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Chapter Three Fretting Pattern Iconography

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

AT ITS SIMPLEST, “applied” iconography is “the study of historical depictions for their documentary content and value,” according to guitarist, university librarian, and iconographer Thomas Heck.1 M. A. Katritzky refines this definition even further: “performing-arts iconography focuses on effective ways in which information of significance to the history of the performing arts can be gained from visual material, in order to facilitate investigation of the history of the performing arts from a visual perspective.”2 For instruments with movable frets, the only visual evidence we have that shows rather than tells us how the frets were arranged is iconography such as paintings, drawings, and book illustrations.

Musical instruments appear in the fine art of earlier eras much more frequently than they do in our own for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that, in the absence of the entertainments facilitated by the stunning array of technology we enjoy today, playing musical instruments was much more a part of the daily lives of our ancestors than our own. Instruments also symbolized the sense of hearing, but also sensibility and sensuality in all their guises, and depending how they were depicted, musical instruments could represent a lively present, pleasures past, or even death itself as in the countless works in the vanitas tradition. The lute, for instance, is so ubiquitous in the iconography of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries not only because it was the most widespread instrument of its time but also for its iconic value as a symbol of sophistication and culture. It stood in for the ancient Greek lyre as the ideal instrument for the accompaniment of poetry and was associated with the privileged classes and the court. The lute’s high cost and the level of skill required to master its complexities further enhanced its value as a status symbol.3

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Part Two Conclusion

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

BY NOW YOU HAVE SEEN many examples that demonstrate how tuning systems are essentially compromises designed to make the best of the fact that it is impossible to generate a twelve-note scale that fits within an octave in which all intervals are pure. Tuning systems are, in broad strokes, negotiated solutions balancing serviceability in a variety of keys with heightened beauty in fewer key areas. Such decisions involve determining which areas are to be favored at the expense of others, but also which intervals are to be preferred over others, for instance, Pythagorean tuning’s choice of rendering the perfect fourths and fifths pure at the expense of the major thirds versus 1/4-comma meantone temperament’s selection of the opposite solution of narrowing the perfect fifths and widening the perfect fourths to gain a pure major third.

You are now well familiar with the natural acoustical discrepancies that make tuning systems necessary and compel us to choose one over another, but more important, you now know that you have many options available to you. Armed with an understanding of how tuning systems are constructed, you can weigh those options, considering their advantages and disadvantages relative to your current needs. And you have seen how tuning systems can be classified according to how they generally rearrange the sizes of their intervals to meet their goals, including irregular keyboard temperaments to which we occasionally must accommodate ourselves. You are now equipped to make your own decisions about tuning systems rather than having to rely on recent tradition or the well intentioned, but often misguided, advice about tuning systems that still prevails in many quarters. Having checked and rechecked the math yourself, you can discuss this subject with the confidence that your opinions are backed up with facts rather than myths.

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Chapter Six Physical and Environmental Factors

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

NOTHING WILL IMPROVE your ability to tune well more than changing your strings frequently and your frets more frequently. Nearly as important is how well you maintain your pegs and nut, followed by how you attach your strings. By understanding how your strings, frets, bridge, nut, and pegs impact your tuning, you can significantly reduce physical factors that can inadvertently inhibit accurate tuning.1 How you stop the strings at the frets can also dramatically influence the pitch that is actually produced. Through comprehension of the dynamics of this all-important interaction, discussed in this chapter under the umbrella topic of “sharpening” and throughout the remainder of this book, you can significantly improve your tuning. That you and your entire instrument are subjected to the atmosphere, humidity, and temperature also influences tuning stability while the instrument is at rest or being played. Since atmospheric conditions affect the various components of your instrument in different fashions, their effect will be considered within the discussions of strings, frets, attachment issues, and sharpening rather than separately.

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Chapter Nine Viols

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

TO A LUTENIST, the control the viol player has over every parameter of sound production is astonishing: its duration, its volume, and its tone quality throughout the length of the note, the connections between notes, and the tuning of each note. Most of the enhanced control of dynamics and articulation can be ascribed to the bow, but it is the left hand in concert with the bow that primarily accounts the viol player’s greater ability to tune more precisely once the frets have been set. To a large extent, on plucked instruments, assuming the finger is placed at the correct fret, the note is either good or bad, the latter resulting from either insufficient pressure to keep the string snugly against the fret to produce a clean sound or placing the finger either too far away from or too close to the fret, which produces a buzz or a thud, respectively. Viol players, on the other hand, can turn their use of the bow, stiffer strings, higher action, and preponderance of single note lines to their advantage to perform immediate fine-tuning adjustments as a note sounds.

