APOTOME. - Smaller fractions of an interval than the comma. [Scientific Basis and Build of Music, page 25]
noun: a semitone

"While vibrations are the sound-stuff, the protoplasm of notes, semitones are, as it were, the atoms of which music is composed. We may think and talk of quarter tones and commas, apotomes and skismas, and dots, but these have no place as intervals for the musical ear, nor any part in the compositions which so charm us of the great masters." [Scientific Basis and Build of Music, page 20]

The reason why there are 13 mathematical scales is that G♭ and F# are written separately as two scales, although the one is only a comma and the apotome minor higher than the other, while in the regular succession of scales the one is always 5 notes higher than the other; so this G♭ is an anomaly among scales, unless viewed as the first of a second cycle of keys, which it really is; and all the notes of all the scales of this second cycle are equally a comma and the apotome higher than the notes of the first cycle; and when followed out we find that a third cycle is raised just as much higher than the second as the second is higher than the first; and what is true of these majors may be simply repeated as to the D# and E♭ of the minors, and the new cycle so begun, and all successive minor cycles. Twelve and not thirteen is the natural number for the mathematical scales, which go on in a spiral line, as truly as for the tempered scales, which close as a circle at this point. [Scientific Basis and Build of Music, page 89]

This diagram shows pictorially the open in the spiral of the mathematical scales, in which, if written in sharps only, B# is seen a little, that is, a comma and the apotome minor, in advance of C, and as the first scale of the new cycle; for it is a violation of Nature's beautiful steps to call it a thirteenth scale of this order, since every scale in the order is 31 commas in advance of the preceding, whereas B# is only one comma and a small fraction in advance of C. If the scales be written in ♭s and #s for convenience of signature, then G# is seen a comma and apotome in advance of A♭; while the whole circle of keys advancing by fifths are each 31 commas in advance of the preceding. We may therefore cast utterly from us the idea of there being more than twelve mathematical scales, and view the so-called thirteenth as simply the first of a new round of the endless spiral of scales. There is, however, in this note a banner with the strange device, "Excelsior," for it leads us onward into ever-advancing regions of vibrations, and would at last bring us to the ultimate and invisible dynamic structure of the visible world. The tempered system of 12 keys, as in Fig. 1, is by causing the G# and A♭ to coalesce and be one, as the two D's are already literally one by Nature's own doing. [Scientific Basis and Build of Music, page 118]

The inner stave contains the chromatic scale of twelve notes as played on keyed instruments. The flat and sharp phase of the intermediate notes are both given to indicate their relation to each other; the sharpened note being always the higher one, although seemingly on the stave the lower one. The two notes are the apotome minor apart overlapping each other by so much; ♭D is the apotome lower than C#; ♭E the apotome lower than D#; F# the apotome higher than ♭G; G# the apotome higher than ♭A; and A# the apotome higher than ♭B. The figures for the chromatic scale are only given for the notes and their sharps; but in the mathematical series of notes the numbers are all given. [Scientific Basis and Build of Music, page 120]

See Also

apotome higher
apotome lower
apotome minor
apotome scales
apotomes and skismas
enharmonic diesis
pythagorean komma

Created by Dale Pond. Last Modification: Wednesday January 6, 2021 03:24:53 MST by Dale Pond.