9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music



Pierre-Yves Asselin

It is wished here to make the proposal of a mode of representation of musical pitches used in the practice of music so it can become easy to understand "musically", and not only in a theoretical or a mathematical way, the behavior of pitches in the occidental tonal concept.

Considering the degree of knowledge to which the practice of baroque music have come to in our days, the problem of the musical scale can be summarized in the fact of having to satisfy the three following basic points :

    1) the succession of 12 fifths should get to the octave (pythagorian coma);
    2) the succession of 3 major thirds should also get to the octave (enharmonic coma) and
    3) the succession of  4 fifts should get to an acceptable major third (synthonic coma).
The purpose will consist in creating a model allowing to understand the concept of tonality in a total global view; to facilitate this understanding, it is advantageous to analyze relation between chords not in terms of the degrees of a scale but in terms of relations of fifths and thirds between notes, thus putting the degrees of the scale as a result of the harmonic contexts.

The expression "natural intonation" should be used instead of "just intonation", showing the predominance of the ear on putting musical sounds together.

It is this capacity of the ear to permanently readjust the pitches that is at the base of the proposed mode of representation that will be presented and consisting in a "table of generation of musical pitches".

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Last updated on 18 April 2000 by Yo Tomita