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Some interesting facts you'll find in Temperament:

  • Temperament shows how in each period of Western history--from ancient Greece through the Medieval and Renaissance periods and into the French Enlightenment--music played a crucial role in scientific, religious, artistic, and philosophical arguments about the nature of our world. These controversies, which began with Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C.E., continue to this day.

  • Readers will discover the roles in these disputes played by legendary historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (along with many Popes and heads of state). For example, Kepler believed that the arrangement of the planets in the sky was patterned after a musical scale; Newton claimed that God chose the tones of the musical scale to conform to the colors of the rainbow; and important Renaissance thinkers searched for the secret tunings of the ancients in an attempt to reinvest music with the lost power to heal and destroy.

  • Temperament reveals that the musical scale we all regard today as "a given" was once considered a crime against nature and that because older scale tunings were limited in their ability to play all music "in tune," early keyboard instruments were sometimes built with as many as 33 keys in each octave (as opposed to the 12 we now have). Temperament explores many other wild technological innovations and mechanical inventions that arose in attempts to overcome the limitations of pre-modern musical tunings.

  • The book is filled with original insights, in a narrative called "absorbing, meticulous, [and] deeply thoughtful" by Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Page. In page after page, Temperament uncovers connections between art, music, philosophy, religion, politics and science throughout hundreds of years of European history. It offers parallels, for example, between the rise of perspective in art and the acceptance of modern musical tunings, and between philosophical doctrines forbidden by the church (for which Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake) and the musical theories of Galileo's father, Vincenzo.

  • Today's tuning system became a major focus of ancient Chinese musical philosophers, even though Chinese music has absolutely no need for it.

  • The story is ultimately about how in every cultural period certain arguments arise again and again, although each time in a slightly different guises. It is in many ways a story about the human condition: how we try, in every generation, to establish an incontrovertible truth about the way things are or should be, only to meet with inevitable disappointment.