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4. Ma Red’s Maneuvers: Popular Theater and “Progressive” Culture

David Afriyie Donkor Indiana University Press ePub

IN 1994, THE GHANA NATIONAL THEATRE embarked upon a project to revive the concert party, then a moribund, near-century-old form of popular theater rooted in Anansesεm. Concert party theater historically drew much of its patronage from the rural peasant classes and the urban underclass. The revival of this form, conducted in collaboration with the Ghana Concert Party Union, was therefore initially conceived as a means of stimulating the country’s populist traditions, consistent with the Nkrumahist ideal of African cultural revival and with the National Theatre’s public service mission as a state-owned enterprise. However, during the following year, the National Theatre underwent a significant reorganization as part of J. J. Rawlings’s neoliberal policy shifts. In a move that was strongly criticized as a vulgar commodification of Ghanaian heritage, the funding of the Theatre was partly divested to private commercial interests. The result was a growing sentiment that the government was abandoning its responsibility to develop and protect Ghana’s native culture. This dissatisfaction created a threat against the political legitimacy of the Rawlings-led regime—and specifically, against its co-option of Nkrumah’s community-oriented cultural vision.

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Chapter Two Surviving Fixed Metal-Fret Instruments

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

ONE OF THE STANDARD ENSEMBLES to emerge during the Renaissance was the popular Elizabethan “broken” consort, sometimes also referred to as a “mixed” consort, “lessons for the consort,” or, as Praetorius referred to it, an “English consort.”1 In the 1960s, the ensemble was resurrected in performances and recordings by the Julian Bream Consort and then later by the Musicians of Swanne Alley and the Baltimore Consort.2 It concerns us here because the instruments that constitute this standard ensemble are the violin or treble viol, recorder or transverse flute, lute, viola da gamba, cittern, and bandora (or pandora), sometimes with the addition of the voice. Segerman suggests that there is evidence that the orpharion was considered a suitable alternative to the bandora.3 The cittern and the lower-pitched bandora or orpharion combined to form a broad spectrum of wire-strung sound comparable to that of a virginal.4 In such a transparent texture, as a matter of practicality, the temperament of the two fixed metal-fret instruments that functioned as a unit must have determined the ensemble’s temperament to which the lute and viol, as well as the violin, flute, and voice, would be obliged to adhere as best they could.5

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Chapter Four Inside the Numbers: How Tuning Systems Work and Why We Need Them

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

WHAT IF YOU WERE TOLD that you had to fit thirteen full inches into one foot? In other words, you couldn’t simply divide 12 by 13 to arrive at .923 because 92.3 percent of an inch is less than a full inch. Nor could you fit ten full inches and then divide the remaining units by three: 2 ÷ 3 = .666 because again, you’d have three units less than a full inch. Thirteen inches simply cannot be jammed into one foot unless we are discussing shoe size. You can only fit thirteen inches into one foot if you redefine what constitutes an inch. If we pretend that an inch is now 92.3 percent of the size of the previous definition of an inch, we could do it. Or we could agree to preserve some units as full inches while reducing others to a smaller percentage of its true size as in the second example above. But we still cannot fit thirteen full inches into one foot. This is pretty much the situation with the musical scale. It is impossible to fit twelve semitones into an octave in such a manner that they or any other resulting intervals are all pure.

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Part Three Introduction

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

For the tuning of the lute one must be very exact; for as there is no perfect harmony in a family, in a city nor in a Commonwealth if there be not an union, a sympathy and good accord, likewise if the lute be not perfectly in tune it is impossible to play well; and instead of a sweet symphony we shall hear nothing but a rude and hurtful cacophony (that is, a disagreeing noise) which discredits the best hands, and turns the truest lessons into a vicious composition and full of faults, against the principles and rules of music. Now one cannot well tune his lute unless it be well strung and have good frets.

—Burwell Lute Tutor

NOW THE FUN BEGINS. After the there and then and this and that, part 3 focuses on the here and now. We now know how tuning systems work and recognize that the notion that fretted instruments were always tuned in equal temperament is at best an overly broad generalization. As usual, the situation on the ground is more complicated than it appears to be. In part 3 you will have the opportunity to apply the perspective and theoretical knowledge you’ve gained in parts 1 and 2 to immediately improve the quality of your tuning.

