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article-History of musical scale

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Bill D 09 Dec 99 - 10:04 PM
Little Neophyte 09 Dec 99 - 10:20 PM
Bruce O. 09 Dec 99 - 10:34 PM
Escamillo 09 Dec 99 - 10:45 PM
Mary in Kentucky 09 Dec 99 - 11:58 PM
Bruce O. 10 Dec 99 - 02:27 AM
Bruce O. 10 Dec 99 - 02:39 AM
Bruce O. 10 Dec 99 - 03:47 AM
Steve Parkes 10 Dec 99 - 03:49 AM
Mary in Kentucky 10 Dec 99 - 08:46 AM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 10 Dec 99 - 09:32 AM
Steve Parkes 10 Dec 99 - 10:42 AM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 10 Dec 99 - 11:07 AM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 10 Dec 99 - 11:48 AM
Bruce O. 10 Dec 99 - 12:47 PM
Meliki@uswest.net 10 Dec 99 - 12:55 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 10 Dec 99 - 02:23 PM
Bruce O. 10 Dec 99 - 03:00 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 10 Dec 99 - 04:47 PM
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Subject: article-History of musical scale
From: Bill D
Date: 09 Dec 99 - 10:04 PM

this was in the monthly 'Horizon' section of the Washington Post..and since it is also online..(minus some neat illustrations), I thought it would be interesting reading..It explained the musical scale better than I had seen it before... Just who DID decide to make the intervals like that?...read on!


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 09 Dec 99 - 10:20 PM

Excellent find Bill.
I'm running it off on my printer right now and then I'm going to curl up on the couch and read it.
Thanks for posting this. Great material for me to read.
Bonnie


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Bruce O.
Date: 09 Dec 99 - 10:34 PM

There are many scales on the web. For one set of such use a search engine to find 'Harry Partch'. Also for a detailed treatment of how the ear works, as well as for scales, and frequency discrimination abilities of the ear, get Juan Roederer's 'The Physcophysics of Sound' (Amazon.com). Tables of keys/modes and a table for an extended just intonation scale are on my website. The slide rule there has equal temperment as well as just intonations marked. www.erols.com/olsonw


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Escamillo
Date: 09 Dec 99 - 10:45 PM

Thank you for the excellent material.
Andrés


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 09 Dec 99 - 11:58 PM

Nice article Bill. I'll spend some time with it. And Harry Partch looks interesting too.

Can somebody help me here? I'm wondering why I can recognize Ralph Vaughan Williams' works even before I know what they are. Does this relate to modes or is it a particular chord progression characteristic of English, Scottish and Irish music? I'm thinking specifically of "Greensleeves" and "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?" where the chord progression goes from a minor chord down to the adjacent major chord. Also I love the background music from the movie "Last of the Mohicans" which I think was performed by a Scottish group.???

Here are two links that discuss modes.
Scales and Modes in Scottish Traditional Music
Beginner's Guide to Modal Harmony

Are there really two questions here?

Mary (confused in Kentucky)


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Bruce O.
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 02:27 AM

There are several ways to derive note positions in modes patterns. I use semitone sequence intervals. Your first click on it to Jack Campin's website. You can click onto it from my website file on Modes too. I haven't compared mine to his in detail, but I expect them to be the same. [We've been corresponding on old Scots tunes for about 2 years now.] The second click on is more dificult to explain. Authentic/plagal has more to do with range than modes, so go to the 'Renaisance' (spelling?) modes table for the ones that are those used by Bronson (Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads' and especially 'The Ballad as Song', where the relation between authentic/plagal and the seven normal modes are shown in the article 'Folk-Songs and the Modes') and by Huntington and Herrmann (Sam Henry Songs of the People') and just about everyone else now.

In the Irish tune code table on my website, I show how to use a keynote/mode combination so that all tunes in normal modes that don't have accidentals can be coded numerically, but with letters to indicate octave. I'm working to extending this to the general case with each note a two digit number, the first of which is the note, and the second of which specifes both sharp/normal/flat and the octave. Jack didn't like my first run through. I've just finished a revised version, but will wait till morning to recheck everything.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Bruce O.
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 02:39 AM

PS A: You can find lots of musical scales on the web by putting 'Musical Scales' in a search engine.

