July 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
I always find myself asking the same two questions : What and Why? Maybe because I like to discover, don’t you? and I think about music a lot as well.Well, you never asked yourself what is music? an art isn’t it? A different kind of art that you cannot see, you cannot touch but you can feel (you hear)! Basically yes.. On the other hand every single tune, every single music you hear is a piece of art? Contestable.
Let’s see what we find in the dictionary:
an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.
the tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both.
musical work or compositions for singing or playing.
Interesting, “musical work or composition for singing or playing”. So how do you sing or play? In the first place, all music must be written before it can be read, understood, and played by musicians. So basically you need a system of notation that gives musicians the information they need to play music as the composer intended it. So, what is this notation? Very basically, any system that represents aurally perceived music, through the use of written symbols.
I hear you asking what are these symbols then? Staff, cleves, measures, notes, rests, accidentals…
I don’t want to confuse you on going through all of these, but there is something I am interested the most: Notes.
What is a note?
a sign used in musical notation to represent the relative duration and pitch of a sound;
a pitched sound itself.
The pitch describes how low or high a note sounds. Sound is made up of waves which have a speed or frequency that they vibrate at. The pitch of the note changes depending on the frequency of these vibrations. The higher the frequency of the wave, the higher the pitch of the note will sound. In traditional music theory pitch classes are represented by the first seven letters of the Latin alphabet (A, B, C, D, E, F and G).
A, B, C, D, E, F, G? What about Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si???
Let’s have a look to music history now, Who invented the notation that’s used on sheet music today or do you ever think why we use letter names in musical notation?
The earliest form of musical notation can be found in a cuneiform tablet that was created at Nippur, Iraq in about 2000 B.C. Also, Ancient Greek musical notation was capable of representing pitch and note-duration, and harmony.We see tablets which have letters of the Greek alphabet with symbols written on the top called Neums which indicate the pitches of the notes.The Roman writer and statesman Boethius was the first person who wrote on musical notation book (De institutione musica). In this book Boetius used the first fifteen letters of the alphabet to signify the notes of the two-octave range that was in use at the time.This became known as Boethian notation.Following this, the system of repeating letters A-G in each octave was introduced.
In Italian, Portuguese, Greek, French, Russian, Flemish, Romanian, Spanish, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Bulgarian and Turkish notation the notes of scales are given in terms of Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si rather than C-D-E-F-G-A-B.The founder of this original names is an Italian Benedictine monk called Guido d’Arezzo. He had taken them from a Gregorian Chant melody “Ut queant laxis” written by the Lombard historian Paul the Deacon. This evolved over time into the syllables Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si/Ti-Do. Let me write you the first stanza ( I really like it)
1. Ut queant laxis
2. resonare fibris,
3. Mira gestorum
4. famuli tuorum,
5. Solve polluti
6. labii reatum,
7. Sancte Iohannes.
You can clearly see Ut, Re, Mi Fa, Sol, La, and Si (the exception being Si, which has the S of Sancte and the I of Iohannes). Ut later on changed to Do (for Dominus) so that God could be the beginning of the musical scale.
On the other hand, when we have a look to English-speaking world, rather then do-re-mi they use an updated version of the old Roman system.A through G, for the pitches of an octave.
Finally, wherever it starts or however it changes, the music is an international language, spreaded all over the world and always gives you the same, familiar feeling.