Dr. Ross W. Duffin

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MUHI 3/442: Seminar in Performance Practice

MUHI 3/442: Seminar in Performance Practice

Tuning and Temperament

Dr. Ross W. Duffin

Spring, 2017

This is a seminar on historical tuning systems. The basic premise is that although Equal Temperament (ET) is virtually the only tuning system known and used by most musicians today, most people don’t understand it, much less the many other systems that were preferred by musicians throughout history.

The main aims of the course will be as follows:

  • to familiarize students with the acoustics of music.
  • to familiarize students with the historical background to tuning in western classical music.
  • to create an understanding of acoustical principles and problems of historical tuning systems both for keyboard instruments and for winds, fretted instruments, strings, voices, etc.
  • to work intensively with selected systems in order to better understand their advantages and disadvantages and appropriateness for different repertoires and specific works.
  • to learn to tune according to historical principles.

These goals will be accomplished in part by reading literature on the subject of tuning and temperament, including the required text for the course, Dr. Duffin’s How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (And Why You Should Care) (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), as well as other writings by Dr. Duffin and by such authors as Owen Jorgensen, Mark Lindley, Bruce Haynes, and Bradley Lehman.  These will made available through Blackboard as the semester proceeds. Fretted instrument players, in addition, are urged to purchase David Dolata’s Meantone Temperaments on Lutes & Viols (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016). And all students should consider one of the several smartphone apps available for tuning. These will be introduced in class at the beginning of the semester.

Class sessions will focus on the readings and then explore the practical implications of the material. CWRU Undergraduates in the music SAGES program and PhD students will be required to write a research paper. Everyone will be assigned a project for presentation to the class during the last few sessions.

Grading will be based on the quality of in-class work and assignments (30%), an in-class test (30%), and project presentations (40%).



Page last modified: February 15, 2017