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(YouTube) Video You've won International 11 times. Going for #12, you score better than ever before, toppling a decade-old world record high score. But your new record lasts only hours, and you come in 2nd place. Why? These guys were just plain better   (youtube.com) divider line 89
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12701 clicks; posted to Video » on 11 Aug 2009 at 9:09 AM (5 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2009-08-11 07:04:18 PM  
So when did the meaning of "Quartet" get changed?
 
2009-08-11 08:15:49 PM  
skate919:
//How the fark can you break a high score in singing?

Subby here. Barbershop competitions are held basically as follows:

There are sixteen Districts in the BHS (Barbershop Harmony Society), covering the USA and Canada. In addition, there are Affiliate organizations in other countries, from SNOBS (Society Of Nordic Barbershop Singers) to NZABS (New Zealand Association of Barbershop Singers).

Each District has Divisions, and the Affiliates usually have some similar divisions. The BHS Divisions hold contests each spring. One Division hosts a BHS Quartet Preliminaries contest simultaneously with their own Division Quartet & District Quartet Preliminaries contests. Those Quartets that score high enough at their respective Preliminaries advance to the International that summer (each District is guaranteed one representative, and any who score 75% or higher has a chance at a Wild Card slot) or District that autumn.

For Choruses (such as this one), it's a bit different: the spring Division contests are District Preliminaries only. At the fall District competition, the Choruses compete not only for the District championship, but also the honor of representing the District at the following summer's International. Again, the District is guaranteed one representing Chorus, and any Chorus who scores high enough has a shot at a Wild Card slot.

Affiliates have their own competitions, and likewise send a representative Quartet and Chorus to Internationals.

The scoring is as follows: there is a panel of specially trained and certified judges who sit at tables right in front of and facing the stage, close enough to hear the raw sound without need of the P.A. system (they're taught to ignore the sound from any speakers). There are usually one or two judges for each of the three scoring categories (more on that later) at Division contests, two or three for each category at District contests, and five each at Internationals. These come from all over the Society, so as to avoid regional biases.

The three judging categories are:

Singing (SNG): The quality of the actual singing, including how well the voices blend with each other, their balancing, tuning and intonation, enunciation, vowel matching, etc. Singing judges are especially listening for the "expanded sound" (aka "ringing chords") effect of good Barbershop, which happens when the voices are properly tuned, balanced, and matching in vowels (formants), locking with each other and resulting in "overtones" (phantom notes that sounds like people singing an octave or more higher than anyone is actually singing) and, more rarely, "undertones" (phantom notes that sound like people singing an octave lower than the Bass singers). Overtones appear in spectral analysis of the sound and are an actual result of precision harmonics merging and amplifying each other, but undertones are generated by the brain of the listener and do not appear in spectral analysis. Neither can happen when singers are accompanied by musical instruments because the musical instruments are tuned to a compromised scale that prevents the harmonics from matching up. This is why Barbershop is almost always sung a capella.

Presentation (PRS): The overall entertainment value of the performance, visually as well as audibly. The Presentation Judges are also responsible for deducting points from, or even disqualifying, songs that are in bad taste, or that are overtly religious (hymns for a specific religion, for instance) or patriotic (for a specific nation) in nature (these are forbidden in contests only, to prevent attempts to emotionally and/or subconsciously influence the judges based on their religious and patriotic persuasions).

Music (MUS): How well does the song itself, and its arrangement, as performed, fit the Barbershop style? Barbershop songs and arrangements should be mostly homophonic (all four parts singing the same syllables at the same time -- this can and should be broken up by the occasional embellishment such as bell chords, call-and-response, etc., but lengthy sections of a song featuring a solo part backed up by "Ooos" or patter or some such would be docked points by the MUSic judges, as such sections cannot properly produce the "expanded sound"). The melody should only rarely be the highest note (usually it should be sung by the Lead voice, which would be called "2nd Tenor" in TTBB male quartet music -- the 1st Tenor [just plain "Tenor" in Barbershop lingo] generally carries a descant above the melody, though many songs end in a Tenor melody "tag" or may have a brief period of Tenor or Bass melody in the middle of the song). They should use predominantly chords that are highly "ringable" (Major Triads, "Barbershop" Sevenths, etc. -- other chords may be used sparingly for "flavor" but even the "dissonant" chords should be tunable to Just Intonation), and should have prominent chord progressions that follow a multi-stage Circle of Fifths regressions of Barbershop Sevenths back to the Scale Root Major Triad (e.g. "Five Foot Two" features C to E7, then A7, then D7, then G7, and back to C, over and over again, for a repeated "I-III7-VI7-II7-V7-I" cycle), and yet must maintain tonal center. Lyrics are judged as well.

Each Judge scores each song on a scale from 0 to 100. The points are aggregated for the total (thus the more judges, the higher the maximum possible score), and an average score also taken for easier comparison among different-sized judging panels (such as comparing a Division Contest performance with an International Contest one). So, at International, with fifteen Judges (five each of the three categories, remember?), the maximum score per song is 1,500, and per two-song "set" is 3,000.

Choruses sing just one "set," regardless. Quartets at Division generally sing just one "set" unless going for BHS Preliminaries, in which case they sing one Semi-Finals "set," and if that set scores above a certain threshhold, they sing a secoond "set" in a later Finals session. At District, all Quartets except Seniors Quartets (a separate contest) also have a Semi-Finals and Finals "set" (the latter for only the Top Ten high-scoring of the Semi-Finals) and so should have four songs prepared. At International Quartet contests, there are Quarter-Finals, the Top Twenty of which go on to Semi-Finals, and the Top Ten of which go on to Finals. So, a Quartet that's made it to Internationals should have six songs prepared, just in case. The maximum score here is again 1,500 points per song, 3,000 per set, and since there can be up to three sets for Quartets that make it to Finals, an overall maximum possible score of 9,000.

Once a Quartet wins International, that Quartet can never compete again, except perhaps at a Seniors Quartet competition once they qualify in age for that [minimum age 55 for any member, and average age must be 60 or higher]. However, as many as two members of that Quartet can form a new Quartet with a new name, with two other guys, and compete again in a few years. Members of International Gold Medal-winning Quartets are inducted into the Association of International Champions (AIC) the following year: easily the most exclusive men's singing fraternity on the planet, with at most four new members each year (sometimes less in the case when past gold medalists and thus existing AIC members form a new Quartet and compete again, winning a second, third, or [as of this year] even fourth Gold Medal).

Once a Chorus wins International, that Chorus cannot compete again for three years.

International Chorus Contests over the years have grown, so that over the past few years, they split the Chorus contest into two sessions: one in the morning/afternoon, and one in the evening, generally on the Friday of the Convention weekend (held during 4th of July weekend).

The 2009 International BHS Convention was held in Anaheim, CA. The Chorus Competition was held Friday, July 3rd. The Vocal Majority, of Dallas, Texas, in the Southwestern District (SWD), had previously won 11 gold medals. They had only been defeated twice before: once their very first time competing (even then they won silver), and once, four years later after the three-year layover after winning their first gold the following year, they again took silver thanks to the Thoroughbreds Chorus. But the following year, and every third year since then, they have won gold, up to and including 2006. 2009 being three years later, they were eligible again.

One other Chorus has won gold every time they've competed since placing 4th their first time, and has never been defeated since then: the Masters of Harmony, of Los Angeles, California, in the Far Western District (FWD). But due to the three-year cycle, the Masters and VM have never faced each other. Since the Masters haven't been around as long, they have fewer gold medals than the VM, despite being undefeated since their first gold (unlike the VM). They won last year in Nashville, and thus won't be eligible to compete again until 2011.

The younger members of their Chorus, along with other young men in that area of California, formed the Westminster Chorus some years ago, the first youth Chorus in the Society and still the most successful. That Chorus came within 17 points (points, not percent! Out of a possible 3,000, remember!) of beating the VM in 2006 (their energetic uptune there was "South Rampart Street Parade"), and went on to tie the Ambassadors of Harmony (this after a 30-point deduction by the MUSic Judges for having a 16-measure "drum solo" in the middle of their even more energetic uptune of that year, "Strike Up the Band") in Denver in 2007. Since the Singing Category score breaks any ties for first place gold, they won that year on that technicality, and will be eligible to compete again next year in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, they won the International Eisteddfod 2009 Choir of the Year award and prestigious Pavarotti Trophy in Llangollen, Wales, so they're well-recognized even outside of Barbershop circles. That's right: a Barbershop Chorus (and a relatively new one at that) won Choir of the World!

In 1996 in Salt Lake City, the Masters scored 2,865 (out of a possible 3,000), for an average among all fifteen judges for two songs of 95½%, a world record. That record stood until the Vocal Majority this year in Anaheim, with their "Georgia" set. They scored 2,889 points for an average of 96.3%, setting a new world record. People in the audience were sure that they'd win the contest, that nothing could beat it. They were wrong.

