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Instrumental Differences: Juniata Music Professor Talks Tuning

(Posted September 9, 2009)

Jim Latten, associate professor of music

HUNTINGDON, Pa. --- Does Mozart's "Requiem" sound the same today as it did when the composer was writing it? The short answer is no, and James Latten, associate professor of music at Juniata College, will explain why this is so in his lecture "Equal Temperament: Tuning and Its Predecessors" at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16 in Room 101, Swigart Hall on the Juniata campus.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Bookend Seminar series features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata College faculty.

For the past 100 years or so, musicians (or at least musicians in westernized cultures) have tuned their instruments using a system called Equal Temperament. Before that, orchestras and musicians used several different tuning systems that do not sound the same as the system used today.

"When our modern tuning is done to compositions of the 19th century and earlier, it represents a form of historical revisionism and compromises our understanding of how such composers as Bach, Chopin, Vivaldi, and Beethoven intended their music to be heard," Latten says. "Music of an earlier time should be heard as it was intended, using the tuning systems in vogue at that period of time."

Latten will play examples of Baroque and classical music recorded using historical tunings and also briefly discuss the science behind tuning trends before and after the 20th century.

"When our modern tuning is done to compositions of the 19th century and earlier, it represents a form of historical revisionism and compromises our understanding of how such composers as Bach, Chopin, Vivaldi, and Beethoven intended their music to be heard."
Jim Latten, associate professor of music

James Latten joined the Juniata faculty in 1997 as adjunct instructor of percussion and became director of instrumental music, as well as director of the college Wind Symphony in 2002.

In 2003, Latten formed the Juniata Jazz Ensemble. He conducts the percussion ensemble, teaches studio percussion, and instructs academic music courses. From 2000-2002 Mr. Latten served as assistant professor of music at The University of Dayton. He was promoted to associate professor in 2007.

Latten earned a master's degree in music education from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree in music education from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.

He went on to earn a doctoral degree from Penn State University, where he also served as graduate assistant with the band program, including the 280-member Penn State Blue Band, for three years.
He is currently a member of Music Educators National Conference, College Music Society, Percussive Arts Society, Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society, The Conductors Guild, and the College Band Directors National Association.


Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.