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1411Re:: Who uses sister strings (na comhluighe) in tuning their harp and...

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  • Joe Ennis
    Feb 5, 2015
      Good morning Cindy

      Yes to the Organ at St. Ann;s Church being tuned like other organs of its time, but things have changed all over, with space and time.

      Musicians usually do not consider that the pitch of music changes or that there has been more than one musical scale.  But it does.  The people that make music instruments are more sensitive to these changes.  If I make an instrument that does not reflect these changes, the musician just brings it back for refund and says: "it does not sound right".  

      The time that Bunting and Burney were writing was the time of the big change in musical scales.  It was also the time of J. S. Bach.  The Just scale was getting dis-credited, because it could not do the harmony that was in fashion at that time.  In the Just scale there are not sharps and flats, in the Just scale the pitch between each note is irregular, but the Just scale is also called the Pure or True scale, best for singing and sweetest.  The problem with the Just scale is that the pitch of its notes do not quite line up with their harmonics.  

      So to fix the Just scale, some Music Philosophers divided the scale into more than 8 and others into more than 12 steps ... there was one Dude, Patch, that divided what we know as an Octave (Latin for 8) into 43 steps (called the Patch 43 :-)  Then there were two other major schools of Music Philosophers one branch was the Mean Scale and the other branch was the Well Scale.    So the Music Philosophers spent over 100 years working (fighting and being rude to each other) out different scales and none of them were a very good fix to the Just scale.  Finally Neiper wrote his thesis on logarithms and finally the Music Philosophers had the math that they needed to make the Equal scale.  However, only in the Equal scale is a sharp the same pitch as its enhormonic  flat!  In the Mean and Well scale, one needs twice as many "black" keys on the keyboard :-)

      Now as late as the early twentieth century, the Music Philosophers could NOT agree on which pitch (frequency) to assign to each note.  We have the International Pitch for A as 440 and the Concert Pitch for the same A as 432.  This results in the pitch of every note in a scale being different between the two scales.  So if you tune your Harp to your Piano at Home that is tuned to the International A and then go to the concert to play and there the Piano is tuned to Concert Pitch, your Harp will sound a little sharp.

      So what I disagree with you on your prior post is: "Why would there be any doubt, then, that na comhluighe would be tuned to the Gs below middle C? Taking into account, of course, that our modern G strings might be tuned to a slightly different frequency than that common at Bunting's time? I really can't believe that the organ at St. Ann's would have been tuned to pitches radically different than other organs of its time: why would it be? Singers/choirs still had to produce the notes as written while singing with the organ. The physiognomy of the human vocal apparatus, and the resulting limitations in the tones it can produce, has not changed substantially in the past 200 years. 

      But let's say you're right and we can't make any assumptions about what specific frequency Bunting thought of as "G." What suggestions do you have about how a modern player should go about deciding what strings on his/her own harp to designate as na comhluighe? "

      My suggestion is: "that it really doesn't matter, so do not worry".  

      However; I had a tuning fork made to G = 196.0 Hertz and I use this tuning fork as my authoritarian source for tuning my  na comhluighe,   We can recover the scale and frequency of the Organ in St. Ann's Church when Bunting was the organist, others have already looked into this problem.  Also know that there was big arguments in Europe during this period as to what pitch (frequency) a certain note should be. And why should everyone not agree?  Religious differences! they just had the 30 year war, they could not even agree on what year it was. Further know that they did not have any way to measure frequency of sound during this period in time.  All the Music Philosophers could do was compare one note to another. The closest they had to frequency measuring test equipment involved revolving mirrors. They did know that sound was a vibration phenomenon and was waves, the Ancient Greeks knew this much. 

      Know that J. S. Bach was alive during this period and had some opinions on the Mean, Well and Equal music scales.  Bach did not like the Equal, he thought it un-necessary.  Bach even went to the trouble to write on front of his manuscript for the Well Tempered Clavier .. "DO NOT PLAY THIS IN EQUAL TEMPERAMENT";   well it does sound rather poor when played in Equal.


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