About the Author:
When Anita Sullivan started a second career as a piano tuner decades ago, she was immediately puzzled by the piano’s complicated tuning system. Surprised to learn that her new profession was not only technically complex, but in fact required artistic judgments, she set herself to describing the tuning system in a way that would make sense to ordinary listeners, rather than piano technicians alone. This exceptional book is the result. Sullivan lives in Oregon, where recently she has turned her attention to early pianos, the tuning of historical temperaments, and the music that goes with them. Please visit http://www.seventhdragon.com for more information.
The riddle of the Seventh Dragon injapanese folklore is that he is the only one who is never visible. His task is listening, and as Sullivan states in The Seventh Dragon: The Riddle of Equal Temperament, "Perhaps he never shows up because his visible self is constantly consumed in the act of hearing." Perhaps so, but Sullivan's own intellect and questioning perspective is plainly visible in this wonderful book-a book which may have begun as an investigation into the history and science of piano tuning but which grew into a philosophical probing of ratio, harmony, paradox, balance, wisdom, and beauty. As with most good pieces of writing, there are many levels of meaning in Sullivan's slim volume. One level reflects the precise and exacting maneuvers of the piano tuner at work, attempting to bring the instrument to a state of "equal temperament," the tuning system we have employed in the Western world for the last 150 years. While other tuning systems have been used, all are ultimately based on the relationships of beats. "These 'beats' are a way of measuring the degree of purity or harmony ... When all the intervals in the center are properly balanced, [the piano tuner] then tunes by octaves, outwards towards the bass and treble extremes of the keyboard. The result is not perfect symmetry, nor a collection of pure intervals, it is a balance- a compromise." A second level appears in the short but poetic "Tuner's Monologue" which introduces most of the chapters in this book. As the tuner attempts to achieve an equal temperament on the piano, her inner ear and eye respond to the struggle. "We must come to an understanding, this piano and L. . A test all the possibilities, and settle on the one which is in the piano's heart."Sullivan manages to turn piano tuning into a mystical search for balance without losing a certain pragmatism which enriches yet restrains the piece itself. "As you tune your unison, and you hear the beats gradually slowing down, there comes a place where they are too slow to count any more.. . . You are listening in a different way than ever before. You have stopped counting. You have stopped hearing with just your cars. You have stopped.. . . And I think the piano's song is right there, in the failing-in place, which is the final tempering." With critical questions and splendid, rich metaphors, Anita Sullivan has succeeded in constructing a rare combination of philosophy and literature. Winner of the 1986 Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction, The Seventh Dragon challenges the reader to re-vision many assumptions we often take for granted, and as humans, we are nourished by the process. -- From Independent Publisher
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