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Old 10-23-2013, 07:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default A Concise History of the Symphony Orchestra

Music in the West probably came out of Egypt. The art of Ancient Egypt depicts a number of instruments that were clearly antecedents of later European instruments such as the harp and flute. The sistrum—metal discs strung on wires within a framework and handle that could be held in one hand and shook—was the forerunner of the tambourine. Egyptian music appeared to be largely sacerdotal as opposed to secular or profane. We cannot be certain. The art depicts priests and priestesses rather than peasants making music on instruments. This would make sense as the average farmer or laborer would have neither the time nor money to afford an instrument as well receiving instruction to play it.


An Egyptian sistrum. The handle is fashioned into an image of the cat goddess Bastet.


Harp.


Lyre.


Guitar or lute.


Flute or pipes.


An Egyptian musical ensemble or orchestra. Judging from the available art from the classical period, female musicians seemed to significantly outnumber their male counterparts.

Exactly what Egyptian music of that period sounded like we can only guess. This composition by Brian Eno and David Byrne that utilized a sample of Egyptian singing might give us a clue:


Byrne & Eno | A Secret Life - YouTube

Exactly how the music of Egypt propagated is anyone’s guess. We can assume it made inroads into Ancient Greece and into Palestine.


Ancient Hebrew coins from about 125 BCE depicting lyres reminiscent of those made by the Egyptians.

But we would be in error, I think, if we assumed this was a one-way street. Musical expression of forms arose in different regions and locales and spread out and overlapped resulting in a lot of hybridization. One example would be the bowed instruments which likely originated in Central Asia and into the Middle and Far East which made inroads in Europe in medieval times when Arabic and Turkish music and instruments became the rage.

Another source of music that was likely greatly influenced by Egypt was Greece. The groundwork of music theory in Ancient Greece was laid by the Pythagoreans so it likely sounded quite different. The following clip is an example of what Ancient Greek lyre music sounded like:


Ancient Greek Music - The Lyre of Classical Antiquity... - YouTube


The double-pipes of Egypt found a home in Greece.



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Old 10-23-2013, 07:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The man on the right plays a type of tambourine.


An example of Greek musical notation on a hymn to Apollo. The small marks over the letters indicate the melody. This was known as ekphonetic notation. This could only have allowed a loose interpretation of the melody and so probably no two people sang it exactly alike.


The music of Greece made its way to Rome and the instruments came with the music. Here the double-pipes and the tambourine find favor among the Romans.


A long horn is featured here and well as a small water organ called a hydraulis which the Romans inherited from the Greeks.

A clip of the music of Ancient Rome:

Ancient Roman Music - Synaulia I - YouTube

After the collapse of the Western Empire in the fifth century, Europe entered a period called the Dark Ages, so named because the infrastructure of the Empire had completely collapsed. Governance was put under the auspices of the Church and education was promptly supplanted by superstition and there was a corresponding dearth of cultural output. Europe was so in the throes of this darkness that when a nova appeared in the skies in 1054, Europe appears to be the only place on earth that did not write about nor depict it. There is an account that Charlemagne, the Frankish king of the 7th century, compiled a library of contemporary music. He would hold what amounted to open mic nights at his palace and anyone with a song could come in to perform it. If Charlemagne liked it, he would have a monk or other person skilled in writing music take it down on manuscript paper (which was made from animal skin at that time). Reportedly, he had collected thousands of songs from all corners of Frankish Empire. Many of the songs were said to be quite ribald and few, if any, were of a religious nature. As a result, upon his death, Charlemagne’s son, Louis the Pious, had the library burned. Needless to say, this is a tremendous loss to us today for this library, if it existed, would have provided us the only substantial window into what music of the Dark Ages sounded like, particularly the folksongs and secular songs.

Consequently, the earliest examples we have today of music from Central and Western Europe are religious hymns. These were done predominantly in plainchant—a monophonic style that could be sung by one voice or many in unison sans harmony. Gregorian chant is an example of plainchant. Monks in the choirs had to commit hundreds of chants to memory. Secular music, also monophonic, was performed and sung during this period but not written down until the 12th century.

