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Bach and Tuning


Johnny Reinhard

Bach and Tuning is strictly concerned with the identification of a historically accurate tuning paradigm that applies to the great majority of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. Once Bach has his personal tuning aesthetic acknowledged, a new dimension of meaning is invoked in performance through the intended interplay of diverse musical intervals. This new narrative lays bare Bach’s mental calculations regarding his idealized intonation. Bach, the true chromatic composer of the Baroque, was the scion of a great music family. Likewise, Andreas Werckmeister was the bright star in a neighboring musical family, only a generation earlier. Bach and Tuning connects the valuable tuning contribution made by Werckmeister to Bach’s musical masterpieces.

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Chapter 4: Baroque Fine Tuning


Reduction of Werckmeister’s copperplate monochord from Musicalische Temperatur (1691)

Andreas Werckmeister intended Musicalische Temperatur, or “Musical Temperament,” as a further exploration of the comments on temperament made in his book on organ construction. Essentially, music, as Andreas Werckmeister experienced it, needed a refurbishing, based on new conditions expected by certain progressive composers (unnamed, but clearly intended to include members of the Bach family). To that end, Werckmeister designed a copperplate reproduction of six distinctive tunings. The ordering of the monochord tunings was the source for their names. Werckmeister wrote:

In order that he may acquaint himself better with that, we have especially numbered each one on the copperplate, as number one is a pure scale in which one can have by the addition of subsemitones, from one pitch to the other, all pure intervals from which one can see how widely one consonance or dissonance differs from the other and how the temperaments can be set up. Number II is the incorrect temperament where all fifths are tempered quarter comma. Number III is a correct temperament which is divided equally through quarter comma, since ← 255 | 256 → some fifths are pure, some fourths are raised quarter comma, and some fifths are tempered lower by a quarter comma.

Number IV is a temperament which is also contained in the Orgel-Probe and is subdivided through 1/3 comma. Number V still is an additional temperament, subdivided by a quarter comma. After this, Number VI...

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