That evening, in the second session, the Ambassadors of Harmony (representing the Central States District [CSD]) demolished that record with a set that began with "If You Really, Really Love Me" and finished with the "Seventy-Six Trombones" shown in this video. 2,926 points for the set, 97½% -- a full 2% higher than the Masters' record of 1996 and over 1¼% higher than the VM's own breaking of that record mere hours earlier! "Seventy-Six Trombones" scored 498 from the Presentation (PRS) judges, out of a possible 500 (five judges in each Category, each giving up to a maximum of 100 points, remember?)! Three PRS judges gave it a full 100 (which they're not supposed to do unless they simply cannot imagine anyone doing it better), and two a 99!

This was a humdinger of a year. The #6 Chorus (The Alliance, with a wonderful "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" set, with a costume and scenery change even more impressive than the Ambassadors' "Seventy-Six Trombines" in this video!), just barely missing out on the bronze medals (3rd, 4th, and 5th place get bronze medals), still scored 90%!

Over in the Quartet contest, there was a tie for fourth place (one of which was a SNOBS affiliate Quartet from Sweden, "Ringmasters"). Unlike first place, any other tie is allowed to stand, so there are two fourth-place and no fifth-place winners this year. The Gold Medal winner was Crossroads, a Quartet formed entirely of previous Gold Medal winners / AIC members, including Dr. Jim Henry, the director of the Ambassadors (the guy that wears the white band-leader's uniform after the costume change in this video), as Bass. One of their ballads, "That Lucky Old Sun," is generally considered the Quartet performance of the contest in terms of pure singing awesomeness. But there were really impressive performances from several other Quartets as well. I sincerely hope that the Society will put 3rd-place winner Storm Front's Semi-Finals set, "Don't Fence me In" + "Lida Rose / Sweet & Low," up on YouTube™ soon. They don't change a word of the song, but how they did it will crack you up! These guys may only be Barbershop bronze at present, but they're comedy gold!

Speaking of Quartets, the Ambassadors of Harmony have Vocal Spectrum as four of their members. Vocal Spectrum won the Collegiate Quartet Competition with the highest scores ever in that contest in 2004. In 2005 in Salt Lake City, they entered the main Quartet contest for the first time. Unfortunately, their Bass came down with laryngitis at contest time. The Bass is vital to Barbershop: he's the foundation of a Quartet, and over ½ the time the other three parts tune to him. Despite this handicap, they came in 7th place that year -- astounding for a first time! They went on to win the Gold the following year. Vocal Spectrum was the four guys standing in front of the gold curtain, and singing really high, "A full oc-tave high-er than the score" just before the big reveal of the costume change. Their Tenor, Tim Waurick (the guy on the left -- "VStenor" on YouTube™), is a Marvel Universe-class mutant capable of singing notes higher than most women, and holding them for insanely long times.

The Masters of Harmony and Westminster Choruses share another young Quartet that won Gold two years later: O. C. Times.

Many videos by all of the groups that I've mentioned in this post (except perhaps for the Thoroughbreds) are available on YouTube™. But even more interesting is the rising number of amateurs who are posting Barbershop videos, including multi-tracks where one person sings all four parts (or, in one especially memorable case, four people sing the four parts -- not only in four different nations, but on three different land masses!). I've submitted several such links to YouTube™ and some have been greenlighted. Do a Search on "Barbershop Multitrack" for more.

Especially good Multitrackers include "bhsnerd" (the first, and also the first to do a full chorus tag by recording himself not just once for each of the four parts, but several times, for a total of 50 tracks), "FineyLeee" from Sweden (arguably the best and one of the most prolific), "daniscool99" (who did an awesome HD rendition of "Go the Distance" from Disney's "Hercules," among many others), "vanceperry" (who entered the FreeCreditReportDotCom jingle contest and came in 8th place, and who was also the first to do a full chorus multitrack of a full song, not just a "tag" -- his FreeCreditReport contest entry was also a full chorus multitrack), "nbro085" from New Zealand (worked with FineyLeee on a four-part two-man tag, despite being darn near 180° straight through the center of the Earth from each other), "bordonthestreet" (who sang with FineyLeee, bhsnerd, and nbro085 on the aforementioned four-part four-nation three-land-mass tag), and many more up-and-comers. All of these are young people.

See also videos by "bensonpd" and "GerberBaby602" for some great harmony by some very young Barbershoppers.
 
2009-08-11 08:39:42 PM  
COMALite J:

Dude ^^^^^^^^^^^^ Have you ever kissed a girl?
 
2009-08-11 09:04:24 PM  
tagjim: COMALite J:

Dude ^^^^^^^^^^^^ Have you ever kissed a girl?



why are you asking him.. hoping he can tell you what it's really like?
 
2009-08-11 09:05:33 PM  
Lizardking: So when did the meaning of "Quartet" get changed?


There's barbershop QUARTET singing.. and barbershop CHORUS singing.

Quartet =4
Chorus = much more than four
 
2009-08-11 09:31:55 PM  
Subby, fellow barbershopper here and former of Big Apple Chorus. I just have three words for your post:

"Down Goes Frazier!"
 
2009-08-11 10:30:22 PM  
COMALite J:

Fascinating and informative post. I just wanted to say if the word humdinger was ever appropriate it would be in a discussion about barbershop singing.

Isn't there controversy in world of barbershop singing about what songs should be sung and the addition of more entertainment? There was a WSJ article about this a few years ago.

Here is the Choir of the World winning performance from the Westminster Chorus (new window). Amazing

The closest I've ever been to being in tune is when Alison Krauss walked past me in the street. At least the view was nice.
 
2009-08-11 10:32:41 PM  
i26.tinypic.com
 
2009-08-11 10:43:06 PM  
Decados: I dare you.. list ALL your hobbies too. Let's see if all of the things you do too stand up to public ridicule.

Golf, strangling animals, and masturbating.
 
2009-08-11 10:53:14 PM  
tagjim: COMALite J:

Dude ^^^^^^^^^^^^ Have you ever kissed a girl?


I love you in an absolutely heterosexual sense.
 
2009-08-11 11:10:20 PM  
Subby? You desertation on the background of this is stuff was nice - your passion really shows - but man! I like good singing - and this is - but gosh it gets boring in a hurry!

It's similiar to marching band competition; the stuff is great but to watch it for hours at a time? No way...

Meh. It's just me.
 
2009-08-11 11:26:59 PM  
Holy crap, that was awesome. I had no idea there were competitions like this. Thanks subby.
 
2009-08-12 01:29:14 AM  
Thanks for that, subby. You've found something you love and take pride in. I'm still looking.

tagjim, on the other hand, is a douche.

Seriously, whoever thinks having that kind of talent means they're gay, here are 2 points of advice for you:

1) Shut up
2) Wake up
 
2009-08-12 02:05:25 AM  
Barbershop is, along with jazz and blues (both of which as far as we can tell at least partly descend from Barbershop), the comic book, the Hollywood movie, and maybe the Broadway musical (though that could be argued to be little more than warmed-over Gilbert & Sullivan-style operetta), a primarily American-made art form. Most others come from other cultures.

It used to be believed that Barbershop derived from the "Barber's Music" sung in English barber shops. But that has nothing in common with Barbershop except the name and, yes, they're both music. Barber's music was sung by a single minstrel playing a lute, not four guys singing a capella.

Dr. Jim Henry, the man who directed this chorus as well as sang Bass in the winning Quartet this year (the first time that's happened ever: there have been a few people to sing in both a winning Chorus and Quartet the same year, but none before have directed the winning Chorus and sang in the winning Quartet in the same year, same convention!), is a Ph.D. in music and has researched the origins of Barbershop. He and others have determined that it originated with African tribes, as their tribal chants.

Only such primitive tribes learned to sing in true harmonics-based harmony, by ear. European a capella styles such as Gregorian chants, madrigals, chorales, etc. used Pythagorean intervals exclusively, since European musicians and composers practically worshiped at the feet of Pythagoras. More on this later.

A common element in tribal chants is call-and-response: the shaman "calls" and the tribesmen "respond," the latter often in harmony that can even include genuine Barbershop Seventh chords. Call-and-response, as well as the pure harmonics-based harmonies, were brought here by slaves, and formed the basis for the Negro Spiritual, from which came Barbershop, Gospel (which at first was likewise a capella and sung in similar harmony styles -- to this day, Southern Gospel remains close to that), then Jazz and Blues, which led to Rock-and-Roll, etc.

Pythagoras was a genius. No doubt about that. Without even a place-value digital numbering system (which wouldn't become known to Europe until the Islamic Golden Age, and even then the Europeans resisted it as long as they could despite its obvious overwhelming superiority -- we still use Roman numerals for very formal documents!), using only a letters-based numbering notation even more primitive than Roman Numerals, he discovered the Circle of Fifths by precisely measuring a string and plucking it after using a precisely positioned fulcrum to divide it in halves, thirds, and fourths to discover Octaves, Perfect Fifths (actually, Octave + Perfect Fifth), and Double-Octaves, respectively. Since dividing it into fourths produced a double octave, and since he soon after discovered the Circle of Fifths and concluded that any interval in a musical scale could be derived from combinations of octaves and fifths (and reciprocals thereof, such as the Perfect Fourth), he saw no need to divide the string into higher odd fractions such as fifths, sevenths, etc.

