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A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

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M.P. for North Devon, who was much in the habit
of travelling in Norway — was a pupil of Chopin,
and first came to England with his master in
1S48. He was in the habit of returning to this
country, had many pupils, and used to give con-
certs, at one of wliich he was assisted by Madame
Lind-Goldschmidt. He edited a collection of
Chopin's PF. works (Paris, Eichault), and was
interesting chiefly from his intimate connexion
with that remarkable composer and player,
though it can hardly be said that his playing
was a good representation of Chopin's. He died
at Paris in Oct. 1874. [G.]

TELL-TALE. A simple mechanical con-
trivance for giving information to an organ-
blower (and sometimes also to an organist) as
to the amount of wind contained in the bellows.
A piece of string is fixed by one end to the
top board of the bellows and carried over a pul-
ley ; a small metal weight is attached to the
other end of the string. As the bellows rise
the weight descends, as they sink the weight
ascends ; and the words ' Full' and ' Empty ' mark
the limits of the journey down and up. [J.S.]

TEMPERAMENT (Fr. Temperament; Ger.
Temperatur ; comp. Ital. temperare, to tune) is
the name given to various methods of T0NIXG,
in which certain of the consonant intervals,


chiefly the Fifth and Major Third, are inteif^'
tionally made more or less false or imperfeo
that is to say, either sharper or flatter
exact consonance would require. If, on the
tiary, all the consonant intervals are made
fectly smooth and pure, so as to give no B:
(see Appendix), the tuning is then called Jj

When a piece of music containing mi ^
change of key is executed in just intonation,! ^
find that the number of notes employed in e *
Octave is considerable, and that the differ* i'
of pitch between them is, in many cases, d 'I
paratively minute. Yet, however great >'
number of notes may be, and however sd '^
the intervals which separate them, all tl *'
notes can be correctly produced by the vol ''
as they may be derived from a few elemenl j!
intervals, namely the Octave, Fifth, M "'
Third, and Harmonic Seventh.* InstrunS ^
like the violin and the trombone are also t ^
able for the employment of just intonatui "'
because, in these cases, the player can moftfc
the pitch of each note at pleasure, being guidi' '
by his sense of key-relation. But it is othg
wise with instruments whose tones are
such as the pianoforte, organ, and harmoni|
Here the precise pitch of each note does
depend on the player, but is settled for
beforehand by the tuner. Hence, in these
struments, the number of notes per Octaw '*
limited, and cannot furnish all the varietij
pitch required in just intonation. A few s(
may, indeed, be tuned perfectly ; but if so,
tain notes which belong to other scales wiL,.-
missing. Compromise then becomes a medw "It
cal necessity; and it is found that by puMS'^'
most of the consonant intervals, except theO ''
tave, slightly out of tune, the number of not
required in modulation may be considerably!
duced, without too much offence to the U
This mode of tuning is called TempeeaihI
and is now usually applied to all instrunui
with fixed tones. And although voices, vioKl
and trombones naturally have no need of tti
perament, they must all conform to the intoijf
tion of any tempered instrument which is plaj j,
in concert with them.

We shall omit from the present article all
ferenoe to the arithmetical treatment of tempe
ment, and simply deal with its physical (
audible effects. We shall describe the iriei
by which any student may obtain for hilM
a practical knowledge of the subject, and pb
out some of the conclusions to which such kno
ledge will probably lead him.^ The first 8
most important thing is to learn by experience'
effect of temperament on the quality of moB
chords. To carry out this study properly it is

1 Some theorists exclade the Harmonic Seventh from the II
elementary intervals, but it is often lieanl in unaccompanied i
harmony. See below, p. 77 a.

2 Those who wish to study the subject more in detail maycOMO
(1) Bosanqiiet. ' Elementary Treatise on Musical Intervals aDdl
perament' (Macmillan): (2) Helmholtz. 'Sensations of Tone.'e
ters xiv. to xvii, ; and Ellis's Appendix xix. sections A to G, tabte
vi.: (3i Perronet Thompson. "On the Trinciples and PractlceOi
Intonation': (4) Woolhouse, ' Essjy on Musical laterTals."


iry to have an instrument which is capable of
lucing all the combinations of notes used in
laouy, of sustaining the sound as long as may
eaired, and of distinguishing clearly between
and tempered intonation. These conditions
Qot fulfilled by the pianoforte ; for, owing to
soft quality of its tones, and the quickness
I which they die away, it does not make the
:ts of temperament acutely felt. The organ
ore useful for the purpose, since its full and
[lined tones, especially in the reed stops, en-
; the ear to perceive differences of tuning
li greater facility. The harmonium is superior
; to the organ for illustrating errors of in-
[tion, being less troublesome to tune and less
I e to alter in pitch from variation of tempera-
I or lapse of time.