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Appendix 2: Equal Temperament Offset Charts

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

Cleartune and other tuning apps come equipped with a variety of preset temperaments; however, I get better results by creating my own version of the temperaments I regularly use. Tuning apps such as Cleartune provide users with the ability to create custom temperaments by inputting the difference in cents between each pitch you want and its corresponding value in equal temperament.1 Just like a normal cents chart, the size of the interval is determined from the starting pitch, which is preset to C. If the interval between the cents chart’s starting pitch and the pitch being set is wider than the corresponding ET pitch, the offset is a positive number. To create a fifth of 702c. rather than a 700c. (ET) fifth, you would enter 2 in the field next to G, since 702c. is 2c. wider than the corresponding ET value. If it is less, it is a negative number. For a 498c. fourth in the F field, you would enter –2, since 498c. is 2c. narrower than an ET fourth of 500c.

While it is easier to think of temperaments with cents charts starting on C, and Cleartune and other tuners begin their cents chart templates on C (with the exception of PitchLab), the cents chart from which you derive your values must start on A because we use A as our tuning standard.2 Otherwise, your A will diverge 2–3 Hz from the your pitch standard as represented in the A4 calibration box because the cents chart overrides the tuner’s A calibration, and some of the other pitches will be even farther off owing to the effect of compounding. This is easy enough to check for yourself by simply comparing the hertz figures for the same temperament with C as the 0 value and A as the 0 value. Just as everyone agrees that octaves must be pure, we also agree that, for better or worse, our As must agree, and we go from there. With one exception, wolves in the following charts are placed between the G♯ and E♭; however, you can place them wherever you like by recalculating the cents chart accordingly.

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3. Selling the President: Stand-Up Comedy and the Politricks of Endorsement

David Afriyie Donkor Indiana University Press ePub

ON MAY 11, 1995, a coalition of political opposition leaders in Ghana known as the Alliance for Change organized a demonstration they called Kum-me-preko (Kill me once and for all). The immediate cause of this protest was President Jerry Rawlings’s decision to implement a new 17.5 percent value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services. Rawlings enacted the new tax in an attempt to meet the requirements of Ghana’s “structural adjustment program”—a series of drastic policy changes mandated by debt-holding international finance institutions (IFIs). The VAT was intended to make up for the loss of revenues caused by the concurrent lowering of the corporate tax rate and the elimination of import and export tariffs. In effect, these tax reforms were designed to shift revenue burdens away from large-scale businesses and toward consumers, thereby creating a more inviting climate for private investment in Ghana.1 Unsurprisingly, the new tax policy immediately came under fire from labor unions and the general public for increasing the tax burden on the poor and in some cases catapulting the prices of goods and services out of the reach of ordinary citizens. The organizers of the Kum-me-preko protest called the VAT a “gruesome policy measure.”2

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Chapter One Historical Performance, Thought, and Perspective

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

FOLLOWING THE BAROQUE PENCHANT for categorization, in 1600 the noted music critic Giovanni Maria Artusi classified instruments into three orders:

1.Keyboard instruments tuned in unequal temperaments

2.Those such as the human voice, trombones, recorders, and so on, that could accommodate themselves to any temperament, equal or un

3.Fretted instruments that are restricted to equal temperament

He furthermore claimed that instruments of the first and third orders cannot play with each other and that those of the second can play with any of them, views that echo those stated by Nicola Vicentino in 1555 and Ercole Bottrigari in 1594.1 Since we know that fretted instruments regularly appeared with instruments from the other two orders in professional ensemble settings, it is both obvious and fortunate that professional lutenists and gambists either did not get the memo or, if they did, disregarded it. Innumerable paintings illustrating ensembles with both a keyboard and one or more lutes or viols hang in museums all over the world, but, more important, the finest composers continued to specify lutes and viols together with keyboards in their scores long before and after the period of Artusi’s writings.2

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Part Two Introduction

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

—Michel de Montaigne (Apology for Raymond Sebond)

FOR MORE THAN TWO THOUSAND YEARS, theorists and musicians have sought to discover or create a tuning system in which all the intervals contained within an octave are rendered pure. Until that Holy Grail is found, we must do our best to manipulate natural acoustical discrepancies into workable systems that best suit our needs. Every tuning system is a compromise between practicality and beauty; more of one results in less of the other. While theorists theorized, practicing musicians began to arrange the notes within their octaves empirically to suit their needs.

Our threshold for theory in the next two chapters is my assessment of what is minimally necessary for you to understand temperaments well enough to use them to your advantage; the bibliography lists many superb books on tuning systems should you wish to explore the theoretical foundations of tunings systems in greater depth.1

In order to manipulate temperaments to our benefit, we must understand how they work, especially on fretted instruments because theoretical principles inform how we arrange our frets. After these concepts are internalized, it is a relatively easy thing to marshal them to our advantage. Finally, as tedious as it may be, I strongly encourage you to redo and check the math I present here, for it is the only way to truly own this material for yourself.

