Intonation, beyond affect in song

1.  Singing in tune is not easy.  To aspire towards long, sustained, beatless tones with the voice, moves the singing past personal expressiveness– the materiality of the infinite possibility of scales rises up in the voice.  Singing in tune is not easy.  Roughly 20 cents, 1/10 of an equal-tempered semitone, is the difference between a just Major Third and an equal-tempered one, yet the difference in clarity and consonance is like that between linear perspective and the actual functioning of the eye.  La Monte Young’s “Well-Tuned Piano” is an example of the difference in sound.

2.  The piano as we hear it, its 12 tones and chromatic scale, are fabrications of the industrial revolution.  Its tones are approximations of geometrically exact tunings and musical space.  Just tuning is an art–its scales are aesthetic choices, a choice of structure, an architecture of frequencies.  The equal-tempered piano was produced to make all musics exchangeable.  Qualitative difference of sound, and pitches, vanished.

3.   Neither Bach nor Beethoven composed on equal-tempered pianos.  We don’t hear their music in the concert hall.  Musical education, like all education, is in desperate need of reform.  Music should be studied within a geometric-spatial field, first.  Not as the reproduction of dissonance meant to naturalize untutored ears to equal-tempered scales.

4.  “Voyelles” by Rimbaud.  Even vowel-sounds have specific and qualitatively different timbres.  The study of sound-color as a poetic and literary art lays fallow, since sound is not considered in the most basic musical study as a material in itself.  Just scales, the first production of melodies, where intervals do not repeat, became rigidified in an unmusical, dissonant form so that each step, each key of the piano, would be exactly the same distance apart.


1 Response to “Intonation, beyond affect in song”

  1. 1 Luckycloud
    February 8, 2010 at 1:00 am

    This is true. I love LaMonte Young.

    I wish I had something more valuable to add, but here we are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

January 2010
« Dec   Feb »

%d bloggers like this: