Aktivitet: Foredrag og mundtlige bidrag › Konferenceoplæg
Temperament, intonation and extreme emotion
Today, most Western music is based on equal temperament: The equal spacing of the 12 pitches of the octave. However before the 20th century other tuning systems were widely used and in tuning history a lot of musicians, composers and instrument makers have described equal temperament as being “out of tune”, “bland” and “characterless”.
In this presentation I make the argument that tuning and intonation can be (and is) used as a means of creating emotion in music. I argue that equal temperament is in a sense characterless and much better suited for serial music and atonal music than for tonal music. When using non-equal temperaments and intonation on the other hand the character of harmonies and intervals have an expressive potential that can be used in trying to elicit certain
One short part of the presentation will focus on rigid tuning systems. Here the examples range from renaissance music to computer music and from the use of Pythagorean tuning to the tuning systems made possible by software. Another, larger, part of the presentation will focus on more fluid use of intonation and
tuning. Here the examples range from laid back jazz singers with low/flat intonation to punk groups playing with out-of-tune guitars. In these cases intonation and tuning is more intuitive instead of being based on a fixed system of exact frequencies of musical notes.
The presentation will only touch briefly on the mathematics of musical temperament. Instead the emphasis is on the expressive potentials of tuning and intonation. One main question is how tuning and intonation can support more extreme emotions, i.e. sorrow and despair, in Western music. Here the presentation will focus on the one man black metal band Xasthur and especially on the song “Trauma will always linger” and its use of tuning as an expressive
means of eliciting extreme notions of trauma, grief and despair.
Other examples include punk music and music from video games.
Several possible explanations for the relationship between temperament and emotion are offered and examined.