Had he done so, he would've discovered the true Harmonic Major Third, Harmonic Minor Seventh aka "Barbershop" Seventh, etc.

If you hum a "C" then go up a Perfect Fifth to a "G" then down a Perfect Fourth to a "D" then up a Perfect Fifth to an "A" and finally down a Perfect Fifth, you'll be at "E". If you do this a capella and have average or better pitch sensitivity, the "E" you wind up on will be exactly 81/64 times the pitch of the "C" (not counting vibrato, etc.). That is the Pythagorean Major Third, and is somewhat sharper than the version on the piano, but very few people have the pitch sensitivity to hear that small of a pitch difference by itself without a tonal reference.

On the other hand, if you were to simply go from "C" up a Major Third to an "E" and made no attempt to duplicate the note of a piano, and especially if you were listening to a "C" as you did so and tried to make the resulting interval "ring," you would likely wind up with a pitch that is only 80/64, or 5/4, times the pitch of the "C" -- a difference of 81/80. This note is barely noticeably flatter than the piano version to a trained ear, and even many untrained people can hear the difference between the Pythagorean Major Third and this flatter Harmonic Major Third. Even just trying the singing exercise I just described, you can probably hear the difference in your own voice.

The Perfect Fifth, either Pythagorean or Harmonic, is 3/2 (1½) times the starting note's frequency. For instance, if you start at A=440Hz (U.S. standard tuning for the A above Middle C, the concert tuning pitch), then the E above it that would be its Perfect Fifth would be exactly 440 × 1½ = 660Hz. The Major Third, at C#, would be 5/4 (1¼) × the 440, thus = 550Hz. So, we have 1×, 1¼×, and 1½× the starting frequency of A=440Hz, for a Just Intonation Harmonic Major Triad. What happens when we add the 1¾×? That's 7/4. 440 × 1¾ = 770Hz.

So now we have A=440Hz, C#=550Hz, E=660Hz, and G=770Hz - a 4:5:6:7 progression. Play or sing those exact frequencies at the same time, and something amazing happens! Four sound waves of the A will strike your eardrum in exactly the amount of time (¹/110th of a second in this case) that it takes five sound waves of the C#, six of the E, and seven of the G.

That alone would produce a feeling of precision tuning, but remember that all sound sources except for pure sine waves (e.g. perfect tuning forks) generate harmonics as well as the base tones. The A is not only vibrating at 440Hz, but also at 880Hz (2×440, the Second Harmonic, or One Octave), 1320Hz (3×440, the Third Harmonic, or One Octave + Perfect Fifth), 1760Hz (4×440, the Fourth Harmonic, or Two Octaves), 2200Hz (5×440, the Fifth Harmonic, or Two Octaves + Harmonic Major Third), and so on.

The C# is also vibrating at harmonics, and its Second Harmonic is 550 × 2 = 1320Hz, the same as the Third Harmonic of the A! Similar match-ups occur on the other notes as well. They reinforce each other, producing the "ringing chords" and "expanded sound" overtones.

What happens if you play the same chord on a piano or keyboard or other modern musical instrument?

Well, first, back to Mr. Pythagoras: when he discovered the Circle of Fifths, he thought he had discovered the secret of creation itself, the method that the gods used to create the Universe. It amazed him that twelve Perfect Fifths almost exactly equaled seven Octaves! But he soon realized that the "almost" blew that theory out of the water. The twelve Perfect Fifths of the "Circle" of Fifths overshoots the seven octaves by a noticeable amount: roughly ¼ of a tone, or ½ of a semitone.

He calculated the precise amount, an interval we call the Pythagorean Comma to this day. This is different from the 81/80 discrepancy between the Pythagorean and Harmonic Major Thirds: that's called the Comma of Didymus, or Sytonic Comma.

A little thought will show why no sequence of Perfect Fifths can ever exactly equal a sequence of Octaves, no matter how far you carry out both sequences: when you go up by Octaves, you're multiplying the starting pitch by a 2 raised to a power equal to the number of Octaves. Going up one octave means multiplying by 2¹ = 2. Two octaves = starting pitch × 2² (= 4×), three octaves = starting pitch × 2³ (= 8×), and so on. But going up by Perfect Fifths (or, rather, Octave + Perfect Fifths) means raising powers of three. × 3¹ = 3× and takes you to the Octave + Perfect Fifth. × 3² = 9× and takes you to two octaves + Pythagorean Major Second (or one octave + Pythagorean Major Ninth, if you prefer). × 3³ = 27× and takes you up to three octaves + Pythagorean Major Sixth, and so on.

Notice something? The mulitpliers for Octaves are always even numbers (2×, 4×, 8×, 16×, ...), while those for Perfect Fifths are always odd numbers (3×, 9×, 27×m etc.). No matter how far you carry out the sequences, you'll never have an odd number equal an even number!

This means that the Circle of Fifths, the very basis for all of Western Civilization music, just plain doesn't work!

How have we gotten by all these centuries, if that's the case? First off, it's only a problem for instruments. Human voices, ears, and brains naturally seek out the pure harmonic intervals, which is why African tribes could sing such harmonics without knowing the first thing about harmonic theory, let alone the math behind it (the vast majority of Barbershop singers have no idea about any of this, either).

But for instruments, especially fixed-tuning instruments, we do indeed have a problem. Imagine a simple three-chord sequence: C Major (2nd Inversion, G-C-E), F Major (1st Inversion, A-C-F), G7 (root position, G-B-D-F) -- a very common set of chords for popular music. The C of the C Major matches that of the F Major Chord. The G of the C Major (assuming 2nd Inversion here) matches that of the G7 chord. But the F of the F Major and G of the G7 chord are two different notes with substantially different tuning! Just playing that simple chord sequence on a piano would, if you wanted the pure, perfect tunings of Barbershop, require you to stop between the F Major and G7, and re-tune the piano's F strings to a considerably flatter pitch! Switching back to F Major means re-tuning the F strings to a sharper pitch!

Some older musicians of the Renaissance experimented with keyboard layouts that would allow a pipe organist to play all of the various precision tunings, but that became unwieldy, requiring dozens to over a hundred notes per octave in keyboard layouts that no human being could ever be expected to actually learn to play.

So, instead, they came up with compromised tuning systems! Early attempts at compromised, or "tempered," tunings, attempted to "spread" the ~½ semitone Pythagorean Comma around the octave in various ways, to force the octaves to match up, and thus resulted in scales that had different intervals at the same scale degrees for different keys, thereby resulting in different "feels" for different keys. A C Major scale would "feel" different from a C# Major scale, and not just because of the sharper pitch. Some intervals and chords would have more or less "tension" in one key than in another. Composers used this fact to express emotional content in their compositions, which is largely lost these days since we came up with a true even tempered scale.

Bach pioneered "well temperament," which is not the same thing as "even temperament." His "The Well Tempered Clavier" series of fugues demonstrated this. Each had a different "feel" when played on a well tempered organ or harpsichord.

About three centuries ago, calculus mathematics had advanced enough to where a true even tempered scale could be calculated: one that makes no attempt to retain the pure harmonic or even Pythagorean intervals for any interval except the octave. All others result in irrational multipliers.

The formula for a 12-tone Even Tempered (12tET) scale is starting pitch × 2 raised to the power of (s/12), where s = the number of semitones to go up or down. You can see that this works for octaves: going up one octave means going up twelve semitones, so 2 raised to the power of (12/12
But what about other intervals, such as the Perfect Fifth? Well, remember that, starting with A=440Hz, the true Perfect Fifth (Third Harmonic down an octave) is 440 × 1½ = 660Hz. How does it work for 12tET? Let's see -- we're going up seven semitones, so:

440Hz × 2(7/12)
440Hz × 20.5833...
440Hz × 1.4983070768766814987992807320298... (harmonic is exactly 1.5×)
= 659.25511382573985947168352209311...Hz!

That's what a piano's E above A has to be tuned to. That's what a MIDI file plays for that note, barring Pitch Bends or other tuning instructions. Ditto any other fixed-pitch instrument tuned to U.S. concert pitch 12tET.

As I said, that's a small difference (less than ¾Hz flatter), but the differences can get pretty big.

The Harmonic Major Third of the A440Hz, remember, is 550Hz. We go up 4 semitones, which means multiplying by 2 raised to the (4/12)th power:

440Hz × 2(4/12)
440Hz × 20.33...
440Hz × 1.2599210498948731647672106072779... (harmonic is exactly 1.25×)
= 554.36526195374419249757266720229...Hz!

