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Review: 1/1: Quarterly Journal of the Just Intonation Network

Review: 1/1: Quarterly Journal of the Just Intonation Network

Reviewed by Edward L. Kottick

Originally published in American Lutherie #3, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

1/1: Quarterly Journal of the Just Intonation Network
Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1985
School of Music, The University of Iowa

1/1 is a new journal that is attempting to supply a support system for composers, performers, and instrument builders who are exploring the resources of Just Intonation. It is well written and nicely produced, and considering the subject matter, remarkably free of jargon.

Just Intonation (the two words are always capitalized) is precisely defined by Editor-in-Chief David B. Doty, in his editorial, as “any system of tuning in which all of the intervals may be represented by ratios of whole numbers, with a strongly implied preference for simple ratios” (hence the 1/1 title of the journal). So far so good — simple ratios produce pure, i.e., beatless, intervals; but in the next sentence Doty declares that in a musical context such intervals are always recognized as consonant. Although he states that “this fact has been known since the third millennium B.C.,” he does not explain that he is referring to consonance in the physical sense, rather than in the musically-meaningful, perceptual or harmonic sense. In the first, consonance is defined in terms of the purity of the interval; but in the second, consonance is defined in terms of its relationship with dissonance. A tonic chord is a consonance, no matter how it is tuned, or even if it is out of tune. On the other hand, a dominant 7th chord is a dissonance, even if all its intervals are pure.

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