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Thread: History of Music Notation

  1. #1
    DW
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    I thought this was intresting. But u might not have the patience to read through. :P This was copied from http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory35.htm. This online lesson site is definately worth a look. It's one huge dictionary itself. B)

    Do u know the origins of music notation?
    early 11th century: Guido d'Arezzo develops an improved form of musical notation

    It is likely that Guido was born in France. He served as a Benedictine monk then traveled in 1025 to work for Bishop Theobald in Arezzo, Italy where he lived for some years. Although Guido was not a composer, he is included here because his contributions as an early music theorist made it possible for early composers to begin recording their work in manuscript. Around 1025 Guido created a system of musical notation using a 4-line staff which has evolved into the system we use today. The importance of this work is enormous. Before Guido's invention of musical notation, every singer had to memorize the entire chant repertoire. Those singers then went on to teach the next generation. Small errors in memory or differences of taste caused the chants to change over the years and no two singers would learn a chant precisely the same way. Notation made it possible to record a chant in a definitive form for posterity and easier communication.



    The naming of the notes and position of middle C arise from the way we set out our great staff. d'Arezzo called the first line on the lower staff by the Greek letter 'gamma'. The lowest note in the scale was called 'ut' and was placed on gamma. This first note was soon called 'gamma ut', which contracted to 'gamut'. At some point, French musicians began referring to the whole scale (by then an octave) as the 'gamut', a typical example of metonymy, the rhetorical or metaphorical substitution of a one thing for another based on their association or proximity. The term was next extended to refer to the musical range of an instrument or voice. By the seventeenth century 'gamut' was further generalized to mean an entire range of any kind.

    Naming notes with syllables rather than letters is an example of solmization. The syllables Guido a'Arrezo chose to use in the system he developed in the eleventh century as an aid in the teaching of sight-singing, namely 'ut, re, me, fa, sol, la', are taken from the hymn Ut Queant Laxis Resonare Fibris. This is explained more fully in the entry for Ut Queant Laxis Resonare Fibris taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia to which we have added some extra detail.

    Ut Queant Laxis Resonare Fibris is the first line of a hymn in honour of St. John the Baptist. The Roman Breviary divides it into three parts and assigns the first, "Ut queant laxis", etc., to Vespers, the second, "Antra deserti teneris sub annis", to Matins, the third, "O nimis felix, meritique celsi", to Lauds, of the feast of the Nativity of St. John (24 June). With hymnologists generally, Dreves ascribes the authorship to Paulus Diaconus (c. 774) and expresses surprise at the doubt of Duemmler, for which he can see no reason. The hymn is written in Sapphic stanzas, of which the first is famous in the history of music for the reason that the notes of the melody corresponding with the initial syllables of the six hemistichs are the first six notes of the diatonic scale of C. This fact led to the syllabic naming of the notes as Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, as may be shown by capitalizing the initial syllables of the hemistichs:



    Guido of Arezzo (Paris, c. 995 - Avellano, 1050), a Benedictine monk, showed his pupils an easier method of determining the sounds of the scale than by the use of the monochord. His method was that of comparison of a known melody with an unknown one which was to be learned, and for this purpose he frequently chose the well-known melody of the Ut queant laxis. Against a common view of musical writers, Dom Pothier contends that Guido did not actually give these syllabic names to the notes, did not invent the hexachordal system, etc., but that insensibly the comparison of the melodies led to the syllabic naming. When a new name for the seventh, or leading, note of our octave was desired, Erich van der Putten suggested, in 1599, the syllabic BI of labii, but a vast majority of musical theorists supported the happier thought of the syllable SI, formed by the initial letters of the two words of the last line (SI because J and I were then both written I). UT has been generally replaced by DO(H) - the use of DO in place of UT was proposed in 1673 by Giovanni Maria Bonocini - because of the open sound of the latter. Durandus says that the hymn was composed by Paul the Deacon on a certain Holy Saturday when, having to chant the Exsultet for the blessing of the paschal candle, he found himself suffering from an unwonted hoarseness. Perhaps bethinking himself of the restoration of voice to the father of the Baptist, he implored a similar help in the first stanza. The melody has been found in a manuscript of the tenth century, applied to the words of Horace's Ode to Phyllis, Est mihi nonum superantis annum.



    In Italy, the ut was changed to do, being the first syllable of Dominus

    si was much later changed to te by a Miss S. A. Glover and John Curwen so that each degree of the scale would have a unique single letter abreviation used for written notation. This was the start of the movable doh method of teaching which lasted in the UK for a hundred years (see Tonic Sol-fa).

    The sequence was applied to sequences of six notes (e.g. C - D - E - F - G - A) called hexachords (Greek: hexa = six, chorde = string or note).

    There are three hexachords starting on the notes 'g', 'c' and 'f'.

