Ralph David Hill is a
Composer, Music historian, Psycho-acoustician, Music software and
hardware developer and is very enthusiastic about the Natural Harmonic
Series and the effects of musical tunings on human beings.
Dave developed several generations of computer
based voice and sound analysis programs, with hardware of his own
design and construction, as well as voice and instrument synthesis,
beginning in the 1970's.
Examples of some of the music he has produced are offered on this
website. Included with these is a rendition of Ivor Darreg's
Prelude in D Major, in 7 limit just intonation.
In addition to his work with the Harmonic Series
and Extended Just Intonation, he has researched the Meantone tuning,
as used on 19th century pianos, and has recorded some examples, which
are presented here.
He has written several articles on related
subjects, and those will be presented here as we find and scan them.
Music in the Harmonic Series and Just Intonation
by Ralph David Hill (c)
Prelude in D Major
Progression on the Harmonic Series
L' Homme Arme Song and Kyrie
11 Ratio Composition
composed by Ralph David Hill
7 and 11 limit Harmony Explorations
on just tuned piano
by Ralph David Hill (c)
Flow Gently Sweet Afton
Beethoven: Passage from Pathetique Sonata Transp.to Eb
Improvisation on Mixolydian modal scale on A*
Improvs exploring 7 and 11 ratio harmonies roots Eb and Bb*
More Piano Music in Harmonic Series and Just
The Second Swan*
Improvisation in D minor*
The Artistic Cat*
Corrido de Camanea
Corrido de Benito Canales
Improvisation on Natural Harmonic Series*
* Composed by Ralph David Hill
Unmarked selections are Traditional in Public Domain
All performances by Ralph David Hill
Observations about Thirds
by Ralph David Hill
I'm trying to get down concrete observer evidence for some
surprising "reverse parallels" between how replacing the 81/64
Pythagorean major third with the 5/4 just major third in the 1400s
changed music over the course of that century and how the later
replacing of the 5/4 just or mean tone major third with the 126/100
equal tempered major third towards 1900 changed music at the later
The change in the 1400s made music sound much more beautiful
than it sounded before in the Ars Nova times. In the reverse
direction, (at least many) people of the 20th century unfamiliar with
the sound of the earlier mean tone music and who are used to the sound
of equal tempered music find the mean tone music to sound strangely
The just or nearly just 5/4 major third in chords seems to
have the ability to tap into the brain's reward system.
In brief, I think I have at least a partial answer. Fellow
creatures communicating - sound production mechanism a horn with
integer ratio partial frequencies - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ..... blowing
leaves, rolling rocks, babbling brook - sound component frequencies
not related in such an integer step way. Integer frequency steps cues
one that a fellow living creature is making the sound - probably a
communication that's important.
Towards 1476 the music theorist Johannes Tinctoris
wrote regarding the striking change in musical art brought about
through the influence of English music which had taken place earlier
in the century : "... At this time, consequently, the possibilities of
our music have been so marvellously increased that there appears to be
a new art, if I may so call it, whose fount and origin is held to be
among the English, of whom Dunstable stood forth as chief.
Contemporary with him in France were Dufay and Binchoys, to whom
directly succeeded the moderns Ockeghem, Busnoys, Regis and Caron, who
are the most excellent of all the composers I have ever heard..."
Again in the preface to a book published in 1477 Tinctoris
wrote: "...although it seems beyond belief, there does not exist a
single piece of music, not composed within the last forty years, that
is regarded by the learned as worth hearing. Yet at this present
time, not to mention innumerable singers of the most beautiful
diction, there flourish, whether by the effect of some celestial
influence or by the force of assiduous practice, countless composers,
among them Jean Ockeghem, John Regis, Antoine Busnoys, .... who glory
in having studied this divine art under John Dunstable, Gilles
Binchoys, and Guillaume Dufay, recently deceased. Nearly all the
works of these men exhale such sweetness that in my opinion they are
to be considered most suitable, not only for men and heroes, but even
for the immortal gods. Indeed I never hear them, I never examine
them, without coming away happier and more enlightened."
student auditioning at Florida State University in 1998, summing up
her feelings regarding the difference between the sounds of same score
passages of piano music played with the piano tuned in quarter comma
mean tone temperament and with the piano tuned in equal temperament
wrote at the end of her listening preference test:
"I appreciate the sound of mean tone tuning; it's just
different enough to be almost exotic. I think it's just beautiful."
A former university tutor in physiology with whom I
shared a passion for music and with whom I'd kept up left me a phone
message responding to a cassette tape I'd sent him in 1998 on which
I'd recorded several familiar hymns played on my piano tuned to
quarter comma mean tone temperament. This is his message (relevant
"Hi Dave, Ed Redgate. I received
your tape and just played it a few times. Indeed it does have a
distinctive sound - a very rich harmony - I'd forgotten .... These
harmonies, they're great! What have you done anyway? And then you're
selecting numbers which push all my buttons. When my hair stands up
on the back of my head and tears well up in my eyes I know you're
pushing some emotional buttons. Yes it's a great tape .... and your
technique is amazing - you hit all the keys exactly at the same time
with exactly the same force to exert .... to elicit the harmonies.
I'm actually quite surprised.
What's in these comments is not "new" and yet they add up to
underscore the fact that, as much or more than the 3/2 fifth, the 5/4
major third is psychologically important in music and it needs to be
close to exactly 5/4 to have its full psychological effect. I feel
that somehow, this fact is still underappreciated.