Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Essay on Perfect Intonation; with Remarks, Showing the Practicability of Attaining it in the Organ; Together with a Brief Description of the Enharmonic Organ, of Messrs. Alley and Poole
Poole, Henry Ward
1. This paper will treat only of one department of the science 
of music—the laws which fix the tune of all musical scales, and 
determine all musical intervals. Any one, who is at all conversant 
with the musical discussions of the last few centuries, will per¬ 
ceive that this is but partly explored and disputed territory, where 
eminent scientific writers have entertained different opinions—• 
while all have agreed in admitting the fact, that there ever have 
been, and still are, difficulties and imperfections in the musical 
scale, as executed on organs, piano-fortes, &c., which no one 
has yet shown how to overcome. It is with the belief that 
he has overcome these difficulties, and is able to throw light on 
this abstruse and unsettled department of the science, in a prac¬ 
tical point of view, that the writer proposes to discuss it. Very 
little on this subject reaches the eye of the theoretical and prac¬ 
tical musician. In our elementary musical works it is either omit¬ 
ted, or is treated as utopian and chimerical ; indeed the writer is 
not aware of a treatise in which it is fully or correctly discussed. 
2. It is a singular fact, that while the human ear delights in pure 
harmony, (as performed by voices, violins and other instruments 
without fixed scales,) and while improvement has been made in 
every other science and mechanical art, the organ of the present 
day has all the imperfection of intonation which pertained to that 
instrument, four centuries since. For so long a period has this 
imperfection existed, that it has come to be considered as neces¬ 
sary, not only in this instrument, but by many it is believed to be 
inherent in all music. Instead of remedying the difficulty by 
introducing the sounds requisite to form the several scales (played 
in) perfect, and inventing such mechanism as would bring these 
sounds under the ready control of the organist, “ temperament” 
has been substituted, which allows but one sound for G# and Ab, 
which makes the same sound answer for A, the sixth of the 
key of C, and A, the key-note of three sharps; which fiats every, 
fifth, sharps every major third, and leaves every musical interval 
(with the exception of the octave) more or less out of tune. 
3. Various attempts have been made during the last three cen¬ 
turies to remedy the above difficulty, and to reduce the apparent 
imperfections of the musical scale to a scientific and mathematical 
basis. Salinas wrote on the subject as early as 1577, and the folio 
volume of Father Mersenne was published in French and Latin 
in 1648. These plans were to be effected by multiplying finger 
keys, which of course would augment fearfully the difficulty of


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