13 Jul 2017

urban myth of devils interval banned by church

Is it an urban myth that the so-called 'devil's interval' was banned by the Catholic church in the middle ages? (It is also called the diminished fifth tritone and it's the distinctive interval in Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze.)
Le Songe de Tartini par Louis-Léopold Boilly 1824.jpg
Louis-Léopold Boilly, Public Domain, Link
I'm sure that is what Dave Randall said when he spoke about his new book, Sound System: The Political Power of Music, at the 2017 Wivenhoe May Day event. But other sources say it is merely rumour, for example this from mentalfloss.com
Over the years, there have been rumors that the diminished fifth tritone was banned by religious authorities, or even that composers were punished for sneaking it into their work. Given that various Christian faiths and organizations have either produced or influenced much of the classical Western canon, though, experts seem to think it’s more likely that musical monks and other religious composers discouraged its use in keeping with “strict musical rules,” [Professor John Deathridge of King's College London] said. “This particular dissonance … simply won't work technically, [so] you are taught not to write that interval. But you [could] read into that a theological ban in the guise of a technical ban." [Musicologist Anthony Pryer] notes, too, that the tritone “was recognized to be a problem in music right back to the 9th Century [and] a natural consequence, and so they banned it [and] had rules for getting around it ... I don't think they ever thought of it as the Devil dwelling in music.”

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