Topics in Music

Temperament & Pitch – The Basics
Alexander Weimann, Music Director of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra

Dear Music Lovers,

I am excited to share with you the first of a series of videos on various aspects of music making. As we cannot meet in the concert hall, this is meant to help us over the time being and to stay in contact. I miss not only performing for you, I also miss the conversations that happen at intermission or after the show, when some of you come on or behind stage and ask questions about our profession.

This series of explanatory videos is supposed to answer some of these questions, and over time we will touch many topics. For the beginning, I fearlessly picked something rather demanding and somewhat complicated: Historical temperaments and pitches. You may be aware that most of the time, the pitch we are playing at is different from the one normally used nowadays. So is the tuning system, and you may have heard of “Meantone”, or “Vallotti” or even “Well-Tempered” before, without really understanding what all of this means.

While it is really not totally easy to understand this topic, this video will explain to you the physical reality of sound, pitch and tuning, and how it all plays together in polyphonic music. Volume I will help you to comprehend the basics, and why tuning is an issue at all, and Volume II will lead you through a few historical examples of temperaments and pitches.

Thank you for watching and listening, and I am much looking forward to hearing from you: please ask questions and send your comments, so we can best meet your interests.

Cheers, AW