Originally, these chants were passed down orally as Europe had no system of musical notation during the Dark Ages. By the 9th century, with the Dark Ages finally fading, the chants began being notated in neume notation. “Neume” is a corruption of the Greek word “pneuma” or breath/wind. Each syllable in a chant is sung in one breath and is called a neume. A nueme can consist of more than one note and usually consists of several. However, there are chants with only one note neume per syllable called syllabic while a multi-note neume syllable is called neumatic. There is another type of chant consisting of several neumes per syllable called melismatic.


Neume notation. No staff lines were used (cheironomic). The dots (which may have symbolized rising and falling hand gestures) were aids to help construct the melody but, like ekphonic notation, no two people would sing this piece the same way unless trained by the same teacher.

Neume notation probably started in the Eastern Empire as there are a great many examples of it still in existence from Turkey, Syria, Israel and Lebanon, most of it in Aramaic (the Roman Empire had fragmented into two halves in the 4th century with Rome remaining the capital of the Western Empire and Constantinople becoming the capital of the Eastern Empire which became the Byzantine Empire). It was brought to the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne who wanted the hymns sung in the tradition of the Romans. The pieces still had to be learned by ear and the notation would then function as a mnemonic device to aid the singers in forming the melody.

In the 11th century, Guido (known as Guido Monaco or Guido of Arezzo), an Italian Benedictine monk at the monastery of Pomposa, noted how the singers often had trouble remembering the chants. He decided a more precise method of preserving the chants was called for. He came up with a system that was met with praise but some monks thought he was destroying tradition and criticized him. To escape their harassment, Guido fled to the city of Arezzo where Bishop Tedald put him in charge of training the cathedral singers. Among the techniques that Guido invented were the use of staff lines and solmization.

Staff lines not only told a singer whether to sing higher or lower but also exactly which note to sing. Because the plainchants used no instruments besides voice, the staff lines didn’t solve the problem how to know one was in key nor how to sing a certain unfamiliar interval. So Guido implemented solmization where each note was represented by a syllable. The scheme ran ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la. We call this the solfeggio—do-re-mi-fa-sol-ia-si (ti)-do. Guido took his syllables from the first stanza of the 8th century “Hymn of St. John” by Paulus Diaconus:

Ut queant laxis resonāre fibris
Mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti labii reatum,
Sancte Iohannes.

(So that these your servants can, with all their voice, sing the wonders of your deeds, clean the guilt from our stained lips, O Saint John!)

Later, “si” was added to complete the diatonic scale and was derived from “Sancte Iohannes.” By assigning a syllable to each note, the singer can internally hear the notes written on the page and then sing them.

Other sources say that Guido actually borrowed the Arabic solmization scheme of Durar Mufassalat or “separated pearls,” which runs: Dal, ra, mim, fa, sad, lam, ta. Since Arabic and Turkish music was becoming very popular in Europe at that time, this is a distinct possibility.

With Guido’s system, the chants could be faithfully reproduced even by those who had not heard them before.


Square notation using Guido’s staff lines. The staves allowed the melody to be sung the same way by everybody.


Kyrie, Gregorian Plainchant - YouTube

Gregorian chant was an early Western form of organized music. Originally, it was monophonic as the Kyrie chant above but by the Middle Ages became almost polyphonic—a forerunner called heterophonic. This style of chant was known as organum and had a far more haunting quality:


Lullay, lullay: Als I lay on Yoolis night - YouTube
Anonymous 4 “Lullay, Lullay: Als I lay on Yoolis Night”


Chant of the Templars - Da Pacem Domine - YouTube
Chant of the Templars “Da Pacem Domine”