ly playing a few chords on an ordinary liar-
lium and listening carefully to the effect, the
ient will perceive that in the usual mode of
jng, called Equal Temperament, only one
|onant interval has a smooth and continuous
i.d, namely the Octave. All the others are in-
lipted by heats, that is to say, by regularly
|rring throbs or pulsations, which mark the
ation from exact consonance. For example,
[Fifth and Fourth, as at {x), are each made
live about one beat per second. This error
|t slight as to be hardly worth notice, but in
Thirds and Sixths the case is very different.
I Major Third, as at («/), gives nearly twelve
I s per second : these are rather strong and dis-
|b, and become still harsher if the interval
jctended to a Tenth or a Seventeenth. The
I or Sixth, as at (z), gives about ten beats per
|ad, which are so violent, that this interval
J3 tempered form barely escapes being reckoned
1 dissonance.
1 W (y) (0





Jhe Difference-Tones resulting from these tem-
i d chords are also thrown very much out of
li, and, even when too far apart to beat, still
lluce a disagreeable effect, especially on the
l.n and the harmonium. [Resultant Tones.]
! degree of harshness arising from this source
es with the distribution of the notes ; the
st results being produced by chords of the
>wing types —

^~^— -

1 p-^ \

y playing these examples, the student will
,un some idea of the alteration which chords

ergo in equal temperament. To understand
t aoroughly, he should try the following simple
leriment. 'Take an ordinary harmonium and
fe two chords perfect on it. One is scarcely
jugh for comparison. To tune the triad of
j.ajor, first raise the G a very little, by scraping
! end of the reed, till the Fifth, C— G, is dead
ijtune. Then flatten the Third E, by scraping

the shank, till the triad C — E — G is dead in
tune. Then flatten F till F— C is perfect, and
A till F — A — C is perfect. The notes used are
easily restored by tuning to their Octaves.
The pure chords obtained by the above process
offer a remarkable contrast to any other chords
on the instrument.'^ It is only by making one-
self practically familiar with these facts, that the
nature of temperament can be clearly understood,
and its effects in the orchestra or in accompanied
singing, properly appreciated.

Against its defects, equal temperament has
one great advantage which specially adapts it to
instruments with fixed tones, namely its extreme
simplicity from a mechanical point of view. It
is the only system of tuning which is complete
with twelve notes to the Octave. This result is
obtained in the foUowitig manner. If we start
from any note on the keyboard (say Gb), and
proceed along a series of twelve (tempered) Fifths
upwards and seven Octaves downwards, thus —

I 2 3 4 s 6

J,— .J ,-^^


^^ -






we come to a note (FjS) identical with our original
one (Gb). But this identity is only arrived at
by each Fifth being tuned somewhat too flat for
exact consonance. If, on the contrary, the Fifths
were tuned perfect, the last note of the series
(Fj) would be sharper than the first note (Gb)
by a small interval called the 'Comma of Pytha-
goras,' which is about one-quarter of a Semitone.
Hence in equal temperament, each Fifth ought
to be made flat by one-twelfth of this Comma;
but it is extremely difficult to accomplish this
practically, and the error is always found to be
greater in some Fifths than in others. If the
theoretic conditions which the name ' equal
temperament' implies, could be realised in the
tuning of instruments, the Octave would be
equally divided into twelve Semitones, six Tones,
or three Major Thirds. Perfect accuracy, in-
deed, is impossible even with the best-trained
ears, but the following rule, given by Mr. Ellis,
is much less variable in its results than the or-
dinary process of guesswork. It is this : — ' make
all the Fifths which lie entirely within the
Octave middle e' to treble c" beat once per second ;
and make those which have their upper notes
above treble c" beat three times in two seconds.
Keeping the Fifth treble /' and treble c" to the
last, it should beat once in between one and two
seconds.' ' In ordinary practice, however, much
rougher approximations are found sufficient.

The present system of tuning, by equal tem-
perament, was introduced into England at a
comparatively recent date. In 1^54 organs

> Eosanquet, ' Temperament,' p. 6.

