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re: good intonation--what is it anyway?

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  • Carl Lumma
    ... Dan, There are more than 35K messages on this topic archived at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tuning/ -Ca.
    Message 1 of 8 , Mar 1, 2002
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      >You know, I've often wondered while reading reviews and whatnot just
      >exactly what is meant by the often used phrase "good intonation"...
      >
      >To my mind it should be something like intonation that doesn't call
      >attention to itself in a negative or lackluster way. While I'm sure
      >that'll strike some as ridiculously ambiguous and subjective, it at
      >least solves most all the problems and answers most all the questions
      >that I'm interested in without limiting the options in any
      >way--sometimes that's as good as you're going to get!

      Dan,

      There are more than 35K messages on this topic archived at:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tuning/

      -Ca.
    • D.Stearns
      Carl, Well, only if I wrote them, or for some strange reason someone agreed with me... my point was that good intonation has nothing to do with tuning! I take
      Message 2 of 8 , Mar 1, 2002
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        Carl,

        Well, only if I wrote them, or for some strange reason someone agreed
        with me... my point was that good intonation has nothing to do with
        tuning! I take good intonation to be a dynamic, contextually derived
        thing having at least as much to do with the overall impact and
        delivery of the music as it would a given tuning or the performers'
        ear-physical control.


        take care,

        --Dan Stearns


        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Carl Lumma" <carl@...>
        To: <tuning@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Friday, March 01, 2002 12:04 AM
        Subject: [tuning] re: good intonation--what is it anyway?


        > >You know, I've often wondered while reading reviews and whatnot
        just
        > >exactly what is meant by the often used phrase "good intonation"...
        > >
        > >To my mind it should be something like intonation that doesn't call
        > >attention to itself in a negative or lackluster way. While I'm sure
        > >that'll strike some as ridiculously ambiguous and subjective, it at
        > >least solves most all the problems and answers most all the
        questions
        > >that I'm interested in without limiting the options in any
        > >way--sometimes that's as good as you're going to get!
        >
        > Dan,
        >
        > There are more than 35K messages on this topic archived at:
        > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tuning/
        >
        > -Ca.
        >
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      • robert_wendell
        Hi! I think it was Louie Armstrong who said something like: If you have to ask what jazz is, no one will ever be able to explain it to you. (I don t remember
        Message 3 of 8 , Mar 1, 2002
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          Hi! I think it was Louie Armstrong who said something like:

          If you have to ask what jazz is, no one will ever be able to explain
          it to you. (I don't remember the exact words, but this is the gist of
          it.)

          I would say the same statement applies to good intonation. In my
          experience, there are plenty of people, including many "musicians",
          who absolutely fail to detect its presence or absence and therefore
          lack the means to ever experience what it is. I find that those who
          DO know what it is have no trouble at all detecting its absence or
          presence and they immediately recognize each other.

          I am NOT referring here to esoteric tastes developed in the context
          of microtonality, such as a taste for very sharp thirds, etc. I'm
          talking common practice musicianship (he crosses himself in anxious
          anticipation of dreadful, vitriolic replies). I have found that in
          practice in that context, the only people who think it's all a matter
          of taste belong to the clueless group (deep breath).

          I would also say based on personal experience that some who know a
          lot more than common practice musicians about microtonality and
          alternative tunings, etc. do not themselves have a solidly musical
          ear. That is to say, they can't play or sing in tune as well as a
          good common practice musician. In my view, those people are wasting
          their time thinking about microtonality (he said, cringing and
          crossing himself again).





          --- In tuning@y..., "D.Stearns" <STEARNS@C...> wrote:
          > You know, I've often wondered while reading reviews and whatnot just
          > exactly what is meant by the often used phrase "good intonation"...
          >
          > To my mind it should be something like intonation that doesn't call
          > attention to itself in a negative or lackluster way. While I'm sure
          > that'll strike some as ridiculously ambiguous and subjective, it at
          > least solves most all the problems and answers most all the
          questions
          > that I'm interested in without limiting the options in any
          > way--sometimes that's as good as you're going to get!
          >
          >
          > take care,
          >
          > --Dan Stearns
        • paulerlich
          welcome back bob -- your voice has been sorely missed for some time now! ... with all due respect, bob, let s touch base with some of the musical masters for
          Message 4 of 8 , Mar 1, 2002
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            welcome back bob -- your voice has been sorely missed for some time
            now!

            --- In tuning@y..., "robert_wendell" <rwendell@c...> wrote:

            > I am NOT referring here to esoteric tastes developed in the context
            > of microtonality, such as a taste for very sharp thirds, etc.

            with all due respect, bob, let's touch base with some of the musical
            masters for whom a taste for major thirds wider than 400 cents
            defines 'good intonation'. we have classical string and wind players
            who have intentionally fostered this kind of 'expressive intonation'
            since about 1800. and we have the l. a. jazz choir, along with about
            two-thirds of the top-flight groups in their genre, demonstrating a
            clear and unwavering propensity for major thirds wider than 400 cents
            in the context of major triads. (our correspondent on this matter,
            gerald eskelin, has proven his skill as an all-around musician beyond
            any reasonable doubt, and his aural acuity is simply astounding.)
            neither of these represent 'the context of microtonality' by any
            stretch of the imagination!

            > I'm
            > talking common practice musicianship (he crosses himself in anxious
            > anticipation of dreadful, vitriolic replies). I have found that in
            > practice in that context, the only people who think it's all a
            matter
            > of taste belong to the clueless group (deep breath).

            this is incredibly similar to the sentiments expressed by gerald, and
            i'm sure the two of you share many convictions in common. but see
            above about the major third! if it's not a matter of taste, how can
            one explain the difference in opinion between two such 'clueful'
            parties?

            hoping we will approach one another with open minds and respect, as a
            tremendous opportunity for discovery stands before us at the present
            moment!

