The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician

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University of Illinois Press, Sep 16, 2019 - Music - 296 pages
"Tuning is the secret lens through which the history of music falls into focus," says Kyle Gann. Yet in Western circles, no other musical issue is so ignored, so taken for granted, so shoved into the corners of musical discourse.

A classroom essential and an invaluable reference, The Arithmetic of Listening offers beginners the grounding in music theory necessary to find their own way into microtonality and the places it may take them. Moving from ancient Greece to the present, Kyle Gann delves into the infinite tunings available to any musician who feels straitjacketed by obedience to standardized Western European tuning. He introduces the concept of the harmonic series and demonstrates its relationship to equal-tempered and well-tempered tuning. He also explores recent experimental tuning models that exploit smaller intervals between pitches to create new sounds and harmonies.

Systematic and accessible, The Arithmetic of Listening provides a much-needed primer for the wide range of tuning systems that have informed Western music.

Audio examples demonstrating the musical ideas in The Arithmetic of Listening can be found at:



The Cosmic Joke
Ptolemy and Ancient Greek Parts
The Five Limit the Second Dimension
Meantone Temperament and the Primacy of Thirds
Meantone Examples
Bach Beethoven and Temperament
The Seven Limit and Johnston Notation
Ben Johnstons String Quartet No 4
The Eleven Limit and the Fourth Dimension
Toby Twinings Chrysalid Requiem
Nicola Vicentinos Archicembalo
A Few Numbers Drawn from NonWestern Musics

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About the author (2019)

Kyle Gann is a composer and the Taylor Hawver and Frances Bortle Hawver Professor of Music at Bard College. His books include Charles Ives's Concord, No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33" and Robert Ashley.

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