The study of how music has developed and changed over time.

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What is the origin and advantages of this system of chord naming/ notation? e.g. G7 is major minor seventh not Dominant 7th

I've received a few emails through my website asking me what a major minor seventh chord was. At first I thought they had mixed up the sequence and were referring to the A-#7 chord (root chord of ...
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2answers
990 views

Vivaldi's “The Four Seasons”, Who Chose the Title?

Did Vivaldi himself choose the title "The Four Seasons" and the titles for each of the four concerti, or they're chosen by publishers?
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0answers
7 views

Etymology of “high” and “low” notes [migrated]

The words "high" and "low" generally refer to magnitude or vertical distance. How did these words come to be associated with pitch? We can draw comparison to high ("large") or low ("small") ...
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3answers
287 views

Did baroque composers expect you to “bring out” the voices in their pieces, the way today's critics seem to enjoy in players?

So, I recently had a, sadly, way too short conversation with a pianist on the train. According to the guy, in the 17th and 18th century polyphonic keyboard works were not played in such a way that ...
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3answers
82 views

Which source for Scarlatti K208? Can I mix and match versions?

I'm working on Scarlatti's K208. The Dover edition includes variants from the Codice Veneziano (C.V.), Codice Santini (C.S.) and from the London original edition (E.O.). The first picture shows a ...
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4answers
7k views

What are the practical reasons for still having transposing instruments?

I understand that historically there was a need for transposing instruments. e.g. Brass instruments would use lead pipes to change their key and players in brass bands would like to stick to the same ...
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2answers
116 views

Congregational involvement in Protestant and Catholic services during the time of Luther

How involved was the congregation in the performance of music in a Protestant service of Martin Luther and a Catholic service in the Counter-Reformation?
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3answers
259 views

Historical origins of 8-count bars in dance vs 4-count bars in music

I'm a dancer, and one of my dancer friends recently posed a question which I thought musicians might be able to answer. In our particular style of dance (west coast swing) and in many others that ...
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4answers
208 views

Were the Goldbergs meant to be played in one go?

See, in this very interesting interview (http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/03/16/148769794/why-i-hate-the-goldberg-variations) Jeremy Denk has the following to say: The piece is ...
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2answers
154 views

What did ancient cuneiform notation look like, and how did it work?

I looked at Wikipedia of course... According to Wikipedia: The earliest form of musical notation can be found in a cuneiform tablet that was created at Nippur, in Sumer (today's Iraq), in ...
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0answers
45 views

Nutcracker theme in Shostakovich's 5th symphony? [closed]

I've been listening to Shostakovich's 5th symphony a lot lately. And in the second movement, the allegretto, I feel like I hear a melody very similar to the famous nutcracker melody in the "Dance of ...
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4answers
1k views

Did they ever make a double bass this huge?

I have seen some pictures where the double bass is literally enormous. Seems like a single person wouldn't be an able to play it on his own. But I don't know for sure if these pictures are real or ...
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2answers
349 views

Why is the lowest note on the piano an A?

I've always wondered why almost every piano's lowest note is an A. In fact, I've never seen a piano whose lowest note is not an A, and I have also noticed that this pattern only occurs in pianos; most ...
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3answers
474 views

The origin of “Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father”

The order of the flats is given by the mnemonic "Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father", and the order of sharps by the reverse ("Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle"). What is the history ...
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1answer
289 views

When did keyboard partitions start to use the G-clef for the upper staff ?

When you look at very old sheetmusic (for harpsichord or organ), you see that the upper staff has a C-clef, first line. The lower one is the familiar bass F-clef, fourth line. Why and when did the ...
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3answers
99 views

The melody+chords pattern in perspective

Most of us who know the basics of music theory and share the "common" musical culture (western mainstream popular songs, mass media, "classical" music from the common practice period), tend to think ...
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1answer
105 views

What does “I Solisti Veneti” mean?

