I was very interested to see a short article in the Sept/Oct 2006 American
Record Guide called "Cracking the Bach Code." The code that was "cracked"
refers to what had previously been considered an ornamental drawing on
the title page of the 1722 WTC. Researchers have concluded that the
variety of letter sizes, their distance from one another, and the odd
asymmetrical looping figures beneath them combine to reveal a "very
practical, clear and precise tuning system for Western diatonic music,
presented in diagram form."
This tuning system is then implemented on a Musica Omnia CD of the WTC
performed by Peter Watchorn on a harpsichord outfitted with pedals. The
author, Peter Catalano, concludes that: "The pedal instrument and the
Bach tuning, in tandem, create a kind of chimera that combines elements
of organ, piano and the conventional harpsichord." He is highly impressed
with the resulting "unexpected grandeur never associated with harpsichords."
I don't understand the details or mathematics of the various styles of
tuning. And my ear is not good enough to distinguish among them. I do
understand the reasons that equal temperament prevailed. Still, along
with Catalano, I think that having all the keys sound basically the same
is the "price of progress." It feels to me like a heavy price to pay.
It is beyond me why this doesn't bother more musicians. Isn't it robbing
music of an essential component that composers surely took into account
and prided themselves on managing?