Imperfect pitch

Discussions relating to performance, interpretation, score preparation, musica ficta etc.
cjshawcj
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Imperfect pitch

Postby cjshawcj » 31 Jan 2014 19:05

"Pitch" is an ambiguous term, with different meanings in different contexts
[c.f. the siege of Calais, 1558: "Some people are in the pitch. They think it's all over. It is now"

"Original pitch" is used by contributing editors (and I admit myself guilty as any) as a shorthand term to indicate compliance with the composer's intentions, and also to imply superior knowledge as to authenticity.

Given the uncertainties over the meanings of chiavette conventions, the uncertainties of vagaries of frequency in differing times and places, and the uncertainties over realization (choir masters were expected to transpose at sight), any claim to pretend to know the pitch at which a piece was originally performed is specious sophistry.

IM'UO the I.T.I. (Institutionalized Terminological Inexactitude) of "Original" pitch should be supplanted by "Transmitted" pitch.

anaigeon
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Re: Imperfect pitch

Postby anaigeon » 31 Jan 2014 19:42

IMHO it is much simpler than that, the editor just says he has changed the music to a key different from the one on the source document.

CHGiffen
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Re: Imperfect pitch

Postby CHGiffen » 31 Jan 2014 22:38

Why not "Original key" or "Original key signature"?
Charles H. Giffen
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Early Choral Music? Zephyrus (I sang 12 seasons 1992-2004 with this group).

anaigeon
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Re: Imperfect pitch

Postby anaigeon » 31 Jan 2014 22:49

It would be more precise, indeed.

CHGiffen
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Re: Imperfect pitch

Postby CHGiffen » 02 Feb 2014 02:44

Indeed, whatever key signature is used, a work may be performed with A=440 (modern pitch) or A=418 (often used for performing early music) or with A="just about anything" ... and these refer to "pitch" ... whereas key signature is notation and may or may not be transposed to another key signature.
Charles H. Giffen
President of CPDL and
Manager of ChoralWiki
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Early Choral Music? Zephyrus (I sang 12 seasons 1992-2004 with this group).

CHGiffen
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Re: Imperfect pitch

Postby CHGiffen » 03 Feb 2014 03:24

Richard Mix has convinced me that "original key" is the best choice to replace "original pitch" since it takes into account modal music which is sometimes notated with differing key signatures for the same written notes.
Charles H. Giffen
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Manager of ChoralWiki
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Early Choral Music? Zephyrus (I sang 12 seasons 1992-2004 with this group).

cjshawcj
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Re: Imperfect pitch

Postby cjshawcj » 15 Feb 2014 12:25

I don't believe that "Original key" solves the modal problem, but rather elides it. Consider the example of the Hypodorian mode which is often transposed down a fourth to appear in renaissance publications with a key of one flat (D minor) qualified with accidentals, specified or implied (musica ficta). With that key signature the root note is a G, and would be as clearly notated for modern musicians in a key of two flats (G minor) qualified with accidentals. So is the "original key" Hypodorian (transposed), D minor, or G minor?

And, as touched on above, the question of editorial musica ficta offers an infinite variety of complexifications.

My favourite current solution to the nomenclature problem would be "Written Original Pitch" which is cumbersome but perhaps the most accurate of the alternative solutions.

On a site such as this, though, a few amateur editors inscribing their answers on the head of a pin are unlikely, in any event, widely to effect the correct use in early music circles of adjectives such as "original" or "authentic".

CHGiffen
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Re: Imperfect pitch

Postby CHGiffen » 15 Feb 2014 19:23

Thanks for your insightful comments, Christopher. My own take is similar, although slightly different (and I do have trouble with the term "pitch" in "original written pitch"):

Although original clefs tend not to be preferred anymore (unfortunately, for those of us who are not troubled by them), my preference on "original pitch" or (the now in place) "original key" would have been "original key signature" (implying no other transposition from the original), but I opted for "original key" as implying that. The modality of a piece is independent of the number of sharps or flats appearing in the key signature and, to my mind, does not enter the equation here ... same for musica ficta (and, when added, these are editorial choices). Chiavette (high clefs vs. low clefs) is yet another matter, and in transposing from the original because of chiavette considerations, I would expect to see (and do see) an appropriate adjustment of the key signature ... what I would want to see, however, is an indication in the Editorial notes that the chiavette transposition has been made from the original.

If "original key signature" is indeed preferable to "original key" and is deemed to be more acceptable, there will be no trouble to change it uniformly across the ChoralWiki.
Charles H. Giffen
President of CPDL and
Manager of ChoralWiki
User pageTalk pageComposer page

Early Choral Music? Zephyrus (I sang 12 seasons 1992-2004 with this group).


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