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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Howard Goodall's Big Bangs

From:

James Kearney <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 Mar 2000 15:06:03 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Yesterday I learned a lot from the first episode of British composer Howard
Goodall's new 5-part series "Big Bangs." For instance, I didn't realise
the significance of Guido Monaco of Arezzo, who invented the principles of
music notation in the eleventh century.  Goodall also commented on the way
computer tools like Sibelius will have as profound an influence on music
composition and publication as the invention of printing.

The series has an accompanying book:  "Big Bangs" - Hardcover - 224 pages;
Chatto and Windus; ISBN:  070116932X

The other Big Bangs in this series are:  opera, equal temperament, the
piano, and mechanical recording.  Here's the first episode blurb from:

   http://www.channel4.com/

   Howard Goodall's Big Bangs: Notation

   After the successes of Organworks and Choirworks, HOWARD GOODALL
   is now expanding his television repertoire to examine five seismic
   moments in the development Western classical music.  In this new
   series Goodall argues convincingly that without these moments - or
   Big Bangs - music would not have evolved over the past millennium
   from the simplicity of medieval plainchant into the polyphony of
   musical riches we have today.

   The first programme, Notation, looks at the growth of the world's
   most accurate system for writing music.  In the opening sequences
   Howard says:  "In around 1000 AD a great leap was made from memory
   to the page.  Music began to be written down.  A thin trickle of
   notes became a river, then a flood.  So much music of such diversity
   came bursting forth that it is scarcely possible to believe that it
   all stems from a dramatic breakthrough made by just a few monks all
   those centuries ago.  The fact that our music can be easily written
   down is fundamental to its success and spread.  None of the world's
   other musical cultures have ever developed a comparable notation.
   This is the beginning of a unique story".

   Goodall enables the viewer to appreciate just how radical were the
   inventions of 'neumes' and the all-important 'thin red line'.  In an
   interesting experiment, Howard plunges the choir of Salisbury Cathedral
   into the dark ages before notation when Gregorian chants had to
   memorised and then passed from person to person.  Howard sings a tune
   to the head chorister, who in turn sings it to another chorister,
   who then sings it to another, and on and on.  A whole choir later
   and not surprisingly a completely different tune returns to Howard.

   Celestial extracts of Gregorian chant and Allegri's Miserere Mei
   Deus, show how the structure of the five-line stave notation opened
   the door to increasingly elaborate composition.  And as British
   saxophonist COURTNEY PINE demonstrates, even contemporary jazz
   improvisation is rooted in notation.

James Kearney
[log in to unmask]

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