What does Vivaldi mean by "I Solisti Veneti"? What does the title mean? There doesn't seem to be a translation I could find of.
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2answers
84 views

How do archaic instruments affect contemporary music?

Many once-common instruments are now rare or obsolete. For example, some transposing instruments have fewer variants than they used to – the B♭ soprano clarinet has largely supplanted the A and C ...
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6answers
173 views

What's music? A question about 'foundations' [closed]

First of all, I'm new here. I'm a mathematician who's intersted in understanding music in a foundational way. Basically, I want to understand why we call things musical notes, and why there are a ...
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3answers
119 views

Chord Roles/Reputations

Does there exist literature examining the particular psychological/emotional role/reputation of each chord in a movement? (For example, I am currently infatuated with IVmaj7, which is to say I find ...
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1answer
294 views

What's the earliest known piece of polyphonic music?

Do we know what is the earliest known piece of polyphonic music? I know that there are some 12-th century composers like Léonin and Pérotin that did this kind of thing, but did they compose the ...
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1answer
52 views

Record Label Instrumentals

Does anyone know if record labels keep a copy of every instrumental of every song produced by their producers? I know that there are places online that have regenerated or reproduced instrumentals of ...
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4answers
1k views

Why were sound effects like the gunshot included in the General MIDI (GM) standard?

I recently learned about the general MIDI standard and one thing that I cannot understand is the last sound effect is always a gunshot. Most of the other effects like applause, telephone ring, and ...
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2answers
339 views

Naming convention for augmented 6th chords

There are three types of Augmented 6th chord the German, the Italian, and the French. Most chords are named for the intervals they contain or their function, but these seem like just arbitrary names ...
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2answers
4k views

Why note B is marked with H in Scandinavia and Germany?

At least in Scandinavia and Germany two notes are marked differently than in most other countries: B -> H B♭ -> B I have heard that this is due to mistake in interpreting messy sheet notes, as ♭ ...
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4answers
301 views

Are octaves, fifths, fourths and thirds considered as “consonant” in all music cultures?

Our western music culture revolves around the rule that certain intervals are very consonant, and others (such as the interval between a B and F) are dissonant. The octave is the most consonant ...
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1answer
1k views

How did “Mary had a little lamb” become popular blues?

"Mary had a little lamb" had long been a popular choice for blues musicians to jam and solo on stage. Ever since watching the rendition by Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan, it also had been one of my ...
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3answers
779 views

Origin of the 'squigly line' used for quarter note rest?

This has been driving me nuts - I can't find a single thing on the net that would indicate why the quarter rest is penned the way it is. Did it evolve from some initial or abbreviation or was it ...
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2answers
98 views

When did the appearance of the quarter rest in music change from its original appearance?

WHEN did the appearance of the quarter rest in music change from its original appearance - as a backward looking number 7 -( ) to its current look ()? I have been searching the Internet with no luck. ...
5
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1answer
206 views

Was the Angolan style of music called kizomba inspired by Kassav'?

This video [French] claims that kizomba was created after zouk creator Kassav' inspired Angolan artists. On the opposite, Eduardo Paim has claimed [Portuguese] that kizomba was created independently ...
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1answer
229 views

Earliest-*known* use of a double leading tone cadence?

Background For those who do not know, the double leading tone cadence was perhaps the single defining characteristic of Ars Nova. Earlier music styles used much simpler cadences (movement by 3rds, ...
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2answers
757 views

Why don't pianos use multiples of 12 for the number of keys?

In one of the answers of this question, some pianos with 44, 61, 76, and 88 keys are introduced. I just don't get it. Why notes are not following any formula? I mean, a piano with 63 keys means that ...
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1answer
171 views

Why did Shostakovich not release his 4th, but did release his 5th symphony?

Why did Shostakovich not release his 4th, but did release his 5th symphony? (The 4th was released eventually, just not when it was written)
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9answers
2k views

Why does conventional playing style give the string manipulation to the left hand?