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Old 10-24-2013, 10:26 AM   #3 (permalink)
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You are mistaken. The man third from the left plays tambourine. The man on the far right is on his jock.
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Old 10-24-2013, 10:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Concise.
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Old 11-01-2013, 11:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Lord larehip's threads are the bestest. No joke. They're an education.
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Old 11-02-2013, 09:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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That ancient Roman tune is just dying to have a heavy metal version made of it.
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Old 11-03-2013, 11:48 AM   #7 (permalink)
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That ancient Roman tune is just dying to have a heavy metal version made of it.
Sounds way more like Coltrane.
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Old 11-03-2013, 11:55 AM   #8 (permalink)
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By medieval times, instruments began to be used in liturgical music to supplement the voices. This was a big step in the evolution of European music because musicians were previously seen as profane entertainers who busked in the streets for money performing ribald numbers that were often out-and-out obscene (“My man, John, had a thing that was long / My maid, Mary, had a thing that was hairy / My man, John, stuck his thing that was long / Into my maid Mary's thing that was hairy” etc.). So musicians were somewhat shunned in polite society but as their services were being employed increasingly in various settings such as part of the town’s security by sounding their instruments when something was amiss and for social functions, they gained more respect and the Church inevitably began to incorporate them. The earliest musicians to perform in church were the “town musicians” of the 13th century. They were known in England as waits, as Stadtpfeifer in Germany and as pifferi in Italy. They were virtually all horn or reed players who formed into guilds, i.e. an early form of the musicians’ union. These were not the really the first orchestras but forerunners. Orchestras had set instruments for specific purposes while these loose assemblages of musicians simply played whatever their instruments would permit with none playing any set part.

Polyphony started to become an important part of the European music in the 13th century both in religious and secular settings. About this time, Europe saw the rise of the motet which originated in Northern France. The plainchant was given a rhythmic meter. This line was overlaid by one to three lines of different text and then all were sung simultaneously producing rich harmonic texture of true polyphony that sounded incomparably lovely:


Motet - Celui en qui - YouTube

Motet polyphony differed chiefly from organum heterophony in that the harmonic parts were given equal weight as the main part and all were written out. In the organum, the harmony singer or singers merely droned a note or an interval while the main line was sung. There was no direction as to which notes were droned—that was left up to the singers, whatever worked. In the motet, the harmony voices vary considerably from the main and with one another producing distinctive contrasts.

One of the best known motet composers was a priest named Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377). Not only does he qualify as an early composer but, amazingly, his entire catalog has been preserved. He wrote masses and secular songs of courtly and unrequited love which was very unusual for a Church figure. This makes Machaut important because, through him, there was no need for an evolution from sacred to secular; Machaut provided both at once.


Guillaume de Machaut - Fine Amour - YouTube

What the sacred music lacked was instrumental accompaniment. The Church still viewed instrumental music as profane. The only musical instrument fit for God was he one He created—the human voice. In the secular world, however, there were no such restrictions. Traveling troubadours played instrumentals as well as vocal music with instrumental accompaniment. These instruments included the lute, the shawm, the rebec, the tambourine, the flute, etc.


Music of the Troubadours 6: Cantaben els osells - YouTube

By the 15th century, polyphony was so accepted that only the Church still performed monophonic chanting for the mass (and still does, still written in square notation on Guido’s staff lines). In the 14th century, there was experimentation with both polyphony and heterophony to producing some very rich and haunting music. Michaut’s love songs were usually performed to instrumental accompaniment:


Medieval Virelai Music & Song - XIII th & XIV th Century - E, Dame Jolie & Douce Dame Jolie - YouTube
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Old 11-03-2013, 12:01 PM   #9 (permalink)
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But in the intervening 14th century, something occurred in Europe that had a huge impact upon all of European society and the ripples of which are still being felt—the Black Death. It originally struck Europe during the Dark Ages in the 6th century and was called the “Justinian Plague” but not much is known of how it traveled or how it ended. The disease struck Europe again in 1347 and killed a third of Europe’s population. Much better documented, we know this second wave had its genesis in China. The bacterium responsible was Yersinia pestis which preferred to infect such rodents as rats, mice, marmots and voles—all of which are found in great abundance in China. The bacterium actually did not naturally attack humans but contact came through a vector—the flea. The fleas bit the rodents, contracted the bacteria, jumped off the rodent host and onto a human and bit them thereby transmitting the bacteria to human hosts. Symptoms manifested in two to five days and the stricken person fell ill and died within four days after showing symptoms. The disease came to Europe via Venetian traders who came in contact with it while traveling the Silk Road.

