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Class Notes: 23 March 2011.

leamirella's picture

Notes for 23 March

By 5pm Friday, post the culture that you will be representing for the panel next week on the stickynote. (Note that this deadline is earlier than the midnight deadline for the regular posts.)

We will also be responding to the questions that were raised at the end of class on Monday by Apocalipsis and Tangerines.

(Apocalipsis: Why do we need to know the science behind Barad? Tangerines: Why is this important? Isn't this relevent to just particle physicists?)

EVENT SPEAKER: Tian Hui Ng (chorale director from Haverford)

- Main aim: to see how music fits into our course. Music has been around since before language. This talk will centre around the ideas of coding, decoding and reception. (Throwback to Grobstein and Rowe).

Performance: Movements 1 & 2 from 4'33" (1952). Composed by John Cage (1912-1992). What do you hear during the piece of music?

"They missed the point, there's no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn't know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds." - David Tutor, the first person to perform this piece in Woodstock, NY on the piano.

There is no way to be completely silent, even in an anacord chamber. This redefines what music is.

(This performance was also seen to be the beginning of noise music. (Defined as music that is composed of sounds that we don't normally associate with music.)


In the very beginning (think of the time when cavemen existed), music came in the form of using one's voice. This developed until they started to find different pitches and then taught their neighbours and this was how the music was shared.

Example: Tian sang a couple of notes (the 'Ya' song) and taught it to the class. Each person followed - even the females who had higher pitched voices. The actual melody stayed the same, it was just the pitch that changed. This revealed that the girls were able to realize the gaps in between each note and transcribe it in their heads to a higher pitch.

Eventually, humans wanting a method of sharing music by writing it down so that it becomes easier to assimilate.

"If the sounds are not retained in the memory of man, they dissappear because one is not able to write it them." St. Isidore of Seville (c.560 - 636)

This gave way to the birth of musical notation.

At the end of the 8th century AD, the first musical manuscripts of the chants of the Mass appeared. However, these manuscripts were composed mostly of just words (still aural) and inchipits (the first line of the chant). There was no indication here of the pitch, the melody, the tempo or anything else.

Then came the neumes which mostly just aided memory. In the 2nd half of the 9th century, neums (kind of like the French accent marks and circumflexes) were curiously placed on top of lines of poetry. In the 10th century, the neums were bigger and more frequent and came from the sensation of singing lines. However, there still was no indication of tempo, notes and this method was by no means regulated. They mainly captured rhythmic and agogic information.

Then, Guido d'Arezzo (990-1050) introduced the musical staff.

At the end of the 11th century, the first stave appeared in musical notation. However, this still was not standardized between the different chants. It was Pope Gregory (Gregorian chants) who attempted to standardize these which is why is often credited with these chants.


- The paradigm shift occured between the coding of music in neums (which were, for the most part, simply just the representation of sensation and musical imagination) to notation on the lines or staves that we see today. This new notation is now a standardized representation of the theoretical relationship between pitches.

Further Developments in the use of staves:
- The use of measured bars, accidentals, leger lines, clefs and metronome marks. The music is also read from left to right (There really is no reason why this is the case.)

However, musical notation itself is not music on its own.

Contemporary Music
(Black Anges - Composed by George Crumb)

Notation has become more like graphics. The notation itself is governed by the music.
      - Miniwanka (Schafer) - an example of non-standardized notation, more visual and representative of the music.

Have we come full circle? Have we started to use symbols and drawings again?

"Notation, far from being the final goal of musical science, is not even part of it." (Aristoxenes of Tatanum 335 BC)

Response to question from Hilary_Brashear: Old musical manuscripts do not capture whether there are instruments or voice used. However, what we do know is that musical instruments were considered profane during this period of time although we know that they were used.

Performance practice is categorized by three things: reading the musical notation, tempo (or time), pitch (notes) and instruments used.

Musical Notation:

- Comme Scritto (exactly as it was written - flawed) vs. what exactly was written?
This was difficult especially because editorial additions are often added into the piece (like the trill) so we aren't sure of the exactness of it.

- limitations of other technologu and innovation
Before photocopies and the like, musical scores were disseminated by copying by hand. Thus, accuracy was always an issue. Therefore, a shorthand version of this was formed to get around this limitation. This shorthand was the basso continuo which comprised of just the baselines that were filled with harmonies.

Thus, the question here is what exactly there? More will be there for people with a trained eye.


- There was no such thing as regular time until 1815 when Maezel invented the metronome.
- Then musical annotation started to include things such as "Allegro" (Italian which is was lingua franka)
- Stolen Time (Tempo Rubato) - From Rubare - to steal - this changed music history. (Think of Happy Birthday sang lengthier)
- Tempo is also something that can not be too dictated because it makes the music sound robotic and almost dead. There has to be a sense of human life in it.


- What does a 'do' mean? - It actually comes from a chant.
- What does an A mean? According to the ISO, an A is 440 Hz exactly. This rule was made in 1955 and then reaffirmed again in 1975. This meant, however, that before 1955, the exact pitch of the A varied. Thus, the concepts of being in tune and out of tune are relative.

Question from Liz: Is this still a growing area of study?
This area of study reached its peak in the 80s/90s but many avenues are still unresearched. This is because in this field, it is very hard to ascertain things.


Mimetic vs. Abstract Music

Mimetic music has connections to the world and nature; Abstract music does not have these connections at all.

There is mimesis in music with text (Example: Behold, a virgin shall conceive)
- The music behind this piece takes its roots from the rhetoric - these words were spoken to an audience first before they were made into works of music.
- It is an imitation of human speech.

- Music also paints images using text and words. (Example, crooked sounds crooked, straight sounds straight and rough places sounds like rough places... you get what I mean.)

Mimesis can also take place even if there is not text. In a piece by Vivaldi, there is a deep 'bum bum'. It is supposed to symbolize a bog going bow wow. In Spring, there is the sound of birds.

Program music
- Instrumental that does't have words but a story behind it. (Sometimes called 'Mickeymousing)
Ambient Music

Music's 'design features' (John Bispham)

- musical motivation (affects mood - influence on behaviour)

- musical pulse (the pulse has a regularity to it that brings individuals together. There is a sense of entrainment)

- musical pitch.



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