This is now over 4¹/3Hz sharper than the Harmonic Major Third! That's an audible difference!

The Barbershop Seventh (should be G=770Hz when rooted on A=440Hz) has an even bigger discrepancy. We go up 10 semitones, so:

440Hz × 2(10/12)
440Hz × 20.833...
440Hz × 1.7817974362806786094804524111806... (harmonic is exactly 1.75×)
= 783.99087196349858817139906091947...Hz!

Wow! Almost 14Hz sharper!

As you can see, it's wrong to think of the pure harmonics as being "detuned" from the "proper" 12tET piano tuning. It's the 12tET tuning itself that's wrong!

This is why Barbershop is unaccompanied. Trying to sing it to instruments ruins the precision tuning and resulting lock & ring, expanded sound, overtones, undertones, etc.

It is possible to tune MIDI files to very close to true Just Intonation. You have to put each note of a chord on a separate MIDI channel, and use precision-calculated MIDI Pitch Bend Events before every note other than the scale root when not preceded by some other tuning event, or two repeated notes requiring the same tuning. I made a spreadsheet for calculating these.

Remember almost 3½ years ago (March 14th, 2006) with the "Theme: What will popular music sound like in 100 Years?" AudioEdit here on FARK? I won that one with my "100% Synthetic Barbershop Quartet." And yes, I precision-tuned it to close to the true Just Intonation intervals (the software I was using had a tuning resolution of "only" ±1¢ [1%, or ¹/100th of a 12tET semitone]). It's easy tell when listening for it.
 
2009-08-12 02:07:00 AM  
Barbershop is, along with jazz and blues (both of which as far as we can tell at least partly descend from Barbershop), the comic book, the Hollywood movie, and maybe the Broadway musical (though that could be argued to be little more than warmed-over Gilbert & Sullivan-style operetta), a primarily American-made art form. Most others come from other cultures.

It used to be believed that Barbershop derived from the "Barber's Music" sung in English barber shops. But that has nothing in common with Barbershop except the name and, yes, they're both music. Barber's music was sung by a single minstrel playing a lute, not four guys singing a capella.

Dr. Jim Henry, the man who directed this chorus as well as sang Bass in the winning Quartet this year (the first time that's happened ever: there have been a few people to sing in both a winning Chorus and Quartet the same year, but none before have directed the winning Chorus and sang in the winning Quartet in the same year, same convention!), is a Ph.D. in music and has researched the origins of Barbershop. He and others have determined that it originated with African tribes, as their tribal chants.

Only such primitive tribes learned to sing in true harmonics-based harmony, by ear. European a capella styles such as Gregorian chants, madrigals, chorales, etc. used Pythagorean intervals exclusively, since European musicians and composers practically worshiped at the feet of Pythagoras. More on this later.

A common element in tribal chants is call-and-response: the shaman "calls" and the tribesmen "respond," the latter often in harmony that can even include genuine Barbershop Seventh chords. Call-and-response, as well as the pure harmonics-based harmonies, were brought here by slaves, and formed the basis for the Negro Spiritual, from which came Barbershop, Gospel (which at first was likewise a capella and sung in similar harmony styles -- to this day, Southern Gospel remains close to that), then Jazz and Blues, which led to Rock-and-Roll, etc.

Pythagoras was a genius. No doubt about that. Without even a place-value digital numbering system (which wouldn't become known to Europe until the Islamic Golden Age, and even then the Europeans resisted it as long as they could despite its obvious overwhelming superiority -- we still use Roman numerals for very formal documents!), using only a letters-based numbering notation even more primitive than Roman Numerals, he discovered the Circle of Fifths by precisely measuring a string and plucking it after using a precisely positioned fulcrum to divide it in halves, thirds, and fourths to discover Octaves, Perfect Fifths (actually, Octave + Perfect Fifth), and Double-Octaves, respectively. Since dividing it into fourths produced a double octave, and since he soon after discovered the Circle of Fifths and concluded that any interval in a musical scale could be derived from combinations of octaves and fifths (and reciprocals thereof, such as the Perfect Fourth), he saw no need to divide the string into higher odd fractions such as fifths, sevenths, etc.

Had he done so, he would've discovered the true Harmonic Major Third, Harmonic Minor Seventh aka "Barbershop" Seventh, etc.

If you hum a "C" then go up a Perfect Fifth to a "G" then down a Perfect Fourth to a "D" then up a Perfect Fifth to an "A" and finally down a Perfect Fifth, you'll be at "E". If you do this a capella and have average or better pitch sensitivity, the "E" you wind up on will be exactly 81/64 times the pitch of the "C" (not counting vibrato, etc.). That is the Pythagorean Major Third, and is somewhat sharper than the version on the piano, but very few people have the pitch sensitivity to hear that small of a pitch difference by itself without a tonal reference.

On the other hand, if you were to simply go from "C" up a Major Third to an "E" and made no attempt to duplicate the note of a piano, and especially if you were listening to a "C" as you did so and tried to make the resulting interval "ring," you would likely wind up with a pitch that is only 80/64, or 5/4, times the pitch of the "C" -- a difference of 81/80. This note is barely noticeably flatter than the piano version to a trained ear, and even many untrained people can hear the difference between the Pythagorean Major Third and this flatter Harmonic Major Third. Even just trying the singing exercise I just described, you can probably hear the difference in your own voice.

The Perfect Fifth, either Pythagorean or Harmonic, is 3/2 (1½) times the starting note's frequency. For instance, if you start at A=440Hz (U.S. standard tuning for the A above Middle C, the concert tuning pitch), then the E above it that would be its Perfect Fifth would be exactly 440 × 1½ = 660Hz. The Major Third, at C#, would be 5/4 (1¼) × the 440, thus = 550Hz. So, we have 1×, 1¼×, and 1½× the starting frequency of A=440Hz, for a Just Intonation Harmonic Major Triad. What happens when we add the 1¾×? That's 7/4. 440 × 1¾ = 770Hz.

So now we have A=440Hz, C#=550Hz, E=660Hz, and G=770Hz - a 4:5:6:7 progression. Play or sing those exact frequencies at the same time, and something amazing happens! Four sound waves of the A will strike your eardrum in exactly the amount of time (¹/110th of a second in this case) that it takes five sound waves of the C#, six of the E, and seven of the G.

That alone would produce a feeling of precision tuning, but remember that all sound sources except for pure sine waves (e.g. perfect tuning forks) generate harmonics as well as the base tones. The A is not only vibrating at 440Hz, but also at 880Hz (2×440, the Second Harmonic, or One Octave), 1320Hz (3×440, the Third Harmonic, or One Octave + Perfect Fifth), 1760Hz (4×440, the Fourth Harmonic, or Two Octaves), 2200Hz (5×440, the Fifth Harmonic, or Two Octaves + Harmonic Major Third), and so on.

The C# is also vibrating at harmonics, and its Second Harmonic is 550 × 2 = 1320Hz, the same as the Third Harmonic of the A! Similar match-ups occur on the other notes as well. They reinforce each other, producing the "ringing chords" and "expanded sound" overtones.

What happens if you play the same chord on a piano or keyboard or other modern musical instrument?

Well, first, back to Mr. Pythagoras: when he discovered the Circle of Fifths, he thought he had discovered the secret of creation itself, the method that the gods used to create the Universe. It amazed him that twelve Perfect Fifths almost exactly equaled seven Octaves! But he soon realized that the "almost" blew that theory out of the water. The twelve Perfect Fifths of the "Circle" of Fifths overshoots the seven octaves by a noticeable amount: roughly ¼ of a tone, or ½ of a semitone.

He calculated the precise amount, an interval we call the Pythagorean Comma to this day. This is different from the 81/80 discrepancy between the Pythagorean and Harmonic Major Thirds: that's called the Comma of Didymus, or Sytonic Comma.

A little thought will show why no sequence of Perfect Fifths can ever exactly equal a sequence of Octaves, no matter how far you carry out both sequences: when you go up by Octaves, you're multiplying the starting pitch by a 2 raised to a power equal to the number of Octaves. Going up one octave means multiplying by 2¹ = 2. Two octaves = starting pitch × 2² (= 4×), three octaves = starting pitch × 2³ (= 8×), and so on. But going up by Perfect Fifths (or, rather, Octave + Perfect Fifths) means raising powers of three. × 3¹ = 3× and takes you to the Octave + Perfect Fifth. × 3² = 9× and takes you to two octaves + Pythagorean Major Second (or one octave + Pythagorean Major Ninth, if you prefer). × 3³ = 27× and takes you up to three octaves + Pythagorean Major Sixth, and so on.

Notice something? The mulitpliers for Octaves are always even numbers (2×, 4×, 8×, 16×, ...), while those for Perfect Fifths are always odd numbers (3×, 9×, 27×m etc.). No matter how far you carry out the sequences, you'll never have an odd number equal an even number!

