just intonation
the creative person shows himself naked, and the more vigorous his creative act, the more naked he appears - sometimes totally vulnerable - yet always invulnerable in the sense of his own integrity ...... this thing began with truth, and truth does exist...

for some hundreds of years, the truth of just intonation has been hidden - one could almost say maliciously ... because truth always threatens the ruling hierarchy - or, they think so... nor does the spiritual corporeal nature of man fair any better... we are reduced to specialties... a theatre of dialog without music for example... and a concert of music, without drama... basic mutilations of ancient concept... if there is a prophetic or magic quality in the musical work, its essence does not lie in words... its much more inclined toward an unexplainable being than toward formulas...

  • just ---- a term applied to all consonant intervals and to instruments that sound them with precision

  • just intonation ---- a manner of tuning intervals

    the code is open .. no longer hidden

just intonation is any system of tuning in which all of the intervals can be represented by ratios of whole numbers with a strongly-implied preference for the smallest numbers compatible with a given musical purpose - unfortunately this definition while accurate doesn't convey much to those who aren't already familiar with the art and science of tuning - the aesthetic experience of just intervals and chords however is unmistakable

the simple-ratio intervals upon which just intonation is based are the fundamental constituents of melody and harmony - they are what the human auditory system recognizes as consonance if it ever has the opportunity to hear them in a musical context - the significance of whole-number ratios has been recognized by musicians around the world for at least 5000 years

just intonation is not a particular scale nor is it tied to any particular musical style - it is rather a set of principles which can be used to create a virtually infinite variety of intervals scales and chords which are applicable to any style of tonal music (or even, if you wish to atonal styles) - just intonation is not however simply a tool for improving the consonance of existing musics; ultimately, it is a method for understanding and navigating through the boundless reaches of the pitch continuum—a method that transcends the musical practices of any particular culture

just intonation has depth and breadth - its fundamental principles are relatively simple but its ramifications are vast - at present just intonation remains largely unexplored - a few pioneering composers and theorists have sketched in some of its most striking features but the map still contains many blank spaces where the adventuresome composer many venture in hopes of discovering new musical treasures

in light of its numerous virtues why isn't just intonation currently in general use - like so many of our peculiar customs it is largely an accident of history - during the 16th 17th and 18th centuries when western harmonic music and keyboard instruments were co-evolving instrument technologies were inadequate to the task of developing affordable playable instruments that could accommodate the intricacies of just intonation - as a result various compromises or temperaments were attempted - twelve-tone equal temperament was ultimately adopted because it provided the greatest facility for transposition and modulation with the smallest number of tones and because it made all of the intervals of a given type equally out of tune thus avoiding the contrast between in-tune and out-of-tune intervals that characterized some earlier temperaments

equal temperament was not adopted because it sounded better (it didn't then and it still doesn't despite 150 years of cultural conditioning) or because composers and theorists were unaware of just intonation - the adoption of twelve-tone equal temperament was strictly a matter of expediency - equal temperament allowed eighteenth- and nineteenth-century composers to explore increasingly complex harmonies and abstruse modulations but this benefit was short-lived - by the beginning of this century all of the meaningful harmonic combinations in the equally-tempered scale had been thoroughly explored and exploited and many composers believed that consonance tonality and even pitch had been exhausted as organizing principles - what was really exhausted was merely the limited resources of the tempered scale - by substituting 12 equally-spaced tones for a universe of subtle intervallic relationships the composers and theorists of the 18th and 19th centuries effectively painted western music into a corner from which it has not yet succeeded in extricating itself

fortunately a few visionary composers rediscovered the source of truly viable new musical resources - these farsighted musicians recognized that in the acoustically pure intervals of just intonation and in the diverse traditions of world music were to be found sufficient material to fruitfully occupy generations of composers - unfortunately until recently composing and performing sophisticated music in just intonation presented such difficulties that only the most dedicated enthusiasts were likely to invest the required time and effort - however due to the recent appearance of affordable electronic instruments with programmable tuning capabilities it is now possible for almost any musician to explore just intonation without first making a major commitment - the technical barriers having been largely removed - the only thing lacking for a widespread growth in the use of just intonation is an increased awareness of intonational principles and their musical applications on the part of our more adventuresome musicians