Archive for January, 2009

tuning: overthinking inharmonicity

January 10, 2009

This is an expanded version of a comment I posted earlier this week on the hpschd-l. Anyone who wants to get into historical harpsichord tuning and never come out again ought to search the archives of that list. There’s several lifetimes worth of tuning wisdom and tuning folly to be found there. In this post, I discuss one randomly picked topic from tuning lore: the so-called inharmonicity of strings and what to do with it.

A very short popularized version of the theory says that in stiff or thick (or both) strings the partials are out of tune; thick, stiff strings act acoustically as a rod. Imagine a 1950s staircase and its iron handrails. The rods that attach them to the ground say (when one tried harping on them, which one wasn’t supposed to do) plink/plank/plaing/plunk/plong, but mostly “ploink”; the “oi” factor in this ploink indicates that something – in terms of a pure sound – isn’t as it ought to be. When tuning very thick foreshortened bass strings or the treble strings in a modern piano, we are facing palpable manifestations of this inharmonicity. Even in the strings of early keyboard instruments there is theoretically some inharmonicity. This wisdom works wonders for the fantasy of some insiders. (more…)

first CD production remembered

January 8, 2009

Yesterday I uploaded some samples from the completely remastered version of a CD that was issued in 1993 under the somewhat juvenile title Three harpsichords Seven composers (see here for the uploads). The idea of the original production, initiated by a friend who also provided the contacts, was to combine several harpsichordy instruments (a 2-manual French, a 5-octave 1-manual Italian and a pentagonal virginal) and a selection of suitable repertoire in a sampler fashion which he had seen and liked in a CD production with historical organs.

This disk has been sold out for years. Last year I bought the recording tapes, the master CD and the rights. My friend Erik Sikkema has now made a complete new edition from the selected takes.

Why all this effort, one could ask. Many musicians are actually not very interested in their old recordings – I would characterize my own interest in my early efforts as “mild” at best. But this production is different – it is my first solo CD. It is also different in that it came out of the editing process quite battered and bent. Here’s the story. (more…)


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