This means that the Circle of Fifths, the very basis for all of Western Civilization music, just plain doesn't work!

How have we gotten by all these centuries, if that's the case? First off, it's only a problem for instruments. Human voices, ears, and brains naturally seek out the pure harmonic intervals, which is why African tribes could sing such harmonics without knowing the first thing about harmonic theory, let alone the math behind it (the vast majority of Barbershop singers have no idea about any of this, either).

But for instruments, especially fixed-tuning instruments, we do indeed have a problem. Imagine a simple three-chord sequence: C Major (2nd Inversion, G-C-E), F Major (1st Inversion, A-C-F), G7 (root position, G-B-D-F) -- a very common set of chords for popular music. The C of the C Major matches that of the F Major Chord. The G of the C Major (assuming 2nd Inversion here) matches that of the G7 chord. But the F of the F Major and G of the G7 chord are two different notes with substantially different tuning! Just playing that simple chord sequence on a piano would, if you wanted the pure, perfect tunings of Barbershop, require you to stop between the F Major and G7, and re-tune the piano's F strings to a considerably flatter pitch! Switching back to F Major means re-tuning the F strings to a sharper pitch!

Some older musicians of the Renaissance experimented with keyboard layouts that would allow a pipe organist to play all of the various precision tunings, but that became unwieldy, requiring dozens to over a hundred notes per octave in keyboard layouts that no human being could ever be expected to actually learn to play.

So, instead, they came up with compromised tuning systems! Early attempts at compromised, or "tempered," tunings, attempted to "spread" the ~½ semitone Pythagorean Comma around the octave in various ways, to force the octaves to match up, and thus resulted in scales that had different intervals at the same scale degrees for different keys, thereby resulting in different "feels" for different keys. A C Major scale would "feel" different from a C# Major scale, and not just because of the sharper pitch. Some intervals and chords would have more or less "tension" in one key than in another. Composers used this fact to express emotional content in their compositions, which is largely lost these days since we came up with a true even tempered scale.

Bach pioneered "well temperament," which is not the same thing as "even temperament." His "The Well Tempered Clavier" series of fugues demonstrated this. Each had a different "feel" when played on a well tempered organ or harpsichord.

About three centuries ago, calculus mathematics had advanced enough to where a true even tempered scale could be calculated: one that makes no attempt to retain the pure harmonic or even Pythagorean intervals for any interval except the octave. All others result in irrational multipliers.

The formula for a 12-tone Even Tempered (12tET) scale is starting pitch × 2 raised to the power of (s/12), where s = the number of semitones to go up or down. You can see that this works for octaves: going up one octave means going up twelve semitones, so 2 raised to the power of (12/12
But what about other intervals, such as the Perfect Fifth? Well, remember that, starting with A=440Hz, the true Perfect Fifth (Third Harmonic down an octave) is 440 × 1½ = 660Hz. How does it work for 12tET? Let's see -- we're going up seven semitones, so:

440Hz × 2(7/12)
440Hz × 20.5833...
440Hz × 1.4983070768766814987992807320298... (harmonic is exactly 1.5×)
= 659.25511382573985947168352209311...Hz!

That's what a piano's E above A has to be tuned to. That's what a MIDI file plays for that note, barring Pitch Bends or other tuning instructions. Ditto any other fixed-pitch instrument tuned to U.S. concert pitch 12tET.

As I said, that's a small difference (less than ¾Hz flatter), but the differences can get pretty big.

The Harmonic Major Third of the A440Hz, remember, is 550Hz. We go up 4 semitones, which means multiplying by 2 raised to the (4/12)th power:

440Hz × 2(4/12)
440Hz × 20.33...
440Hz × 1.2599210498948731647672106072779... (harmonic is exactly 1.25×)
= 554.36526195374419249757266720229...Hz!

This is now over 4¹/3Hz sharper than the Harmonic Major Third! That's an audible difference!

The Barbershop Seventh (should be G=770Hz when rooted on A=440Hz) has an even bigger discrepancy. We go up 10 semitones, so:

440Hz × 2(10/12)
440Hz × 20.833...
440Hz × 1.7817974362806786094804524111806... (harmonic is exactly 1.75×)
= 783.99087196349858817139906091947...Hz!

Wow! Almost 14Hz sharper!

As you can see, it's wrong to think of the pure harmonics as being "detuned" from the "proper" 12tET piano tuning. It's the 12tET tuning itself that's wrong!

This is why Barbershop is unaccompanied. Trying to sing it to instruments ruins the precision tuning and resulting lock & ring, expanded sound, overtones, undertones, etc.

It is possible to tune MIDI files to very close to true Just Intonation. You have to put each note of a chord on a separate MIDI channel, and use precision-calculated MIDI Pitch Bend Events before every note other than the scale root when not preceded by some other tuning event, or two repeated notes requiring the same tuning. I made a spreadsheet for calculating these.

Remember almost 3½ years ago (March 14th, 2006) with the "Theme: What will popular music sound like in 100 Years?" AudioEdit here on FARK? I won that one with my "100% Synthetic Barbershop Quartet." And yes, I precision-tuned it to close to the true Just Intonation intervals (the software I was using had a tuning resolution of "only" ±1¢ [1%, or ¹/100th of a 12tET semitone]). It's easy tell when listening for it.
 
2009-08-12 02:09:56 AM  
Barbershop is, along with jazz and blues (both of which as far as we can tell at least partly descend from Barbershop), the comic book, the Hollywood movie, and maybe the Broadway musical (though that could be argued to be little more than warmed-over Gilbert & Sullivan-style operetta), a primarily American-made art form. Most others come from other cultures.

It used to be believed that Barbershop derived from the "Barber's Music" sung in English barber shops. But that has nothing in common with Barbershop except the name and, yes, they're both music. Barber's music was sung by a single minstrel playing a lute, not four guys singing a capella.

Dr. Jim Henry, the man who directed this chorus as well as sang Bass in the winning Quartet this year (the first time that's happened ever: there have been a few people to sing in both a winning Chorus and Quartet the same year, but none before have directed the winning Chorus and sang in the winning Quartet in the same year, same convention!), is a Ph.D. in music and has researched the origins of Barbershop. He and others have determined that it originated with African tribes, as their tribal chants.

Only such primitive tribes learned to sing in true harmonics-based harmony, by ear. European a capella styles such as Gregorian chants, madrigals, chorales, etc. used Pythagorean intervals exclusively, since European musicians and composers practically worshiped at the feet of Pythagoras. More on this later.

A common element in tribal chants is call-and-response: the shaman "calls" and the tribesmen "respond," the latter often in harmony that can even include genuine Barbershop Seventh chords. Call-and-response, as well as the pure harmonics-based harmonies, were brought here by slaves, and formed the basis for the Negro Spiritual, from which came Barbershop, Gospel (which at first was likewise a capella and sung in similar harmony styles -- to this day, Southern Gospel remains close to that), then Jazz and Blues, which led to Rock-and-Roll, etc.

Pythagoras was a genius. No doubt about that. Without even a place-value digital numbering system (which wouldn't become known to Europe until the Islamic Golden Age, and even then the Europeans resisted it as long as they could despite its obvious overwhelming superiority -- we still use Roman numerals for very formal documents!), using only a letters-based numbering notation even more primitive than Roman Numerals, he discovered the Circle of Fifths by precisely measuring a string and plucking it after using a precisely positioned fulcrum to divide it in halves, thirds, and fourths to discover Octaves, Perfect Fifths (actually, Octave + Perfect Fifth), and Double-Octaves, respectively. Since dividing it into fourths produced a double octave, and since he soon after discovered the Circle of Fifths and concluded that any interval in a musical scale could be derived from combinations of octaves and fifths (and reciprocals thereof, such as the Perfect Fourth), he saw no need to divide the string into higher odd fractions such as fifths, sevenths, etc.

Had he done so, he would've discovered the true Harmonic Major Third, Harmonic Minor Seventh aka "Barbershop" Seventh, etc.

If you hum a "C" then go up a Perfect Fifth to a "G" then down a Perfect Fourth to a "D" then up a Perfect Fifth to an "A" and finally down a Perfect Fifth, you'll be at "E". If you do this a capella and have average or better pitch sensitivity, the "E" you wind up on will be exactly 81/64 times the pitch of the "C" (not counting vibrato, etc.). That is the Pythagorean Major Third, and is somewhat sharper than the version on the piano, but very few people have the pitch sensitivity to hear that small of a pitch difference by itself without a tonal reference.

On the other hand, if you were to simply go from "C" up a Major Third to an "E" and made no attempt to duplicate the note of a piano, and especially if you were listening to a "C" as you did so and tried to make the resulting interval "ring," you would likely wind up with a pitch that is only 80/64, or 5/4, times the pitch of the "C" -- a difference of 81/80. This note is barely noticeably flatter than the piano version to a trained ear, and even many untrained people can hear the difference between the Pythagorean Major Third and this flatter Harmonic Major Third. Even just trying the singing exercise I just described, you can probably hear the difference in your own voice.

