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Temperament How Music Became a Battlegroby Stuart Isacoff
Synopses & Reviews
Few music lovers realize that the arrangement of notes on todays pianos was once regarded as a crime against God and nature, or that such legendary thinkers as Pythagoras, Plato, da Vinci, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Newton and Rousseau played a role in the controversy. Indeed, from the time of the Ancient Greeks through the eras of Renaissance scientists and Enlightenment philosophers, the relationship between the notes of the musical scale was seen as a key to the very nature of the universe.
In this engaging and accessible account, Stuart Isacoff leads us through the battles over that scale, placing them in the context of quarrels in the worlds of art, philosophy, religion, politics and science. 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. 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 this accessible and engaging book Stuart Isacoff applies his musical expertise and great erudition to one of the most fascinating stories in the history of Western culture.
Equal-temperament tuning — in which each of the twelve tones of the scale is equidistant from the next — has made much of the exquisite music composed in the last two hundred years possible. Yet its acceptance as the standard was not easily achieved. It provoked a contentious and bitter debate that spanned centuries and engaged everyone from popes and heads of state to scientists and philosophers, including Pythagoras, Euclid and Newton, as well as Descartes and Rousseau. Temperament is an indispensable chronicle of this struggle over the way music is made, and a refreshingly well-written book that will entertain novice and expert alike.
Featuring a new Afterword, this narrative explores the reinvention of the piano--a story that encompasses social history, religion, philosophy, and science as well as musicology--in a concise and sparkling narrative. 45 illustrations.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 255-267) and index.
About the Author
Stuart Isacoff is a pianist, composer and writer, and the founding editor of the magazine Piano Today. A winner of the prestigious ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music, he is a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and many music periodicals. Mr. Isacoff is a featured lecturer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where his series is entitled “The Language Of Music.” He has given lectures and piano performances at many venues here and abroad, including The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, The Verbier Festival and Academy, The Gina Bachauer Foundation, The Miami Piano Festival, The Portland Piano Festival, The Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, the Juilliard School, Sarah Lawrence, Cal Arts, and Harvard University, and at such scientific institutions and conferences as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Bradbury Science Museum, the Sarzana (Italy) Festival of Mind and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His work in interdisciplinary studies has also brought him to such venues as the Vero Beach Museum of Art, where he lectured on links between kinetic art and music.Mr. Isacoff teaches a graduate course in the philosophy of music and an undergraduate survey in the history of Western music at the Purchase College Conservatory of Music (SUNY), and a course in the art of writing at St. Johns University. He has also taught musical improvisation at William Paterson University and at festivals around the world. His written works include jazz-influenced compositions and instructional materials, published by Boosey & Hawkes, G. Schirmer, Warner Bros. Publications, Carl Fischer, and Ekay Music, Inc. His piano recitals often combine classical repertoire with jazz improvisation, demonstrating the threads that connect musical works created centuries and continents apart.
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