Re: Western world tunning?

Subject: Re: Western world tunning?
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Fri Jun 18 2004 - 14:13:24 EDT

And you may wish to search out "Tableau comparatif des intervalles
musicaux" (1958) by Alain Danielou which lists over 4,000 intervals
wih a very brief description. There is also "A Table Relating
Frequency to Cents" (1939 / 1952) by R W Young (Elkhart, Indiana:



Fred Lieberman

A search for Danielou, will produce interesting results too.

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At 18:59 +0100 2004/06/18, Richard Wentk wrote:
>At 10:14 18/06/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>>Somebody recently asked me why the western world divides up our
>>octave into twelve portions? I began to research on the web only
>>to find that the majority of files basically said "Its just because
>>it is" or they over estimated my vocabulary skills (mesuring the
>>interval in Cents?).
>>I was wondering if anyone could tell me, or point me in the right
>>direction of information:
>>-why it is divided into 12 semitones,
>The idea that there are 12 equidistant semitones with absolute
>defined frequencies is only really true for keyboard instruments.
>Most singers and non-keyboard instrumentalists will more or less
>consciously vary intonation according to context, so the intervals
>are really rather fuzzy things. (Except on digital synthesizers.)
>It's not even true for pianos, because stretch tuning means the
>octaves aren't perfect.
>>-why do different parts of the world have more intervals in an octave...
>If your music is based on the harmonic series there are only certain
>divisions of the octave that produce intervals that relate to the
>series. In theory there's no reason not to use other divisions like
>17 or 23 or any number you can think of. But the trade off is
>between controllability and overtone accuracy. Given fingers and
>hands of a certain width and a desire to tune to harmonic intervals,
>twelve works as a good compromise.
>If you take away the harmonic requirement, as some cultures do, you
>end up with very different scales. I've seen it suggested that in
>something like Balinese gamelan the intervals are based on the
>non-harmonic partial series made by the gongs they play - but I
>haven't checked this in detail.

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