The Perfect Fifth, either Pythagorean or Harmonic, is 3/2 (1½) times the starting note's frequency. For instance, if you start at A=440Hz (U.S. standard tuning for the A above Middle C, the concert tuning pitch), then the E above it that would be its Perfect Fifth would be exactly 440 × 1½ = 660Hz. The Major Third, at C#, would be 5/4 (1¼) × the 440, thus = 550Hz. So, we have 1×, 1¼×, and 1½× the starting frequency of A=440Hz, for a Just Intonation Harmonic Major Triad. What happens when we add the 1¾×? That's 7/4. 440 × 1¾ = 770Hz.

So now we have A=440Hz, C#=550Hz, E=660Hz, and G=770Hz - a 4:5:6:7 progression. Play or sing those exact frequencies at the same time, and something amazing happens! Four sound waves of the A will strike your eardrum in exactly the amount of time (¹/110th of a second in this case) that it takes five sound waves of the C#, six of the E, and seven of the G.

That alone would produce a feeling of precision tuning, but remember that all sound sources except for pure sine waves (e.g. perfect tuning forks) generate harmonics as well as the base tones. The A is not only vibrating at 440Hz, but also at 880Hz (2×440, the Second Harmonic, or One Octave), 1320Hz (3×440, the Third Harmonic, or One Octave + Perfect Fifth), 1760Hz (4×440, the Fourth Harmonic, or Two Octaves), 2200Hz (5×440, the Fifth Harmonic, or Two Octaves + Harmonic Major Third), and so on.

The C# is also vibrating at harmonics, and its Second Harmonic is 550 × 2 = 1320Hz, the same as the Third Harmonic of the A! Similar match-ups occur on the other notes as well. They reinforce each other, producing the "ringing chords" and "expanded sound" overtones.

What happens if you play the same chord on a piano or keyboard or other modern musical instrument?

Well, first, back to Mr. Pythagoras: when he discovered the Circle of Fifths, he thought he had discovered the secret of creation itself, the method that the gods used to create the Universe. It amazed him that twelve Perfect Fifths almost exactly equaled seven Octaves! But he soon realized that the "almost" blew that theory out of the water. The twelve Perfect Fifths of the "Circle" of Fifths overshoots the seven octaves by a noticeable amount: roughly ¼ of a tone, or ½ of a semitone.

He calculated the precise amount, an interval we call the Pythagorean Comma to this day. This is different from the 81/80 discrepancy between the Pythagorean and Harmonic Major Thirds: that's called the Comma of Didymus, or Sytonic Comma.

A little thought will show why no sequence of Perfect Fifths can ever exactly equal a sequence of Octaves, no matter how far you carry out both sequences: when you go up by Octaves, you're multiplying the starting pitch by a 2 raised to a power equal to the number of Octaves. Going up one octave means multiplying by 2¹ = 2. Two octaves = starting pitch × 2² (= 4×), three octaves = starting pitch × 2³ (= 8×), and so on. But going up by Perfect Fifths (or, rather, Octave + Perfect Fifths) means raising powers of three. × 3¹ = 3× and takes you to the Octave + Perfect Fifth. × 3² = 9× and takes you to two octaves + Pythagorean Major Second (or one octave + Pythagorean Major Ninth, if you prefer). × 3³ = 27× and takes you up to three octaves + Pythagorean Major Sixth, and so on.

Notice something? The multipliers for Octaves are always even numbers (2×, 4×, 8×, 16×, ...), while those for Perfect Fifths are always odd numbers (3×, 9×, 27×m etc.). No matter how far you carry out the sequences, you'll never have an odd number equal an even number!

This means that the Circle of Fifths, the very basis for all of Western Civilization music, just plain doesn't work!

How have we gotten by all these centuries, if that's the case? First off, it's only a problem for instruments. Human voices, ears, and brains naturally seek out the pure harmonic intervals, which is why African tribes could sing such harmonics without knowing the first thing about harmonic theory, let alone the math behind it (the vast majority of Barbershop singers have no idea about any of this, either).

But for instruments, especially fixed-tuning instruments, we do indeed have a problem. Imagine a simple three-chord sequence: C Major (2nd Inversion, G-C-E), F Major (1st Inversion, A-C-F), G7 (root position, G-B-D-F) -- a very common set of chords for popular music. The C of the C Major matches that of the F Major Chord. The G of the C Major (assuming 2nd Inversion here) matches that of the G7 chord. But the F of the F Major and G of the G7 chord are two different notes with substantially different tuning! Just playing that simple chord sequence on a piano would, if you wanted the pure, perfect tunings of Barbershop, require you to stop between the F Major and G7, and re-tune the piano's F strings to a considerably flatter pitch! Switching back to F Major means re-tuning the F strings to a sharper pitch!

Some older musicians of the Renaissance experimented with keyboard layouts that would allow a pipe organist to play all of the various precision tunings, but that became unwieldy, requiring dozens to over a hundred notes per octave in keyboard layouts that no human being could ever be expected to actually learn to play.

So, instead, they came up with compromised tuning systems! Early attempts at compromised, or "tempered," tunings, attempted to "spread" the ~½ semitone Pythagorean Comma around the octave in various ways, to force the octaves to match up, and thus resulted in scales that had different intervals at the same scale degrees for different keys, thereby resulting in different "feels" for different keys. A C Major scale would "feel" different from a C# Major scale, and not just because of the sharper pitch. Some intervals and chords would have more or less "tension" in one key than in another. Composers used this fact to express emotional content in their compositions, which is largely lost these days since we came up with a true even tempered scale.

Bach pioneered "well temperament," which is not the same thing as "even temperament." His "The Well Tempered Clavier" series of fugues demonstrated this. Each had a different "feel" when played on a well tempered organ or harpsichord.

About three centuries ago, calculus mathematics had advanced enough to where a true even tempered scale could be calculated: one that makes no attempt to retain the pure harmonic or even Pythagorean intervals for any interval except the octave. All others result in irrational multipliers.

The formula for a 12-tone Even Tempered (12tET) scale is starting pitch × 2 raised to the power of (s/12), where s = the number of semitones to go up or down. You can see that this works for octaves: going up one octave means going up twelve semitones, so 2 raised to the power of (12/12
But what about other intervals, such as the Perfect Fifth? Well, remember that, starting with A=440Hz, the true Perfect Fifth (Third Harmonic down an octave) is 440 × 1½ = 660Hz. How does it work for 12tET? Let's see -- we're going up seven semitones, so:

440Hz × 2(7/12)
440Hz × 20.5833...
440Hz × 1.4983070768766814987992807320298... (harmonic is exactly 1.5×)
= 659.25511382573985947168352209311...Hz!

That's what a piano's E above A has to be tuned to. That's what a MIDI file plays for that note, barring Pitch Bends or other tuning instructions. Ditto any other fixed-pitch instrument tuned to U.S. concert pitch 12tET.

As I said, that's a small difference (less than ¾Hz flatter), but the differences can get pretty big.

The Harmonic Major Third of the A440Hz, remember, is 550Hz. We go up 4 semitones, which means multiplying by 2 raised to the (4/12)th power:

440Hz × 2(4/12)
440Hz × 20.33...
440Hz × 1.2599210498948731647672106072779... (harmonic is exactly 1.25×)
= 554.36526195374419249757266720229...Hz!

This is now over 4¹/3Hz sharper than the Harmonic Major Third! That's an audible difference!

The Barbershop Seventh (should be G=770Hz when rooted on A=440Hz) has an even bigger discrepancy. We go up 10 semitones, so:

440Hz × 2(10/12)
440Hz × 20.833...
440Hz × 1.7817974362806786094804524111806... (harmonic is exactly 1.75×)
= 783.99087196349858817139906091947...Hz!

Wow! Almost 14Hz sharper!

As you can see, it's wrong to think of the pure harmonics as being "detuned" from the "proper" 12tET piano tuning. It's the 12tET tuning itself that's wrong!

This is why Barbershop is unaccompanied. Trying to sing it to instruments ruins the precision tuning and resulting lock & ring, expanded sound, overtones, undertones, etc.

It is possible to tune MIDI files to very close to true Just Intonation. You have to put each note of a chord on a separate MIDI channel, and use precision-calculated MIDI Pitch Bend Events before every note other than the scale root when not preceded by some other tuning event, or two repeated notes requiring the same tuning. I made a spreadsheet for calculating these.

Remember almost 3½ years ago (March 14th, 2006) with the "Theme: What will popular music sound like in 100 Years?" AudioEdit here on FARK? I won that one with my "100% Synthetic Barbershop Quartet." And yes, I precision-tuned it to close to the true Just Intonation intervals (the software I was using had a tuning resolution of "only" ±1¢ [1%, or ¹/100th of a 12tET semitone]). It's easy tell when listening for it.


/Modmins, please delete previous HTML FUBAR posts -- my apologies!
 
