Monday, January 09, 2012

Music's Greatest Riddle

Temperament: The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle
The Idea That Solved 
Music's Greatest Riddle 

"Temperaments, settling like tracks along the winding path of Western Civilization, unfettered the engine of musical progress.  Once freed, and fueled by the sparks of those most human of qualities--imagination and passion--musical art, with religion, politics, and science in tow, chugged its way inescapably toward our own era." (p 8)

Why do we listen to classical music? What makes great music great? The author, Stuart Isacoff, explores the principles that underly truly great music. Explaining the scientific principles behind the music, he takes the reader on a journey from the classical thoughts of Euclid through Newton with even a section on the important contribution of the Chinese. Focusing on the piano he brings his conclusions home with principles both poetic, scientific, and philosophic. The details of the secrets of musical harmony are laid out in several chapters that include thinkers you may have never associated with music. The story is akin to the history of science, an area of thought that has long intrigued me. The conclusion is that the genius of musical art rests on a very scientific foundation. A generous bibliography enhances the volume for those who wish to pursue the subject. Isacoff has made a unique contribution to music literature that exudes virtuosity.

Temperament by Stuart Isacoff. Alfred A. Knopf, new York. 2001

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