    The note letter names of the upward scale from 'gamma ut' then read

    gamma, A, B, c d, e, f, g, a, b, c'. d'. e', f', g', a', b', c''. d'', e''

    Having chosen the name of the bottom note and defined the sequence from there upwards, all the others follow. With a five line per stave arrangement, the line between the staves in C, which, in medieval times, was called 'c sol fa ut', is today called 'middle C'. Notes are named from bottom to top - i.e. 'sol fa ut' rather than 'ut fa sol'. The extensions 'sol fa ut' describe the position of this particular c in the progression of hexachords, starting on 'gamma ut', then restarting a fourth higher ('c fa ut&#39, and finally starting a fourth above that ('f fa ut&#39 after which the sequence begins again on the g one octave above 'gamma'.



    In order to maintain the correct interval relationship within each hexachord, that starting on 'f' has a 'b flat' (b rotundum) for 'fa' while that starting on 'g' has a 'b natural' (b quadrum) for 'mi'. The hexachords on 'f', 'g' and 'c' were termed 'soft' (molle), 'hard' (durum) and 'natural' respectively. These mediaeval terms have persisted in German with the naming of keys, namely 'dur' (for major) and 'moll' (for minor), and the naming of the notes 'b flat' and 'b natural' which are called 'b' and 'h' respectively.

    As it happens, middle C, lies just about in the middle of the standard piano keyboard and for this reason most pianists assume that the description 'middle' is a reference to this accident of piano manufacture. The term 'middle' is applied only to the note 'c' and not to the register wherein it lies.

  2. #2
    Nox
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    We did touch on that in my Music History class...fascinating...but I'd need a book to puruse in my spare time to really understand all the changes over time...
    <span style='color:green'><span style='font-family:Optima'>Music is what feelings sound like...Anon</span>.</span>

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    Interesting&#33;&#33; B) I recently found a whole English psalm-book complete with musical notation from 1538 (or so)&#33;&#33;&#33; It was primitive notation typical of that time, but still readable. That got me thinking about what things would be like if we didn&#39;t have musical notation. I&#39;m sure most musicians would agree that it was one of the most important developments&#33;
    science likes this.

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    Really interesting, yes&#33; I remember that in relation with Greogorianic singing, how that was developed... Still fascinating how that huge progres and succes have been done in history to fix one of the most arts, if it is not the most enriching art - music - on paper&#33;

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    DW
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    I remember that in relation with Greogorianic singing, how that was developed...
    Yes...If I remembered correctly. They plotted dots and X all over to let singers feel visually the flow of the music before Guido&#39;s time. Then there was the discovery of staffs, but no bar lines then...etc.
    Wow&#33; Lucky we&#33;

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    Interesting discussion. Not a hint, not even a whiff, of improvisation. Just a tiny passing reference to alterations over time, described, from a twentieth/twenty-first century perspective, as "errors".

    "Before Guido&#39;s invention of musical notation, every singer had to memorize the entire chant repertoire. Those singers then went on to teach the next generation. Small errors in memory or differences of taste caused the chants to change over the years and no two singers would learn a chant precisely the same way. Notation made it possible to record a chant in a definitive form for posterity and easier communication."

    That's one way of looking at the situation, I guess. I wonder how early the sense of "posterity" came into the picture. I&#39;ve heard that it came in much later. Around 1800 much later, actually. Be interesting to find out. We now, in 2013, are so familiar with the ideas of "posterity" and of "easier communication," that when we read things like this, it doesn&#39;t sound off to us. We take posterity and easy communication for granted, forgetting that not everyone in every age did the same.

    Notation started out, in another view of the situation, as a mnemomic device. A way to remind the improviser of the general shape and direction of the piece. This was certainly how performers took scores in the Baroque era, anyway,* which was much later than any of the "around 1000 AD" folks being mentioned here.

    *We know this, ironically enough, by the contemporary criticisms of improvisation. As the sense gradually grew of wanting everything to be the same every performance, there came people who criticized the prevailing practice of improvisation. That's** how we can know, without any recording technology in that time (!), that improvisation was the prevailing practice.

    **Oops! Missed one.

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    The history of musical notation has been developed over years. Several kinds of early melody, just like tales, were delivered down the peers, without being composed; hence they inclined to progress over the period of time. Notational system is required for constancy and accuracy. It obviously initiated and got established in similar with musical philosophy.

    Musical Notes are any system that signifies aurally comprehended harmony through the use of the inscribed signs. The initial process of melodic notation could be discovered in cuneiform tablet that was made in Nippur in 2000 BC. The tablet exemplifies fragmented instructions for performance melodies.

    The origination of Contemporary Music Notation was found in European Classical Music & it is now put into service by lot of musical performers in many different types throughout the biosphere. It is being specified that the system of rules applies the five- line staff. Tone is showcased by the appropriate placement of harmonious notes on the staff & duration is displayed with diverse tone values.

    One can recite the notation from the left side to the right side which makes arranging melody from right to left scripts challenging. Rhythm, moral force and manifestation, appears as direction to the musical performer or underneath the staff. A short poem of songlike quality is inscribed for choral music. Music is actually not written down in Indian Classical Music for the purpose of concert.

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