2009-08-12 08:06:51 AM  
Paul Lynde licking Charles Nelson Reilly's asshole would be less gay than this.
 
2009-08-12 09:10:08 AM  
crazycooter: Paul Lynde licking Charles Nelson Reilly's asshole would be less gay than this.

Charles Nelson Reilly felching Liberace would be less gay than this
 
2009-08-12 09:11:21 AM  
Brainmask: root88: You know how I know you're gay?

Seventy six rusty trombones?


Winner

Decados: I think there's a LOT of people reading this thread that might just secretly crave the peen themselves and only say such things to reinforce their own flagging sense of masculinity.

Either that, or they can take a joke.
 
2009-08-12 12:29:43 PM  
76 gaping anuses.

/so want a peenor after that
 
2009-08-12 01:14:27 PM  
"I hate you! And I hate the songs you like!"

- Red vs Blue explains Douches on the Internet.
 
2009-08-12 01:39:51 PM  
COMALite J: specially trained and certified judges

Really? Someone's actually offering a barbershop quartet judge certification program?

How bad does it get when you have to take a certification course even DeVry wouldn't offer in order to get a job?
 
2009-08-12 06:06:09 PM  
GREATEST. THREAD. EVER.

Barbershop is not gay. Period.
 
2009-08-12 09:19:27 PM  
Barbershop is not gay. Period.

Bricktexting in three part harmony is pretty farking furry, though.
 
2009-08-13 12:46:07 AM  
that was farking awesome!

/ saw it twice
 
2009-08-13 12:50:21 AM  
What I meant was:

Bass: ****** Great-est ...
Baritone: ***** Threaaaad ...
Lead: ************* Everrrrrr ...
Tenor: ***************** EVERRRRR ...

That's texting in FOUR-PART harmony, biatches. Suck on it.

Barbershop is not gay. Period.
(the jury is still out on Tenors, but Basses and Bari's are definitely not gay. jk tenors! not really.)
 
2009-08-13 01:49:43 PM  
JerseyTim: It used to be about the music, man. Now everyone just wants to see a vaudeville act with theatrics and costume changes.

Can't believe nobody caught that. Good one!

/As I type this, there were 76 comments in the thread. Interesting! Too bad this post will ruin that.
 
2009-08-13 01:52:04 PM  
JerseyTim: It used to be about The Music, Man. Now everyone just wants to see a vaudeville act with theatrics and costume changes.

Can't believe nobody caught that. Good one!

/As I type this, there were 76 comments in the thread. Interesting! Too bad this post will ruin that.

//Preview is your friend!
 
2009-08-13 02:08:14 PM  
Decados: My father was in a Barbershop Chorus and a few quartets as well.
I can honestly say that I don't think that he'd be too pleased that Bob Fosse's spirit has invaded the SPEBSQSA.

That being said.. when my dad passed away, the chorus attended his funeral and sang Battle Hymn of the Republic. To this day I can't listen to that song and not get a bit of dust in my eye.

The guys that my dad sang with were some of the best guys a person could have.


Have you heard FineyLeee's version of the ending of The Battle Hymn of the Republic?


FormlessOne: COMALite J: specially trained and certified judges

Really? Someone's actually offering a barbershop quartet judge certification program?

How bad does it get when you have to take a certification course even DeVry wouldn't offer in order to get a job?


Judging is a serious responsibility and commitment. You do get to attend the conventions for free (including travel and lodging expenses, from what I understand), but there is a long process to becoming a judge. You first have to be an Applicant, then a Candidate (among other things, Candidates travel to contests and practice score them -- their scores don't count, and are used only to determine how well the Candidate Judge's scoring matches with those of the more experienced Certified Judges in the same category), before you can become Certified.

These contests are actually a lot like sports. You score points, have qualifying levels to go through (Divisions, Districts, then International), and our Internationals are basically the Barbershop equivalent of the Super Bowl or World Series.

The summer International has the Collegiate Barbershop Quartet Contest and main Chorus and Quartet contests. Mid-Winter, a smaller but still international convention, hosts the Senior's Quartet Contest and the new (only a few years old now) Youth Chorus Festival Contest.


To all of you nay-sayers (and gay-sayers), a challenge: find a Barbershop Chapter near you (use the locator at Barbershop.org) and attend a rehearsal. Then sing a simple "tag" with three other guys. Try it just once before you knock it. Until you've actually experienced being part of generating the "expanded sound" yourself, you can't have any idea what it's like.

A truly ringing chord sung by good Barbershoppers can make every hair on your forearms stand at full attention, and ½ of 'em salute!
 
2009-08-13 04:13:33 PM  
COMALite J: FormlessOne: COMALite J: specially trained and certified judges

Really? Someone's actually offering a barbershop quartet judge certification program?

How bad does it get when you have to take a certification course even DeVry wouldn't offer in order to get a job?

Judging is a serious responsibility and commitment. (Lots of detail omitted.)


My post was tongue-in-cheek; I've judged leatherworking competitions, yet another demonstration of an intricate but dying (no pun intended) art. The process of judging, while similar, doesn't require such stringent journeymanship. Unlike barbershop quartet participation, one can develop a reasonable level of skill in leather carving & assembly without the (at least initial) involvement of others. With involvement and mentoring, skill level at leatherworking can increase at a pace commensurate with effort and talent, but even a reasonably self-taught amateur can produce some nice work.

I don't see that happening with barbershop quartet singing - you have to have some talent up-front, and you need to be involved with others at the onset to progress in skill.

In other words - how in the hell does one break into barbershop quartet singing as a hobby without having three like-minded friends willing to put up with initial off-key caterwauling?
 
2009-08-13 06:32:11 PM  
This is where the chorus's come in.

Most people who join into barbershop singing start in a whole chorus, like the one seen there in the video. You attend a rehearsal and can often times join in. Almost all of the guys you saw up there are not professional singers. (though in some of the most top end groups. .the 'everyday joe' factor is a bit lower in favor of those who have music backgrounds). You don't need too much talent up front. They teach you a good deal about it, with a lot of 'learn as you're doing'. That's another reason that people start out in a chorus as opposed to a quartet. In the chorus you're one of 20 other baritones.. in the quartet.. You. Are. It.

My dad was a member of the Treasure Statesman, of the Evergreen District, and was eventually part of the quartet, the Paris Gibson Squires. (they would meet and practice in a community center in Great Falls...Paris Gibson Square).

The memories I have of growing up surrounded by Barbershop music, and going to the singouts, concerts, practices and watching my dad sing are some of the happiest memories I have of growing up.
 
2009-08-13 07:30:06 PM  
There's not enough detailed information here about this gay crap.

Please...break it down even further.
 
2009-08-13 09:17:01 PM  
I'm still trying to figure out what makes this "gay." Is it because there're lots of guys interacting with each other in close proximity without a female around? Then you must not like football, either. They're actually grabbing each other, while all sweaty and stuff!


Cool story, Decados! I wish I could've met your dad!
 
2009-08-14 01:07:38 AM  
TheSand: Hack Patooey: Better (new window)

This.

Hack Patooey: Even better (new window)

But more so this.


Absolutely! No argument here! And I doubt you'd get one from the Ambassadors of Harmony themselves, either, and definitely not from director Dr. Jim Henry!

"The Music Man" is the greatest musical ever, bar none. And, for obvious reasons, it's a favorite of Barbershoppers.

The School Board Quartet in both the Broadway original and that movie adaptation was portrayed by the Buffalo Bills, easily the best Quartet of its day and arguably one of the best ever. They won the International Championship in 1950 and set the high score record then-to-date (under a considerably different scoring system than today, so we can't really compare).

2007 was the 50th Anniversary of "The Music Man"'s opening on Broadway, and the Barbershop Harmony Society celebrated it in style. All that year, Choruses and Quartets all over the nation performed "The Music Man songs," medleys, and sometimes whole productions of the musical. The International competition that year was held in Denver, with the theme, "Ya Gotta Know the Territory" -- words that any fan of "The Music Man" would recognize.

To this very day, "Lida Rose" is still the most requested song performed by Barbershop quartets.

At this past convention, the comedy quartet Storm Front (not to be confused with the white supremacist group -- the Quartet had the name first, spells it correctly as two words instead of one, and came by the name honestly: all four of them are meteorologists, and a "storm front" is of course a weather phenomenon) did an absolutely hilarious rendition of the "Lida Rose / Sweet and Low" duet that has to be seen to be appreciated. It will no doubt be on the 2009 International Contest DVD to be released in time for Christmas - well worth the purchase for that reason alone! As I said before, they got the third place medals this year, partly for that song (their other sets were very funny and very well sung, too).

Oh, all of you, if you get a chance, watch Jim Henry's "Gold Medal Moments" series on YouTube™ (uploaded by "BarbershopHarmony38"). One of the most inspirational speeches I've ever head on any subject outside of Church! Yes, it's mainly about Barbershop, but is applicable to so much more!
 
