Monday, August 27, 2012

The Oxford History of Western Music, Pt. 1

I've started reading Richard Taruskin's momentous work. which covers western music from it's earliest notations to the end of the twentieth century. I've a loved Taruskin's writing ever since I got a copy of "The Danger of Music and other Anti-Utopian Essays."

The sheer size of this collection, combined with my inability to remember everything I read has lead to decide to make short posts that document some of the interesting things I find on the way.

  • Music notation arose out of political and geographical changes: the music sung in the churches of Rome migrated north to the Frankish kingdom after the two empires combined to protect themselves from the efforts of the Lombard kingdom to expand their southern border. No one really thought the notation of music was particularly interesting, so no one thought to chronicle it.
  • Gregorian chant is not a "primitive" form of music making, but was rather a rebellion against the extravagant (and probably polyphonic and antiphonal) music used in Christian rituals as it became the official religion of the late Roman Empire.
  • Melismatic singing, rather than being that annoying thing we think of as developing in modern pop music, was the highest form of musical devotion to God, where multiple notes could be used for a single syllable.
Stay tuned for more, if you'd like.

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