PS B: Jack Campin devised his own terminology for hexatonic and pentatonic modes and it's pretty awkward. See Bronson's article noted above for better and simpler terminology. Hexatonic is still a bit awkward, and I've stretched my brain to the limit to come up with something simpler that's not too harebrained, but I haven't got it yet.

PS C: I think Mary said whe was a math teacher. My new coding scheme has tables for those who have to code tunes but don't like math, but programers to decode it will have to deal with l = -1 + (n+1)*modulo (3) and such like little equations.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Bruce O.
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 03:47 AM

Simple mode description: 7 note Cmajor with semitones indicated between notes = C2D2E1F2G2A2B1C. 2 for tone = 2 semitones, and 1 for a semitone. Take out the letters to get semitone sequence intervals = 2 2 1 2 2 2 1 (sum = 12 semitones per octave). There are always 2 tones between the two semitone intervals, so cyclic permutation of the sequence generates all 7 normal mode semitone sequences. [That means take the front number and put it at the back for the 2nd semitone sequence, and continue doing that until you start to repeat. Then put note letters sequence starting with one before the 1st number and end when it repeats at the octave.]

Keynote/Mode 7 note scales with no sharps or flats are F-Lydian; C-ionian/major; G-mixolydian; D-dorian; A- Aeolian/minor; E-phrygian; B-locrian [these are now just convential names, and it makes no difference whether the Greeks ever heard them, so I put them in lower case.] (Bronson has pointed out that if you don't transpose these modes to a common keynote, it's not all that obvious what the difference is.)

You can do the same for hexatonic and pentatonic tunes. Start with 2 2 3 2 2 1 for lydian/ionian hexatonic, and 2 2 3 2 3 for pi1 pentatonic.
[There are rare oddball tunes of 7, 6, or 5 notes, that aren't normal heptatonic, hexatonic, and pentatonic tunes.]

l in the equation, l = -1 + (n+1) modulo (3) is the number of semitones off from the normal note for the keynote/mode scale you are in. It's -1, 0, or +1.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 03:49 AM

"Equal temper" is why you can't tune your guitar properly - have a look at this old thread.

Steve


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 08:46 AM

Thanks so much for the info. I have my homework cut out for me. I think my answer is in Jack Campin's site, mostly regarding pitch set AND tonal centre. The song examples really help. I'll study some of the songs and see if I can write a Scottish-sounding tune. Didn't Robert Burns receive some advice about staying to the black keys of the piano to write one of his tunes? BTW, here in Kentucky people have noticed a similarity between Stephen Foster's songs and the Japanese musical scales. Some of our locals say that his music is used by Japanese school children because it is easier (familiar sounding) for them to enjoy.

Mary (still a bit confused)

PS A: I think I understand the concept of deriving the various modes simply by using the white keys on the keyboard (it will always be a piano to me). I can trust a computer program, table or simple formula to transpose these for me.

PS B: Is "Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads" a book?


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 09:32 AM

This leads to another question: it can't be much more expensive to make a plastic medieval recorder tuned to pythagorean temperament than to make a plastic baroque recorder tuned to 12-equal. But the only inexpensive plastic recorders available are the baroque variety. Medieval/Pythagorean recorders cost a fortune if you can find them at all. Why ?

T.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 10:42 AM

Ah, but you'd lose all the subtlety, T! Try playing a tune in three or four different keys on the same instrument to see what I mean (although this might further your argument, not mine!).

If you just play the black notes you get what's called a pentatonic (five-note) scale, same as on a bugle. There's a lot of good pentatonic tunes about, including many blues. "Champion the Wonder Horse" (giving my age away now!) is penatonic, all except for one sneaky note in the chorus - get a peeanna and try it.

Who'll admit to playing catatonic music?

Steve


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 11:07 AM

Of course a pythag-tempered instrument can't play equally well in all keys. One must re-tune (strings) or switch instruments (winds). But this doesn't explain why pythagorean-tempered whistles/recorders need to be so scarce and expensive, nor why a 12-equal tempered recorder can't at least me made in a medieval or renaissance shape, even if given our convenient modern temperament and pitch.

