The following are Bol Processor + Csound interpretations of Bach’s Prelude 1 in C major (BWV 846) using scales constructed with meantone temperaments (Asselin 2000). Names and tuning procedures follow Asselin’s instructions (pages 67-126).
The construction of these scales is explained on page Microtonality.
➡ We hope to publish better sound demos after receiving a set of well-designed Csound instruments (“orc” files). This is an apology to harpsichord players and their designers!
Start listening to the piece in equal temperament which is the most common tuning of instruments in modern times:
The following are traditional meantone temperaments, each of which has been designed at a particular period in response to the constraints of musical repertoires en vogue (Asselin 2000 p. 139-180).
Comparing temperaments on a single piece is a very limited exercise aimed at highlighting differences in the various proposals and their adequacy to create a pleasant effect when listening to this particular piece.
In reality, Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (BWV 846–893) is a collection of two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys. To assess the validity of a tuning scheme it would therefore be necessary to listen to all pieces. Fortunately, there are clues to an optimal choice: Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg received information from Bach’s sons and pupils and Johann Kirnberger, one of those pupils, designed a tuning (Kirnberger II) which he claimed to represent his master’s idea of “well-tempered”.
Chapter VIII of Pierre-Yves Asselin’s book (2000 p. 139-180) contains examples of musical works highlighting the relevance of specific temperaments. Given that the scores of many (if not all) Baroque and classical masterpieces are available in digital format MusicXML, we may use Bol Processor’s Importing MusicXML scores to transcode them and play these excerpts with the suggested temperaments.
➡ Musicians interested in continuing this research may use Bol Processor BP3’s beta version to process musical works and create new tuning procedures. Follow instructions on page Bol Processor ‘BP3’ and its PHP interface to install BP3 and learn its basic operation. Download and install Csound from its distribution page.
Asselin, P.-Y. Musique et tempérament. Paris, 1985, republished in 2000: Jobert. Soon available in English.