insisted that the proportions in the mind of God must fit in the mind of man. Read it in two days and thoroughly enjoyed it. Feb 04, Pages. Musical intervals and scales. This arrangement produces wondrous results: If you thought this would be a simple matter of making sure notes a fifth apart are perfectly in tune, rinse and repeat around the whole circle of fifths, you might be a follower of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, whose followers considered the concept of irrational numbers a thought-crime worthy of death.

Feb 18, karen foley rated it really liked it. Have you played around with osacoff tunings much yourself? The Harmony of Heaven and Earth p. My library Help Advanced Book Search. A short book about tuning for keyboard insturments, and the struggles iscoff with establishment of the current equal temperment tuning.

The supposed answer to the problem of “best” tuning is offered by the author to be equal temparament which was widely known by the end of the 18th century. Make this your default list. Isacoff is temperamenh pianist, composer, lecturer, and writer whose other work includes the book A Natural History of the Piano.



Reading feels like a waste of a day to me now– whenever I start a book, I have to finish it, and there goes half of the day. Or reading about cranky old curmudgeons argue about tunings as if the fate of their souls depended on it. Kepler found in music’s time-honored proportions the rules governing the motion of planets in the sky. As a supplement to the printed book, Stuart Isacoff here presents audio files to demonstrate directly some of the concepts he discusses in Temperament.

May 09, Jenny Reading Envy rated it really liked it Shelves: Filled with original insights, fascinating anecdotes, and portraits of some of the greatest geniuses of all time, Temperament is that rare book that will delight the novice and expert alike. In the Realm of the Gods p. Celebrate the vitality and breadth of NYC music-making with this sampling of tracks on our platform. Login or register to start creating your own playlist! The arguments, however, went well beyond musical aesthetics.

Filled with original insights, fascinating anecdotes, and portraits of some of the greatest geniuses of all time, Temperament is that rare book that will delight the novice and expert alike. In fact, I would call the comparison’s to the developments in other fields too convoluted. Some of his discussions of the history of non-musical art seemed like padding or name-dropping, and his occasional clangers two of the oddest being ‘a lute has 6 strings’, Dufay and Brunelleschi were ‘compatriots’.

And Isaac Newton matched the relationships these proportions established between pitches in a musical scale to the arrangement of colors formed by sunlight passing through a prism. Thus, certain combinations of tones that should have sounded sweet and placid could, on an early keyboard instrument, become sour and ragged.

For me, that was a surprise. They became entangled in the world of scientific inquiry-engaging the imaginations of such luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Newton, and Christiaan Huygens. We are experiencing technical difficulties. The contentious adoption of the modern tuning system known as equal temperament called into question beliefs that had lasted nearly two millenia—and also made possible the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, and all who followed. I don’t waste half my day on it.


It would be a much shorter and happier history if it had been ruled by the practical necessity of allowing keyboard players to stay in tune with singers and other instruments without constantly having tuning problems, or by the artistic imperative of composers to explore more complex harmonies and far-flung tonal areas. Very interesting This book was very interesting, and it put the ideas of music, art, philosophy, history and science all together.

Tempeament audience were you writing it for? This book changed both my life and my precention of the impact that societies have played on music and life When Galileo’s father, Vincenzo Galilei, supported it as an ideal as early ashe promptly became embroiled in a feud with Gioseffo Zarlino, one of the most influential music theorists of the day.

I knew there had to be a human drama behind the isadoff of this seemingly arcane subject. Isacoff examines the tuning of the Western diatonic scale, the problem of obtaining pure, harmonious intervals across the scale and across keys, and the development of equal temperament.

Interesting if you like the subject and have some musical knowledge – and know remperament way around a keyboard. One of several occasions when I went straight to Spotify to listen to the music he was writing about! The book is primarily a historical narative that follows the development of the Western musical scale from Pythagorus’s early theories to the adoption of equal temperament isaoff the beginning of the classical era.

But he does come around a bit at the end, being somewhat defensive of equal temperament, to mentioning a hypnotic just intonation performance. If I read before bed, I can’t put the book down, and I stay up half the night, then I’m super tired the next day.

I think I was projecting things I’d read in other books onto my expectations for this one.