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:
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.
[log in to unmask]