2 Ibid. p. 5.



built and tuned by this method were sent out
for the first time by Messrs, Gray & Davison,
Walker, and Willis. 1854 is therefore the date
of its definite adoption as the trade usage in
England. There was no equally tempered organ
of English make in the Great Exhibition of 1 85 1 ;
and before that time the present system appears
to have been only used in a few isolated cases,
as in the organ of S. Nicholas, Newcastle-upon-
Tyne, which was retuned in 1842. For the
pianoforte equal temperament came into use
somewhat earKer than for the organ. It was
introduced into the works of Messrs. Broad-
wood about 1846. In France tlie change had
already taken place, for M. Aristide Cavaille-
Coll states that since 1835 he has consistently
laboured to carry out the equal principle in the
tuning of his organs.* What little is known of
the history of temperament in Germany, seems
to show that the new tuning was employed there
at a still earlier date, but there are reasons for
believing that equally tuned organs had not
become general even as late as the time of Mozart
(died 1 791). Emanuel Bach seems to have been
the first musician who advocated in a prominent
manner the adoption of equal temperament,
whence we may infer that it was unusual in
his day.^ His father is also said to have en-
ployed this system on his own clavichord and
harpsichord : but even his authority was not
sufficient to recommend it to his contemporar}'
Silbermann, the famous organ-builder (16S3-
1753)- J^Q earlier builder, Schnitger, is said to
have used something approaching it in the organ
built by him about 1688-93, in the S. Jacobi
Church at Hamburg. Before that time the sys-
tem appears to have had hardly more than a
theoretic existence in Europe.^

The mode of tuning which prevailed before
the introduction of equal temperament, is called
the Meantone System.* It has hardly yet died
out in England, for it may stiU be heard on
a few organs in country churches. According
to Don B. Yniguez, organist of Seville Cathedral,
the meantone system is generally maintained on
Spanish organs, even at the present day.^ Till
about a century ago, this tuning, or a closely
allied variety, was almost universally employed,
both in England and on the Continent. It was
invented by the Spanish musician Salinas, who
was born at Burgos in 15 13, lived for many
years in Italy, and died at Salamanca in 1590.^
On account of its historical interest, as well as
its intrinsic merits, the meantone system requires
a short explanation. It will be convenient to
take equal temperament as the standard of com-
parison, and to measure the meantone intervals
by the number of equal Semitones they contain.

1 Ellis, in • Nature ' for Aug. 8, 1878, p. S'S.

' 0. F. E. Bach, ' Versuch uber die wahre Art das Clavier zu
splelen, Elnleilung, sect. 14 ; published 1753.

3 Ellis, ' History of Musical Pitch,' in Journal of Society of Arts,
Jlarch 5 and April 2, 18«o, and Jan. 7, 18x1. From these valuable
papers many of the facts given in the t€.\t have been derived.

'• Othervtise Mesotonic ; so called in this tuning the Tone
is a meoii between the Major and the Minor Tones of Just Intonation ;
or half a Major Third. Seep. 79 6.

' The invention of this tpmperameut ha,s also been attributed to
Z&rliuo and tu Guido d'Arezzu.


The relations of the two systems may therefon '^
be described as follows.

If we start from say D on the keyboaa^ "'
and proceed along a series of four equal temper^ ^
ment Fifths upwards and two Octaves dowm
wards, thus —


we arrive at a note (Fj{) which we employ at "^
the Major Third of our original note (D). Thif ':
tempered interval (D — Fj) is too sharp for » ''■
act consonance by nearly one-seventh of a Sen i *
tone ; but if we make these Fifths flatter thi f"'
they would be in equal temperament, then i '■ '"
interval D — FjJ will approach the perfect Ma; \ ^
Third. We may thus obtain a number of systa •"
of tuning according to the precise amount i '*
flattening we choose to assign to the Fifth. I '"''
this class the most important is the Meantq *'
System, which is tuned according to the followi ^
rule. First, make the Major Third (say D — B ''■
perfect; then make all the intermediate Fift "■
(D— A— E— B-FJ) equally flat by trial. Afl ™
a little practice this can be done by mere estin '^
tion of the ear ; but if very accurate results I '".'
desired, the following method may be used. ( ^
set of tuning forks should be made (say at Fren *''
pitch) giving c' = 260-2, cf = 389-1, d' = 290^ <'
a'= 435 vibrations per second. The notes c', j| *
d', a', of the instrument should be tuned in unisoQ ""
with the forks, and all other notes can be clt- *'^
tained by perfect Major Thirds and perfe^ i^
Octaves above or below these. << !^