2009-08-14 05:17:13 AM  
I was told there would be no math.
 
2009-08-14 08:11:23 AM  
COMALite J: I'm still trying to figure out what makes this "gay." Is it because there're lots of guys interacting with each other in close proximity without a female around? Then you must not like football, either. They're actually grabbing each other, while all sweaty and stuff!

The singing is fine and I respect their talent. What makes this gay is the choreographed prancing around, over-enthusiastic faces, and jazz hands. At least that's what I find gay. If they would have just stood their, maybe a finger snap or clap here and there, and just sung the damn song I probably would have enjoyed it.
 
2009-08-14 01:12:30 PM  
crazycooter:
The singing is fine and I respect their talent. What makes this gay is the choreographed prancing around, over-enthusiastic faces, and jazz hands. At least that's what I find gay. If they would have just stood their, maybe a finger snap or clap here and there, and just sung the damn song I probably would have enjoyed it."

While I don't agree with the snarky "barbershop is gay" comments from other people, I applaud you for explaining your stance, because what you have a problem with is the Chorus' performance.

I can't blame you for that, at all.

In fact, that's probably the best critical comment I've seen posted on this thread. You are all right with me, crazycooter.

Maybe you'd like this better, because there's no jazz hands. It's this years 2009 International QUARTET (not "chorus") Champion, "Crossroads".

2009 International Quartet Champions CROSSROADS performs 'Lucky Old Sun' arranged by David Wright. (new window)
 
2009-08-14 02:46:13 PM  
COMALite J: I'm still trying to figure out...


Cool story, Decados! I wish I could've met your dad!


I'll just bet you do...
 
2009-08-14 11:44:51 PM  

So, crazycooter, are you saying that Broadway and Hollywood musical production numbers are gay?

The enthusiastic faces are all about "selling the song," which is the main criterion for the Presentation category (that they scored two points shy of an across-the-board perfect score on).


Mrbogey: Added difficulty. Spot the non-white guy.

You bring up the great shame of Barbershop. As I said before, thanks to Dr. Henry's research among others, we now know that Barbershop was invented by African slaves and their descendants, based on tribal harmony chants. It is, in fact, Black music.

In the 19th Century, Blacks sang it in their barbershops, which is how it got the name. In the "Gold Medal Moments" video series I referred to before, early in Part 1, Dr. Henry quotes:

"In the introduction to his 1925 Book of American Negro Spirituals, James Weldon Johnson, a towering figure of the Harlem Renaissance -- author, lyricist, composer, lawyer, civil rights leader, and [early leader in] the NAACP -- recalled a scene from his boyhood memories of Jacksonville, Florida in the 1880's. See if it doesn't sound familiar to you:

In the days when such a thing as a white barber was unknown in the South, every barber shop had its quartet, and the men spent their leisure time playing on the guitar...and 'harmonizing.' I have witnessed some of these explorations in the field of harmony and the scenes of hilarity and backslapping when a new and rich chord was discovered. There would be demands for repetitions and cries of, 'Hold it! Hold it!' until it was firmly mastered. And well it was, for some of these chords were so new and strange for voices that, like Sullivan's Lost Chord, they would have never been found again except for the celerity [i.e., swiftness] in which they were recaptured. In this way was born the famous but much abused 'barber-shop chord.'"
You often hear about how the white man "stole" Jazz, Blues, etc. But as has often been pointed out on RIAA and MPAA threads here on FARK, "stealing" something means that whoever you stole it from doesn't have it anymore (which is why copyright infringement, while illegal, is not theft). White people did not steal Jazz nor Blues, since Black people still have those.

We did steal Barbershop, in every sense of the term.

In the Vaudeville days and even before with the minstrel shows, white people had grown to love Barbershop, but would not pay black people to sing it. Instead, white men would wear "blackface" -- hideously racially insulting in and of itself, but more than that, it was denying the real original black Barbershop quartets the opportunity to perform their music and be paid for it as they should've been.

Barbershop became more popular during the Tin Pan Alley days, especially because those songs seemed made for it. In those days before radio and the phonograph, the primary means of popular music distribution was sheet music, which meant that the songs had to be easily singable by average people. Many included arrangements for four-part male quartets.

Barbershop became less popular in early decades of the 20th Century, as the phonograph and radio and movie musicals and later TV made more musical styles more readily accessible.

In 1938, a Tulsa, OK tax attorney named Owen Clifton "O. C." Cash, while traveling on business, met a fellow Tulsan named Rupert Hall, and the two discovered their mutual love of the old Barbershop quartet music of their youth. They decided to hold a get-together to sing it when they returned to Tulsa.

That first meeting, held on the rooftop garden of the Tulsa Club, had 26 men attending. The third meeting had about 150. People heard the music from ground level, and a traffic jam ensued as passersby wondered where the music was coming from. While police tried to straighten out the jam, a local newspaper reporter heard the singing, sensed a great story, and joined the meeting.

O. C. Cash bluffed his way through the interview, saying that his "organization" was national in scope, with branches in St. Louis, Kansas City and elsewhere. He simply neglected to mention was that these "branches" were just a few scattered friends who enjoyed harmonizing, but knew nothing of Cash's new club. He came up with the name "Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Incorporated" on the spot, abbreviating it SPPBSQSA as a parody of the numerous New Deal programs and their acronyms and abbreviations. (The name was later changed to "the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement..." and the initials correspondingly changed to "SPEBSQSA."

Cash's flair for publicity, combined with the unusual name, made an irresistible story for the news wire services, which spread it coast-to-coast. Cash's "branches" started receiving puzzling calls from men interested in joining the barbershop society. Soon, groups were meeting throughout North America to sing barbershop harmony, and SPEBSQSA became an official organization.

(Interesting aside: the year that the Society was formed and thus revived an original American artform, 1938, is also the same year that another original American artform received its greatest boost: it was the year that Superman was first published as a comic book: Action Comics #1! Mere months apart!)

O.C. Cash was our founder, but he, like most white Americans of the time, was racist. Tulsa was less than two decades prior the site of what is very likely the single worst act of mass violence against blacks in American history (and the worst act of terrorism in the USA until 9/11 -- its actual body count may well roughly match even that!), and marks arguably the first time that a civilian population was bombed from airplanes on American soil.

Sadly, for its first few decades, the SPEBSQSA barred Blacks from membership in an organization dedicated to preserving and encouraging the very same musical art form that they themselves created. The parallel women's organization, Sweet Adeline International (SAI) which formed in 1945, likewise barred blacks from membership, but in 1959, some of the women broke from the group over that very issue and founded Harmony, Inc. (HI). Though for many decades now both the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS, formerly SPEBSQSA) and SAI have opened their memberships to anyone of the respective gender of any ethnicity (to their credit, long before either would've been forced to by legislation in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement), HI remains separate from SAI since so much else had changed in the interim (including contest scoring methodologies -- HI is very similar to the BHS in this regard, while SAI is quite different).

The damage has been done, unfortunately. Few Blacks today are aware that Barbershop was ever their music. Many think that, like Country, it's "the whitest of the White Man's music." Even a Chorus the size of the Ambassadors of Harmony has, as you see, only a couple of Blacks (St. Charles, MO. proper has an overall 3½% Black population and even with that they should have at least four or five Black members, but the Chapter serves that whole area, which has a substantially larger percentage.

There are some Quartets competing these days that have as many as two Black members, which is an improvement. But there really should be much, much more Black representation in Barbeshop.

I personally live in a city that is over 50% Black. And yet we don't have a single Black member at present (we used to have some, but no more than one at a time, and they always left after a few months). This especially disturbs me because, a few years ago, while visiting one of our local arts festivals, I heard what sounded like a Barbershop quartet singing. It was four elderly Black men. Turns out that they were a Southern Gospel (which is virtually the same thing as Barbershop, but of course focusing on Gospel songs) Quartet that was famous among the regional Black community, and had been performing for 60 years -- almost exactly as old as my Chapter! And yet, neither I nor anyone else in my Chapter had ever heard of them (I had read their name in a list of performers, I think, but never tried to find out who they were despite having the word "Quartet" in their name).

I invited them to come to our rehearsals, but they never did. I went to another arts festival that I knew they would be performing at, and listened to their wonderful music, and invited them again. Unfortunately, at least one of them has passed away since then.

How can it be that a city our size could have two groups performing basically the same kind of music for six decades, and neither have heard of the other? What does that say about how deep the divide is between the racial communities in my city?

If only we could've done some joint concerts together over the decades. It may well have helped bridge the two racial communities. Because my Chapter works with the local schools, providing grants to schools with vocal music programs and even scholarships to promising vocal students (this is what we and other Barbershop chapters and quartets do with much of the money we raise from our shows and Singing Valentines and such), we could even have helped find four young local Black youth to form a new Quartet to take over their name upon their retirement, as Version 2.0, for the next ½ century or so!
 
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