T.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 11:48 AM

Further info on the history of the musical scale can be found at http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/harmony/pyth.html.

Bill, thanks for pointing out the Post article.

T.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Bruce O.
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 12:47 PM

Mary, tunes using only the black keys are pentatonic, and Jack Campin's website gives examples. [You can work out the tune using only black keys, then transpose to a different key.]
Starting with each of the white keys in succession will give scales of all the modes with no sharps or flats, which I named above, e.g., F-lydian.
Bronson's 'The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads' is a set of 4 big volumes, now hard to get and expensive.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Meliki@uswest.net
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 12:55 PM

Thanks for the article. You may be interested to hunt through Discovery Magazine to find an article on Neandertal. 30000 years ago give or take an eternity. Octave scale. They also believe NTs played a bladder that filled by way of nostrill tubes- Bag pipes. A mammoth tusk tuba and some other less remarkable stuff but I leave it up to you to find out if it was the April issue. The article is there. Ive been trying to find my copy.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 02:23 PM

It is worth noting that only keyboard instruments are locked in by the oppression of temperament--all the bowed instruments depend on the ear of the performer for the pitch, and they typically re-adjust depending on the key--allowing them to use the appropriate perfect intervals--the brass and woodwinds also permit the players to adjust intonation, as do the fretted instuments--

Also, please keep in mind that the article talks about the process of assigning pitch value to notes, the development and utilization of scales, which is what Bruce O is concerned with--

And yet another point--traditional folk instruments and instrumentalists tend to use traditional and/or ideosyncratic methods for the assignment of pitch values--

Many fretted folk instruments use chord or wire wrapped around the neck instead of wire embedded in the neck, allowing the player to tune the frets to their own ear--

Turkish music uses divisions that are smaller than half steps (they are occasionally thought of as quarter tones, but the divisions are more complex) and individual players tend to attach very different pitches to the same notes--

This isn't as much of a problem as it seems, because the music doesn't utilize harmony of any sort--

Also, it should be noted that collectors of folk music used western classical musical notation to describe, as best as they could, what they heard, and that subtleties of intonation were often lost,sometimes because there was no way to notate them and sometimes because classically trained ears "corrected" them to familiar scales, notes, and intervals--

T in Oklahoma, the reason that there are no cheap plastic Pythagorian intoned whistles, is that there is no mass public demand for them--you should do what the Bulgarian and Macedonian Kaval players do, just get some plastic pipe from the hardware store (or you can opt for the ethnic method, which is to steal it from a construction site) and drill holes in it!


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: Bruce O.
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 03:00 PM

M. Ted, I actually commented on scales and modes, which can theoretically be separated, but sometimes the distinction is not clear. E.g., if someone always plays the 7th somewhat flatted, is it really just a slight aberation, or is it flatted enough that the tune should be called mixolydian rather than major?

The point of collectors' notation of tunes- most collectors of such are well aware of modal structure, and that's not the problem. When a collector notes down a tune in conventional notation and we see his/her noted version, we don't know what scale the collector actually heard, probably just intonation, I think, for vocal melodies, but when we play it on a piano it comes out equal temperament, or by a good fiddler, just intonation.


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Subject: RE: article-History of musical scale
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 10 Dec 99 - 04:47 PM

M.Ted, It may be true that there isn't much demand for strictly pythagorean recorders. I suspect a negative feedback effect between supply and demand however, with lack of supply supressing demand as folk who would use the object if it were available adapt to its lack. However that may be, there is certainly a public demand for quarter-comma meantone recorders, and I suspect that the manufacuterers could, if they so chose, profitably offer some at lower prices than they currently do. And the temperament is at least partly separable from the body-style, and it is lack of variety in body-style that is my main complaint. What is so hard about making a recorder, of whatever temperamant, whose mouthpiece is flush with its body and whose bell is only gently curved ? Inexpensive recorders are already available with the latter feature, so it shouldn't be too hard to make them with the former feature as well.

T.


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