There is one difficulty connected with the qp ^
of the meantone system, namely that it requi
more than twelve notes to the Octave, in
to enable the player to modulate into any giw
key. This arises from the nature of the systi
for as twelve meantone Fifths fall short of se'
Octaves, the same sound cannot serve both
Gb and for Fj. Hence if we tune the following 'C'
series of meantone Fifths *■

Eb-Bb-F-C-G-D-A-E-B-Fjf-Cjf-Gj ''
on the piano, or on any other instrument witkl'*i'i
twelve notes to the Octave, we shall have ovS^W^
six Major scales (Bb, F, C, G, D, A), and thredlia
Minor scales (G, D, A). When the remoter keyijiia!
are required, the player has to strike Gj instead *''
of Ab, or Eb instead of Dj, producing an intoler- '
able efiect. For in the meantone system the in- ^
terval Gj — Eb is sharper than the "perfect Fifth ♦-
by nearly one-third of a Semitone, and the four ; -
intervals B— Eb, Fj— Bb, CJ— F, Gj— C, aw <'.:
each sharper than the perfect Major Third by ft
more than three-fifths of a Semitone. Thei*«.,
extreme roughness of these chords caused them '«*
to be compared to the howling of wolves.
[Wolf.] _ ^

To get rid of the ' wolves ' many plans wep
tried. For instance, the Gj was sometimes raised
till it stood half-way between G and A ; but the
result was unsatisfactory, for the error thus
avoided in one place had to be distributed else-


sre. This was called the method of Unequal

nperament, in which the notes played by the

ite keys were left in the meantone system,

ile the error was accumulated on those played

the black keys. The more usual scales were

s kept tolerably in tune, while the remote

s were all more or less false. Such a malce-

't as this could not be expected to succeeJ,

I the only purpose it served was to prepare

way for the adoption of equal temperament.

!'he meantone system is sometimes described

m 'unequal temperament,' but wrongly, since

it the so-called ' good keys ' are all equally

d ; the ' bad keys ' are simply those for which

necessary notes do not exist when the system

imited to twelve notes per Octave. The de-

therefore lies not in the system itself, but in

application, and the only legitimate remedy

1 increase the number of notes, and so pro-

:'. a more extended series of Fifths. This was

I understood from the first, for we lind that

jarly as the i6th century many organs were

tructed with extra notes.^ Salinas tells us

he had himself played on one in the Domi-

Monastery of Santa Maria Novella at

ence. Similar improvements were attempted

gland. In the deed of sale of the organ

by Father Smith in 1682-3 for the Temple

rch, London, special mention is made of the

tional notes, which were played in the fol-

Qg manner : — two of the black keys were

led crosswise ; the front halves, which were

usual height, playing G J and Eb ; the back

which rose above them, A b and Dj. About

this organ was tuned for the first time

jual temperament, but the extra keys were

■emoved till 1878. The same method was

fied in designing another organ of Father

h's, which was built for Durham Cathedral

'84-5, although the additional notes do not

ir to have been actually supplied till 1691.^

fferent but equally ingenious plan of con-

ag the extra notes was used in the organ of

'oundling Hospital, London.^ Here the key-

l was of the ordinary fonn, without any

keys ; but by means of a special mechanism

idditional notes, Db, Ab, DJ, Af, could be

tuted at pleasure for Cjf, Gjf, Eb, Bb of the

series. Close to the draw-stops on either

.here was a handle or lever working in a

mtal cutting, and having three places of

When both handles were in the mid

on, the series of notes was the same as on

linary instrument, namely

b-Bb-F-C-G-D-A-E-B-Fj-Cj-Gj! ;

hen the handles on both sides were moved

outward direction, the Eb and Bb pipes

■ihut off, and the Dj and Ajf were brought

peration. The use of tiiis mechanism M'as

ixtra notes were sometimes called ' Quartertones,' not a very
name, since a Quartertone is not a sounil. but an interval,
Semitone Is not divided equally in the meantone system.
ol. il. p. 593, note.

history of this instrtiraent has been carefully Investigated
.lexander J. Ellis, F.K.S. The facts given in the text were
by him from a SIS. note-book made bv Mr. Leffier (died
Sanist of S. Katherine's (then by the Tower), aud lather of
ii WiLLUM Lefflek. [See vol. ii. p. 112.]



