Temperament by Stuart Isacoff
The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle

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Few music lovers realize that the arrangement of notes on today’s pianos was once regarded as a crime against God and nature, or that such legendary thinkers as Pythagoras, Plato, da Vinci, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Newton and Rousseau played a role in the controversy. Indeed, from the time of the Ancient Greeks through the eras of Renaissance scientists and Enlightenment philosophers, the relationship between the notes of the musical scale was seen as a key to the very nature of the universe.

In this engaging and accessible account, Stuart Isacoff leads us through the battles over that scale, placing them in the context of quarrels in the worlds of art, philosophy, religion, politics and science. The contentious adoption of the modern tuning system known as equal temperament called into question beliefs that had lasted nearly two millenia–and also made possible the music of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, and all who followed. Filled with original insights, fascinating anecdotes, and portraits of some of the greatest geniuses of all time, Temperament is that rare book that will delight the novice and expert alike.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Stuart Isacoff

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Stuart Isacoff, a pianist and writer, was the founder of Piano Today magazine, which he edited for nearly three decades. A winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music, he is a regular contributor on the arts to The Wall Street Journal and has written for The New York Times, Chamber Music, Symphony, Musical America, Stagebill, and The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Mr. Isacoff is also the author of Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization. He is on the faculty of the SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Music. He lives in Closter, New Jersey.
Published January 16, 2009 by Vintage. 288 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Arts & Photography, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Temperament

Kirkus Reviews

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Pianist and composer Isacoff delves into “equal temperament,” the18th-century tuning system that carved the octave into 12 equal intervals.

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Publishers Weekly

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After centuries of an accepted belief in the mathematical and divine governance of music, the 17th century saw the growth of a fierce debate over experimental new tuning methods.

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Book Reporter

Like a pianist sitting down at the keyboard to tackle Prokofieff or Messaien, Stuart Isacoff --- himself a pianist and the editor of Piano Today magazine --- faced a daunting task when he decided to write this book.

Nov 13 2001 | Read Full Review of Temperament: The Idea That So...

AV Club

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Starting with the ancient Greeks, Western culture has kept up a heated relationship with the ethereal architecture of music, which taunted...

Mar 30 2017 | Read Full Review of Temperament: The Idea That So...

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