For the majority of players, the right hand is used for most tasks that require exacting manipulation: writing, throwing, etc. However, guitar, violin, lute, etc., etc., use the right hand for ...
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1answer
87 views

How were tuning/temperaments indicated on scores (if they ever were)?

Bradley Lehman claims that the details of the intended tuning for the Well-Tempered Claivier are encoded in the squiggle at the top of the manuscript (related wikipedia link). Are there other ...
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1answer
112 views

Where did the term backbeat come from?

In most modern music in 4/4 beats 2 and 4 are where the snare hits are and are usually referred to as the backbeat. Normally in 4/4 the 2 and 4 beat would not be accented, but the snare hits do just ...
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1answer
184 views

Singing an opera “all'italiana”

When an opera is played without staging (be it either a rehearsal or an actual concert) it is called all'italiana (translated: "in the italian style"). Or, at least, this is how we call it here in ...
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2answers
249 views

What are the origins of music theory? [closed]

When learning music theory, I always have wondered about the vocabulary words, and how weird some of them were. Who came up with the words? Now, I'm just curious about not just the origins of the ...
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1answer
219 views

Who invented modal Jazz?

Can anyone be said to have done so? Or was it just a movement that emerged from the various people playing at the time? I believe that Kind of Blue was the first album to popularize it but can Miles ...
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5answers
2k views

Examples of songs or phrases played in different temperaments

I've read about the fact that 12 tone equal temperament is a relatively recent phenomenon, and that historically, each key would have a different character due to the unequal temperament. I'm curious ...
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2answers
120 views

Intended tempo of exercises in Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum

Fux uses whole notes for the cantus firmi in his book, so do others influenced by his work. But I find them almost unbearably slow within the usual tempo ranges. I know that there must have been a ...
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4answers
479 views

When were the terms “Major” and “Minor” applied to keys?

In 1547, Heinrich Glarean published Dodecachordon in which he posited that in addition to the 4 existing pairs of church modes (plagal and authentic versions of modes with finals on D (Dorian), E ...
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4answers
3k views

Why is the aeolian mode the minor scale?

I've studied music theory for many years now, and one thing has always confused me about the naming methodology for the minor scale. A major scale is based off the Ionian mode and consist of only ...
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4answers
980 views

Has music notation become more prescriptive?

Another question asks about the Meaning of 1/1 and 1/2 beneath pedaling marking near some sustain pedal markings. It looks like they are used to specify a particular amount of pedal to use while ...
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2answers
797 views

Baroque music composed in the 21st century

Which characteristically Baroque elements of music composition still have currency in the 21st century? Are there any 21st-century composers or songwriters who still compose primarily or largely in ...
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2answers
131 views

Which disco tracks were the most influential in electronic music? [closed]

While attempting to better my understanding of the roots of electronic dance-able popular (as opposed to classical or experimental) music, I found out that most of its influences come from disco and ...
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4answers
179 views

Was the viola da gamba or violin particularly associated with England in the late 16th or early 17th century?

The viola da gamba was an instrument in use throughout western Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries; the modern(ish) violin became popular around the turn of the 17th century. But instruments ...
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3answers
118 views

Book about development of music

I'm not new to the musical world, and for quite a bit of time I've been wondering on all the reasons that are behind our usual way of understanding music (7-note diatonic scale, 12-note chromatic ...
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3answers
130 views

Can the “music of the spheres” be applied (or projected) to instrumental music?

I've read lots of books on Pythagoras and the philosophy of the Music of the Spheres, but it all seems to stop at labeling planets with scale degrees. And then what? If they're all there, filling up ...
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1answer
90 views

How many disruptive ideas in music harmony were there, that became widely accepted? [closed]

How often radically new musical ideas become common practice? New in a sense where composer/performer is unquestionably first to abruptly depart with musical tradition with no similar precedent, even ...