afterwards misunderstood ; the levers were nailed
up for many years, and at last removed in 1848;
but the tuning remained unaltered till 1855,
when the organ itself was removed and a new
one built in its place. The history of the old
organ just described is of special interest, as
bearing on Handel's position with reference to
the question of temperament. Unfortunately all
that we can now ascertain on the subject amounts
to this : — that Handel presented an organ to the
Hospital ; that he performed on it at the opening
ceremony on May i, 1750 ;* and that it was still
in existence in 1785.^ We first hear of the extra
notes in 1 799,® but there is nothing to show that
they did not belong to the original instrument
given by Handel half a century before. Assuming
this to have been the case, it would tend to show
that the great composer was not in favour of
abolishing the meantone system, but of remedy-
ing the defective form in which it was then
employed. His example, and that of Father
Smith, found few imitators, and those who did
attempt to solve the problem seem often to have
misunderstood its nature.'' The difficulty how-
ever could not be shirked ; for the development
of modern music brought the remote keys more
and more into common use ; and as instruments
continued to be made with only twelve notes per
Octave, the only possible way to get rid of the
' wolves ' was to adopt equal temperament.

The long contest between the different systems
of tuning having practically come to an end, we
are in a position to estimate what we have gained
or lost by the change. The chief advantage of
equal temperament is that it provides keyed in-
struments with unlimited facility of modulation,
and places them, in this respect, more on a level
with the voice, violin antl trombone. It has
thus assisted in the formation of a style of com-
position and execution suited to the pianoforte.
It is the only system of intonation which, in
concerted music, can be produced with the same
degree of accuracy on every kind of instrument.
Its deviations from exact consonance, though
considerable, can be concealed by means of unsus-
tained harmony, rapid movement, and soft quality
of tone, so that many ears never perceive them.
By constantly listening to the equally tempered
scale, the ear may be brought not only to tolerate
its intervals, but to prefer them to those of any
otlier system, at least as far as melody is con-
cerned. It has proved capable of being applied
even to music of a high order, and its adoption

4 Brownlow, ' History and Objects of the Foundling Hospital," p. 78.

5 Burney, ' Sketch of the life of Uaudel,' p. 28, prefl-ted to ' Account
of the Commemoration.'

6 See remarks by an anonymous writer In ' The European Maga-
zine,' for Feb. 1799. who, however, states (l)that the organ with extra
note's was not given by Handel, and (2) that it was built under the
direction of Dr. Kobert Smith, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
The contradiction between this writer and Burney might be removed
by supposing that a new instrument was built between 1785 and 1799 :
but of this we have no record. If the extra notes were designed by
Dr. Sn?ith, it must have been before 1768, as he died in that year,
aged 79- In 1762 he had published a ' Postscript ' to his treatise on
* Harmonics,* recommending an arrangement of stops by which a
meantone series of nineteen notes to the Octave (D'r> to FJ{j() could
be played with the ordinary keyboard. He had this plan carried
out in a harpsichord constructed by Kirkraan.

^ See account of Renatus Harris's invention, Hopkins, 'The Organ
I in KimbauU's ' History of the Organ,' pp. 121, 122.



m.ay be considered an artistic success. From a
commercial point of view, the change has been
highly advantageous. It has enabled the maker
of the pianoforte or the organ to obviate a
Berious imperfection without distui'bing the tra-
ditional structure of the instrument; while, on
the other hand, alterations both in the internal
mechanism and in the form of keyboard would
have been necessary if musicians had insisted
that the ' wolves ' should be got rid of without
abolishing the old tuning. Trade usage will,
therefore, be strongly on the side of equal tem-
perament for a long time to come, and any at-
tempt to recover the meantone system can only
be made on a small scale, and for special pur-
poses. Still, as many writers have pointed out,
Buch a limited restoration would be useful. It
would enable us to hear the music of the earlier
composers as they heard it themselves. The
ecclesiastical compositions of Bach, and all the
works of Handel and his predecessors as far back
as the 1 6th century, were written for the mean-
tone system. By performing them in equal tem-
perament we fail to realise the original intention.
This would not be matter for regret if the old
music were improved by our alteration; but such
is certainly not the case. The tuning in which
the old composers worked is far more harmonious
than that which has replaced it. This much is
generally admitted even by those who do notfavour
any attempt to restore the meantone system.
They sometimes appeal to the authority of Se-
bastian Bach, and quote his approval of equal
temperament as a reason why no other tuning
should be used. But in reality very little is cer-
tainly known of Bach's relations to the subject.
We are told that he was accustomed to tune his

Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 17 of 194)