Dr. Ross W. Duffin

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     There has been a tendency among modern writers to view Just intonation as impossible in Renaissance musical practice in spite of the overwhelming theoretical evidence in its support. This study has presented an alternative view, namely, that Renaissance performers would have preferred solutions that favor Just intonation wherever and whenever possible, and that deviations from it would have been momentary adjustments to individual intervals, rather than wholesale adoption of temperament schemes. This would have allowed them to follow the prevailing theoretical precepts of simple acoustical ratios as much as possible, while avoiding such pitfalls as progressive transposition, comma by comma, in passages with circles of fifths in overlapping sonorities. This conclusion is based on careful analysis and reintepretation of some of the most problematic passages that have been put forward to demonstrate the supposed impossibility of Just intonation.

     The Renaissance system of tuning for non-fixed instruments and voices (as well as the late-medieval system, for that matter), according to this new conclusion, was based on certain note placement tendencies within each of the modal centers. As a demonstration of that, and to provide practical examples for performers wishing to explore this approach, a series of highly chromatic Just Tuning Exercises in each of the modal centers has been provided in score and in sound, and the problematic passages within them discussed. These Exercises are intended for both private practice (using the sound versions) and rehearsal usage using the scores in an ensemble setting. They are proving to be effective in furthering the understanding and skill of performers in the use of Just intonation for Renaissance music.



Theoretical Background

Benedetti’s Puzzles

Problematic Passages

Is Just Tuning Possible?

A New Approach

The Exercises

    Problem Spots

    Rehearsal Usage



Page last modified: February 2, 2017