Young temperament

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Young's first temperament

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"Young temperament" may refer to either of a pair of well temperaments described by Thomas Young in a letter dated July 9, 1799, to the Royal Society of London. The letter was read at the Society's meeting of January 16, 1800, and included in its Philosophical Transactions for that year.[1] The temperaments are referred to individually as "Young's first temperament" and "Young's second temperament",[2] more briefly as "Young's No. 1" and "Young's No. 2",[3] or with some other variations of these expressions.

Young argued that there were good reasons for choosing a temperament to make "the harmony most perfect in those keys which are the most frequently used", and presented his first temperament as a way of achieving this. He gave his second temperament as a method of "very simply" producing "nearly the same effect".

First temperament[edit]

In his first temperament, Young chose to make the major third C-E wider than just by 14 of a syntonic comma (about 5 cents, About this sound Play ), and the major third F-A (B) wider than just by a full syntonic comma (about 22 cents, About this sound Play ). He achieved the first by making each of the fifths C-G, G-D, D-A and A-E narrower than just by 316 of a syntonic comma, and the second by making each of the fifths F-C, C-G, G-D (E) and E-B perfectly just.[4] The remaining fifths, E-B, B-F, B-F and F-C were all made the same size, chosen so that the circle of fifths would close—that is, so that the total span of all twelve fifths would be exactly seven octaves. The resulting fifths are narrower than just by about 112 of a syntonic comma, or 1.8 cents,[5] and differ from an equal temperament fifth by only about one-eighth of a cent. The exact and approximate numerical sizes of the three types of fifth, in cents, are as follows:

f1 = 300 (log2(3) − 1) + 225 log2(5) ≈ 697.92 (flatter than just by 316 of a syntonic comma)
f2 = 3600 − 1500 log2(3) − 225 log2(5) ≈ 700.12 (flatter than just by 14 of a ditonic comma less 316 of a syntonic comma)
f3 = 1200 (log2(3) − 1) ≈ 701.96 (perfectly just)

Each of the major thirds in the resulting scale comprises four of these fifths less two octaves. If  sj =Def fj − 600 ( j = 1, 2, 3 ), the sizes of the major thirds can be conveniently expressed as in the second row of the following table:[6]

  Major third   C-E G-B,
F-A
D-F,
B-D
A-C,
E-G
E-G,
G-C
B-E,
C-F
F-B
Width
exact
approx.
s1
 391.69 
 3 s1 + s2 
393.89
 2 s1 + 2 s2 
396.09
 s1 + 2 s2 + s3 
400.12
 2 s2 + 2 s3 
404.15
 s2 + 3 s3 
405.99
s3
 407.82 
Deviation
from just
+5.4 +7.6 +9.8 +13.8 +17.8 +19.7 +21.5

As can be seen from the third row of the table, the widths of the tonic major thirds of successive major keys around the circle of fifths increase by about two ( s2 − s1 ,  s3 − s2 ) to four ( s3 − s1 ) cents per step in either direction from the narrowest, in C major, to the widest, in F major.

The following table gives the pitch differences in cents between the notes of a chromatic scale tuned with Young's first temperament and those of one tuned with equal temperament, when the note A of each scale is given the same pitch.[7]

Note C G E B F C G D  A  E B F
Difference from
equal temperament
+0.1 +2.1 +4.0 +6.0 +6.1 +6.2 +4.2 +2.1 0 -2.1 -2.0 -1.8

Second temperament[edit]

In Young's second temperament, each of the fifths F-C, C-G, G-E, E-B, B-F, and F-C are perfectly just, while the fifths C-G, G-D, D-A, A-E, E-B, and B-F are each 16 of a Pythagorean (ditonic) comma narrower than just.[8] The exact and approximate numerical sizes of these latter fifths, in cents, are given by:

f4 = 2600 − 1200 log2(3) ≈ 698.04

If  f3  and  s3  are the same as in the previous section, and  s4  =Def f4 − 600 , the sizes of the major thirds in the temperament are as given in the second row of the following table:[9]

  Major third   C-E,G-B,
D-F
A-C,
F-A
E-G,
B-D
B-E,
E-G
F-B, C-F
G-C
Width
exact
approx.
s4
 392.18 
 3 s4 + s3 
396.09
 2 s4 + 2 s3 
400.00
 s4 + 3 s3 
403.91
 4 s3 
407.82
Deviation
from just
+5.9 +9.8 +13.7 +17.6 +21.5

The following table gives the pitch differences in cents between the notes of a chromatic scale tuned with Young's second temperament and those of one tuned with equal temperament, when the note A of each scale is given the same pitch.[10]

Note C G E B F C G D  A  E B F
Difference from
equal temperament
-3.9 -2.0 0 +2.0 +3.9 +5.9 +3.9 +2.0 0 -2.0 -3.9 -5.9

This temperament is very similar to one devised by Francesco Vallotti, which is named after him. Vallotti's temperament also has six consecutive pure fifths and six tempered by 16 of a Pythagorean comma. The sequence of tempered fifths, however, starts from the note F, rather than from C, as they do in Young's second temperament.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Young (1800). The material on temperaments appears on pages 143-47. The paper was reprinted in Nicholson's Journal in 1802 (Young, 1802), along with a list of errata (p.167), and a corrected version appeared in volume II of a collection of Young's works published in 1807 (Young, 1807, pp.531-554). The original paper had contained an error in the placement of the first temperament's E on a monochord (Barbour, 2004, p.168).
  2. ^ Barbour (2004, pp.180, 181).
  3. ^ Barbour (2004, p.183).
  4. ^ Barbour (2004, pp.167-8).
  5. ^ Barbour (2004, p.168). The precise difference is 14 of a Pythagorean (ditonic) comma less 316 of a syntonic comma.
  6. ^ Jorgensen (1991, Table 71-2, pp.264-5).
  7. ^ Jorgensen (1991, Table 71-1, p.264).
  8. ^ Barbour (2004, p.163).
  9. ^ Jorgensen (1991, Table 69-1, p.254).
  10. ^ Jorgensen (1991, Table 70-1, p.259).
  11. ^ Donahue (2005, pp.28–9 )

References[edit]