jounis wrote:It must be noted that the WIkipedia article is only promoting the Yepes modern tuning. Facts are straight, but the importance of the balanced resonances is a personal opinion of the writer. Many 10-string players prefer more bass range over the resonances.
As someone who implicitly ‘believes’ in “the importance of balanced [chromaticised] resonance”, I should like to respond to the above statement.
Firstly, it is conceded that the “[f]acts are straight”. What are these facts? Let me list them:
1. That the primary purpose behind the invention of the modern 10-string guitar of Yepes is resonance linearized across the 12 notes of the chromatic octave.
2. That the secondary purpose behind its invention is extended bass range to facilitate more faithful playing of lute and keyboard music.
3. That the bass strings act as tuned resonators. To put it simply—forgoing a lengthy acoustic explanation of resonance and the overtones of vibrating strings—(4) resonates strongly with D [and A], likewise (5) with A [and E], (6) resonates strongly with E and B, likewise (7) with C and G, (8) with A# and F, (9) with G# and D#, and (10) with F# and C#.
4. That chromatic string resonance is now present as a direct consequence of this singular tuning: e’ b g d A E C A# G# F#.
5. That the above is not a matter of opinion, but that it is based on laws of physics/acoustics and can be mathematically and empirically proven.
As agreed, these points belong to the category of Fact or Truth.
However, I aim to refute the categorisation of “the importance of the balanced resonances” as a Belief—a subjective, “personal opinion of the writer”. [A tacit ‘individual’ is implied before “writer”, as in belonging to the margins rather than consensus. I shall return to this in a moment.]
While the above judgement repudiates the Truth of this importance (and by extension disclaims its epistemic foundations) it is ironically unaware of its own, self-deprecating argument. In other words, let us not forget that this statement (“the importance of the balanced resonances is a personal opinion of the writer”) also belongs to the category of Belief as a personal opinion of its own writer. It refutes nothing, but undermines itself as the proverbial pot that calls the kettle black.
Let us also bear in mind that the ‘opinion’ (that resonance linearized over the chromatic octave has interpretative advantages and therefore aesthetic significance) is an ‘opinion’ that has been shared by a number of highly respected musical figures, persons with significant experience, who’ve been highly trained and/or possess a high degree of knowledge/skill, including the late Bruno Maderna and Maurice Ohana. Ask any concert pianist whether s/he would deem acceptable a piano whose pedal mechanism is damaged in such a way that only tones of E, B, A, and D resonate/sustain, and the answer will universally be an emphatic: NO! Even guitarist Stephan Schmidt, whatever tuning he may have used to record Bach (and I emphasise the difference between recording and live performance), without any doubt, predominantly uses the Yepes tuning of the 10-string guitar in concert. His reason for playing the instrument is, after all, to have access to the works of significant 20th century composers, like Messrs Maderna & Ohana, who wrote their music specifically for Yepes’s instrument because of its chromatic resonance. And, it goes without saying, as an authority there is Narciso Yepes himself: the most musically and otherwise erudite concert guitarist of his generation, an already brilliant mind sharpened by studies with such luminaries as Nadia Boulanger, Vicente Asencio, Walter Gieseking, and Georges Enesco.
For some [and I include myself here] this recourse to authority is sufficient to establish as Truth the aesthetic significance of chromatic resonance [though this is hardly the sole basis for my own ‘opinion’ on the matter].
In contrast, a statement such as “Many 10-string players prefer more bass range over the resonances” is recourse not to authority, but to majority. It is an argumentum ad populum, a fallacy of logic that states Truth is the opinion of the majority, or Truth is what the masses believe. (Another eyeless uroboric worm devours its own backside.)
In addition, this argument also contradicts its author’s previous statement that the “[f]acts are straight”. [Now I’m being facetious, but let’s see it through.] The fact given (above) as number 2 is that Yepes’s 10-string guitar already offers an extended bass range in addition to chromatic resonance. [This comes straight out of the article in question, which is drawn almost verbatim from Yepes’s own press materials, recital programmes and interviews.] In other words, extended bass range and chromatic resonance (i.e. Yepes Tuning) are not mutually exclusive.
On a more practical level: if one has a correctly built instrument (Ramirez or Bernabe), and one uses a correctly manufactured 7th string (that is to say the 7th by Aranjuez and not LaBella or Hannabach), and one lowers the 7th or C string to B1 or A1 [in the Scientific/American pitch referencing notation], and one has a technique approaching [or surpassing?] that of Yepes, then one ought to be able to have access to the full extended bass range, without completely re-stringing the instrument. Though one would, like Yepes, have to finger many of the additional low bass notes. It is, after all, expected of any 6-string guitarist to do the same, rather than resorting to the technical crutches of harp-like open strings.
Finally, let us not forget, the purpose of having “more bass range” (for playing lute or keyboard music) is to be, in our capacity as guitarists, more faithful to the composer’s musical Ideas—to approach a more formally and stylistically accurate representation of these Ideas—than is possible on the 6-string guitar. If a 10-string guitar does this, while also offering the extended interpretative possibilities of chromatic resonance—the possibility of more rounded phrasing, greater sustain and cohesion, extended dynamic range, greater evenness of timbre, the possibility of playing slow pieces at an appropriately slow tempo without running out of sound, and other interpretative subtleties (think of the benefits of the piano’s various pedals)—then the existence of the 10-string guitar on the world concert stage is fully justified, even [dare I say?] as the Standard. (It has the potential.) However, if a 10-stringed guitar is used for neither of these purposes—when that uroboric telos of extra basses merely for the sake of extra basses rears its ugly head—...well, this is, after all, the general misconception that the guitar world holds about the instrument—and the reason why (despite being promoted by great players like Yepes and Schmidt, or in another incarnation, by Carulli, Mertz, Regondi, Coste et al.) the instrument itself remains in the margins of the margins.
Viktor van Niekerk, Sydney
PS. Let me add as an afterthought, the above is by no means an attack on the commentator - a fine guitarist. It is not even an attack on his argument. No, it is a refutation of such an argument against chromatic resonance that should be seen to be circular and illogical. As such, it is an exercise in reason, not an expression of emotion. Is my final conclusion 'intollerant'? Yes, but then I am playing the role of devil's advocate with the hopes of engendering some reflection rather than falling into the trap of the argumentum ad populum. What strikes me is that no one is self-reflexive enough to ask why 'intollerant' arguments against chromatic resonance should be acceptable, while the opposite is not.