Table of contents
About this book
The history of musical instruments is nearly as old as the history of civilization itself, and the aesthetic principles upon which judgments of musical quality are based are intimately connected with the whole culture within which the instruments have evolved. An educated modem Western player or listener can make critical judgments about particular instruments or particular per formances but, to be valid, those judgments must be made within the appro priate cultural context. The compass of our book is much less sweeping than the first paragraph might imply, and indeed our discussion is primarily confined to Western musical instruments in current use, but even here we must take account of centuries of tradition. A musical instrument is designed and built for the playing of music of a particular type and, conversely, music is written to be performed on particular instruments. There is no such thing as an "ideal" instrument, even in concept, and indeed the unbounded possibilities of modem digital sound-synthesis really require the composer or performer to define a whole set of instruments if the result is to have any musical coherence. Thus, for example, the sound and response of a violin are judged against a mental image of a perfect violin built up from experience of violins playing music written for them over the centuries. A new instrument may be richer in sound quality and superior in responsiveness, but if it does not fit that image then it is not a better violin.
acoustics design history mechanisms physics quality science