Symptoms consisted of high fever, severe muscle cramps, chills, seizures, extreme fatigue, delirium, coma and hematemesis (vomiting of blood). The stricken person presented a shocking spectacle due to acral gangrene which resulted in a horrid blackening of the fingers, toes, nose and lips (ecchymoses) caused by blood seeping into the tissues from ruptured blood vessels. Essentially, the flesh is decomposing while the person is alive which causes extreme pain and discomfort (as though someone is holding a blow torch to the affected area). The bacteria bred in the lymph nodes causing them to swell considerably and so lumps called buboes (hence the term “bubonic”) appeared on the groin, armpits and neck. The appearance of the buboes is ghastly and alarming. These are coupled with ugly black spots that cover the body called lenticulae.

To make matters worse, the Black Death wasn’t one disease but two: plague and cholera together. Cholera is a disease of the small intestine cause by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. It is caused by the introduction of fecal matter into the body from an infected host. Usually, this is transmitted via the drinking of fecal-contaminated water or the eating of shellfish harvested from such water. The bacteria that survive the journey through the stomach then bore through the mucous membrane of the small intestine and lodges in the lining where it multiplies and releases toxic proteins that cause a very runny, fishy-smelling diarrhea called “rice water” (guess why) as well as vomiting. If not treated, cholera will afflict a stricken person with sunken eyes and shriveled, wrinkled, bluish-gray skin due to acute dehydration. Today, it is treated fairly easily and with great success but in medieval Europe, it was far deadlier (it was actually known as “the Blue Death”) especially in conjunction with bubonic plague. A stricken person had no chance. The only merciful thing about the Black Death was that an afflicted person died fairly quickly albeit in agony.


A mannequin showing what Black Death victims looked like. Actually, as bad as this looks, it is not as bad as a real victim looks. The nose and lips are usually black and the buboes are quite a bit more disgusting. With proper treatment, people who contract the plague can recover from it, even from the ecchymotic necrosis. Imagine what it must have been like to helplessly watch loved ones, family members and neighbors suffer and die of this disease. Imagine having to check your body everyday for buboes knowing if you found any, you had just days to live. Imagine there being almost no place to run from it since it was afflicting people all over Europe and Eurasia. Everywhere you go, you see people carrying and carting bodies through the streets. Not a single household was unaffected.


A stricken man discovers buboes in his armpit while a physician discovers buboes on a woman’s neck. The Black Death struck and killed young and old, male and female indiscriminately.


Husband and wife dying of the Black Death while a physician attempts to affect a remedy. People actually thought drawing crosses on their doors would ward off the disease. Needless to say, it didn’t.


Venice 1349.


The plague doctor wore a long robe and gloves, high boots, tight-fitting hat and a mask to shield him from direct contact with infected persons. The mask had a long snout because it contained various herbs and flower petals to filter and mask the stench which was believed to cause a person to get infected. To the medieval people, the Black Death was a type of malaria or “bad air.” Since they had no idea of what caused the disease and therefore no effective treatment, the plague doctors also contracted the disease and died.
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Old 11-03-2013, 12:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The plague doctor’s mask has a weird steam punk look to it.


The dance of the Black Death shows how the effects of the pestilence was influencing culture. The music became dirge-like and melancholy and, in some areas, music was not played at all. The dancing skeletons were called transi.



Instrumental Music of the Trecento: Trotto - YouTube
“Trotto” is perhaps the most famous piece of 14th century music to survive. A good 75% of most medieval music collections today will contain “Trotto.”


In Scandinavia—hard-hit by the Black Death losing between one-third and one-half its citizens—they personified the Plague as an old hag called Pesta (sharing the same root as pest and pestilence). She was clothed a black shawl and hood and carried both a rake and a broom. If she came to town with the rake, the pestilence would not be too severe because people would escape through the teeth of rake. If she came to town with the broom, however, all would die. Interestingly, there is a metal rake-like tool called a harrow that farmers used to break up dirt make the soil more porous. It also refers to the area around a funeral bier where the casket and candleholders are placed because it resembles a rake or harrow. The French word for harrow is herce from which we get our word hearse.

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