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Chapter Eight Continuo

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

PERHAPS THE MOST COMMON OCCASION in which fretted instrument players must understand how meantone temperaments function is when realizing a bass line. Because continuo realization requires attention to the mi/fa identity of each chord tone, you must know your fingerboard thoroughly and mind your mis and fas. To be sure, this is an advanced skill but essential for archlute and theorbo players who hope to play in professional or high-caliber amateur ensembles.

Though there is no law against refingering to suit your needs, for intabulated solo and accompanied music such as lute songs, the realization of your chosen temperament is mostly a matter of prearranging the frets the best you can and working within and occasionally around those confines. While providing continuo, however, you have many more options because you can realize a bass line however you choose. Once the frets are set, your decisions pertain to where on the fingerboard you elect to realize the harmony at hand. Here is where your fingerboard knowledge earns its keep—there is simply no substitute for knowing where the notes are. If you do not already know where all the notes can be found for your particular open string tuning, I suggest that you memorize the standard mi/fa fret locations for instruments in G and A in meantone temperaments as shown in diagram 7.5. Be particularly conscious of the identity of the pitches at the 4th and 6th frets, but also their alternate mi/fa positions, as these are the frets you are most likely to have to move depending on the key you’re in. In both open string tunings, you will be best served by a tastino covering the 1st fret mi position on the lower three courses or a double or split fret, and in the case of instruments with a fretted seventh course, by a tastino that covers four courses to also provide a mi on the seventh course.

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2. Once upon a Spider: Ananse and the Counterhegemonic Trickster Ethos

David Afriyie Donkor Indiana University Press ePub

Poor painted Queen, vain flourish of my fortune,

Why strew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider

Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about?

Queen Margaret (to Queen Elizabeth) in Shakespeare’s Richard III

WHEN CONTEMPORARY GHANAIAN performers navigate the web of tensions among public needs, political pressures, and cultural traditions, they have a long-standing reservoir of counterhegemonic maneuvers to fall back upon. This chapter discusses the time-honored trickster ethos of Ghanaian folklore, which is centered around tales of the crafty spider-spirit Ananse. The folkloric stories reveal Ananse’s propensity for misdirection and “double maneuvers”—antics that can simultaneously confirm and undermine the sanctity of established beliefs, values, rules, and authorities. In an Ananse story, we are never quite sure if the trickster is endorsing the status quo or critiquing it. We will also see that Anansesεm (the practice of telling Ananse stories) is a tradition in which the trickster’s deceptive ethos is seen as a defining quality of performance itself. Ananse is not merely the topic of these stories; he becomes an integral part of the storyteller’s persona, and the trickster’s unreliable craftiness becomes a part of storyteller-audience interactions. In the spirit of Ananse, storytellers are seen as ambivalent and deceptive figures who appear to be undermining social mores, while endorsing them at the same time (and vice versa). Anansesεm practitioners thus often use their performances to challenge distinctions between what is true and false, what is real and imagined, and what is authoritative and questionable. This form of storytelling has long served as a counterhegemonic influence in West Africa and beyond, allowing performers to surreptitiously call into question the legitimacy of socially dominant groups and their ideologies. This chapter describes how Anansesεm practitioners maintain their agency in politicized performance spaces by obscuring the relationships among their stories, themselves, and their audiences—by cannily confusing the distinction between trickster representations and trickster embodiments.

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Part One Introduction

David Dolata Indiana University Press ePub

—Victor Coelho, Music and Science in the Age of Galileo

AND NOWHERE MORE THAN on the issue of temperaments on fretted instruments. The myth, of course, is that fretted instruments have always been restricted to equal temperament. One temperament and one temperament only, not even an “either/or.” But even “either/or” is antithetical to art, which welcomes multiple solutions to its challenges and diverse interpretations of its subject matter. In the Renaissance and Baroque eras as now, equal and unequal systems traveled together along parallel tracks, occasionally intersecting, but coexisting more or less peacefully outside the contentious realm of the professional theorists who oftentimes drew lines in the wet concrete, appropriating tuning systems as metaphors for a variety of worldviews regarding Nature and Art, God and Man, and so on, issues that went far beyond the concern of practical everyday musicians who were simply interested in making music sound as well as it could. It seems most likely that players of fretted instruments chose meantone or equal temperament according to their needs and abilities depending on the circumstances at hand.

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