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  • Temperament in the 19th century
  • Douglas Leedy

Allan Atlas's look at the evolution of keyboard temperaments in the mid-19th century through music for the Wheatstone concertina (EM, xxxiii/4 (Nov 2005 ), pp.609-17) was a special pleasure for me. Berlioz, whose distaste for the instrument's old-fashioned meantone temperament Atlas notes, called its 14-note scale a 'gamme barbare' (Grand traité, new Bärenreiter complete edition, vol.24, p.470), and observes, exactly as in Atlas's ex.4 , that in order to be reasonably in tune with a violinist playing g-g#-a, the concertina player would have to use not the instrument's relatively very flat g#, but play instead the figure, 'écrit de cette absurde manière', (p.467 ). Perhaps not altogether incidentally, one can hear in recordings from the mid-20th century meantone or just intonation from some Cajun accordions (for example, nos.37, 38 and 77 in Harry Smith's Anthology of American folk music, re-released in 1997 on Smithsonian Folkways FP252-3); I have heard that this traditional tuning is still used by some players.

Douglas Leedy
Corvallis, Oregon
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