            -paul
          • Gerald Eskelin
            ... Wow! Do I *love* that, or what?!! Let me add my suspicion that acoustic small-number ratios play some part in providing a standard from which deviation
            Message 5 of 8 , Mar 1, 2002
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              On 3/1/02 5:51 AM, "tuning@yahoogroups.com" <tuning@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

              > Message: 3
              > Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 07:19:39 -0800
              > From: "D.Stearns" <STEARNS@...>
              > Subject: Re: re: good intonation--what is it anyway?
              >
              > Carl,
              >
              > Well, only if I wrote them, or for some strange reason someone agreed
              > with me... my point was that good intonation has nothing to do with
              > tuning! I take good intonation to be a dynamic, contextually derived
              > thing having at least as much to do with the overall impact and
              > delivery of the music as it would a given tuning or the performers'
              > ear-physical control.
              >
              >
              > take care,
              >
              > --Dan Stearns

              Wow! Do I *love* that, or what?!!

              Let me add my "suspicion" that acoustic small-number ratios play some part
              in providing a standard from which deviation becomes artistic "meaning." I
              have discussed this with a number of eastern music experts who also believe
              that the so-called "quarter tones" (thanks, Harvard Dictionary) of Indian
              ragas (for example) are simply expressive deviations.

              Am I sure? Hell, no. But then how else would we American recognize a "blue
              note" other than as a deviations from 4:5 or 5:6? God knows most of us don't
              know a 440 from a 435.

              Great definition, Dan. Pure poetry....but hooked to reality, I think.

              Gerald Eskelin
            • Gerald Eskelin
              ... Sir Robert, good to finally see your voice. My return to the list was prompted by Paul s suggestion that I get in on the wisdom from another choral guy.
              Message 6 of 8 , Mar 1, 2002
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                On 3/1/02 11:00 AM, "tuning@yahoogroups.com" <tuning@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

                > Message: 8
                > Date: Fri, 01 Mar 2002 15:52:11 -0000
                > From: "robert_wendell" <rwendell@...>
                > Subject: Re: good intonation--what is it anyway?

                Sir Robert, good to finally see your voice. My "return" to the list was
                prompted by Paul's suggestion that I get in on the wisdom from another
                choral guy. Alas, when I arrived you appeared to be gone. Good you meet you.
                >
                > Hi! I think it was Louie Armstrong who said something like:
                >
                > If you have to ask what jazz is, no one will ever be able to explain
                > it to you. (I don't remember the exact words, but this is the gist of
                > it.)

                Sure, I've quoted good ol' Louie on this point many times. But then there
                are lots of musicians--great one's--who haven't a clue about what they are
                doing. Unfortunately, many of them become teachers.
                >
                > I would say the same statement applies to good intonation. In my
                > experience, there are plenty of people, including many "musicians",
                > who absolutely fail to detect its presence or absence and therefore
                > lack the means to ever experience what it is. I find that those who
                > DO know what it is have no trouble at all detecting its absence or
                > presence and they immediately recognize each other.

                Does that include all of those choral directors out there who pound out
                "notes" on the piano in hopes that their choirs will "sing in tune"?
                >
                > I am NOT referring here to esoteric tastes developed in the context
                > of microtonality, such as a taste for very sharp thirds, etc. I'm
                > talking common practice musicianship (he crosses himself in anxious
                > anticipation of dreadful, vitriolic replies). I have found that in
                > practice in that context, the only people who think it's all a matter
                > of taste belong to the clueless group (deep breath).

                What about tastes for *slightly* sharp thirds developed in the context of
                normal everyday choral singing by people who never heard of microtonality?
                When I frequented this site many months ago, I entered believing that JI was
                the basis for all "good tuning." I left realizing that there are some
                mysteries to be explored. Is it merely taste? Probably not. Is it merely
                adjusting to "best" intervals. Obviously not. To some extent, we're all
                clueless regarding the complete truth about intonation. (Shall we just go
                join Louie? I prefer not.)
                >
                > I would also say based on personal experience that some who know a
                > lot more than common practice musicians about microtonality and
                > alternative tunings, etc. do not themselves have a solidly musical
                > ear. That is to say, they can't play or sing in tune as well as a
                > good common practice musician. In my view, those people are wasting
                > their time thinking about microtonality (he said, cringing and
                > crossing himself again).

                Don't you think that's a bit harsh, Bob (Is that okay to call you Bob?)
                What's the harm in fiddling with knobs until you find something you like?
                What's more, what's the harm in finding out what the knobs are doing? A lot
                of people who fiddled with a piano somehow worked through the mushy tuning
                and discovered "nature's way." The sad thing is that many don't even know
                what they did. It just sounded better that way. (Hi, Louie. Love it.)

                Gerald Eskelin
              • Carl Lumma
                ... Not sure quite what you mean... you seem to be equating performance values (things like phrasing and tempo, conceptual delivery) with intonation? Anywho,
                Message 7 of 8 , Mar 1, 2002
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                  >Well, only if I wrote them, or for some strange reason someone agreed
                  >with me... my point was that good intonation has nothing to do with
                  >tuning! I take good intonation to be a dynamic, contextually derived
                  >thing having at least as much to do with the overall impact and
                  >delivery of the music as it would a given tuning or the performers'
                  >ear-physical control.

                  Not sure quite what you mean... you seem to be equating performance
                  values (things like phrasing and tempo, conceptual delivery) with
                  intonation?

                  Anywho, for some reason I thought I was sending that to metatuning, so
                  the URL wasn't supposed to be quite as sassy as it probably appeared.

                  -Carl
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