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

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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 ...
25
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4answers
935 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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9answers
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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 ...
24
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4answers
297 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 ...
20
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4answers
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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 ...
17
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4answers
2k 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 ...
17
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6answers
1k views

Is there a known point in history where dissonance became acceptable?

So, I'm not a scholar of music history, but I have a basic timeline. The evolution of Western music theory had several times in which certain chords and intervals were considered too "jarring" or ...
17
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2answers
431 views

How much do we know about how ancient Greek and Roman music sounded?

Specifically for music composed earlier than the third or fourth century A.D. I have heard several reports about deciphering examples of ancient greek musical notation. And you can find CDs of ...
15
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5answers
2k views

What is the history of considering Rock 'n' Roll to be “the Devil's music”?

Historically, what evidence has been cited in support of the claim that Rock 'n' Roll is the music of Devil? This notion exists in the popular culture, fueled by Footloose and half-remembered ...
15
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4answers
230 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 ...
15
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2answers
802 views

Music education audio lessons

I am currently learning to play the guitar, and that has sparked an interest in learning more about music in general. I would like to learn about music theory, ear training, history, musical styles ...
14
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2answers
505 views

J. S. Bach's place in musical history

Was there any reason Bach didn't follow the trends of the times? He was surely very much in touch with contemporary composers, and knew of Handel's and Scarlatti's works specifically. Amazingly, he ...
13
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2answers
616 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 ...
12
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3answers
640 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
274 views

What is the reason for pitch inflation?

There's this phenomenon among instrumentalists to constantly raise the pitch of the concert A. This generally occurs among string players, since the range of tunings for woodwinds, for example, is ...
12
votes
1answer
150 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 ...
11
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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 ...
11
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1answer
252 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 ...
10
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4answers
149 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 ...
10
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1answer
943 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 concerto, or they're chosen by publishers?
10
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2answers
2k 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 ♭ ...
10
votes
1answer
465 views

Why is Italian the standard for expressive markings in music?

I was reading through the music for Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy a few days ago and I realized that I am often surprised when I see expressive markings (dynamics, tempo, accents and the like) that ...
10
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2answers
211 views

Was the pitch A given that letter because the minor key was originally the “basic” mode?

It's something that's puzzled me; The key that has no sharps and no flats, in essence the "basic" key, is C Major. Well, fine, but why C? Why not label that key and note A, if it's the foundation of ...
10
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3answers
2k views

Training and Influences of J. S. Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach is undoubtedly among the most celebrated of Baroque composers, and to many the great composer in all history. The era of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in which he lived, ...
10
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1answer
75 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 ...
10
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2answers
423 views

What changes were made to Dvořák's Cello Concerto by Wihan?

Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191, is a standard part of the modern cello repertoire, probably even the most popular concerto on the instrument. For the most part the version played ...
9
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1answer
176 views

Is it a coincidence that “blue” notes are “chromatic”?

According to the OED: The word "chromatic" has been applied to music with lots of accidentals since at least the 17th century. In the 19th century, a "blue note" was one that was incorrect; starting ...
9
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1answer
166 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, ...
9
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2answers
246 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 ...
9
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2answers
271 views

Where did the British names for different note lengths come from?

I was always taught to use a certain set of names for the length of a note, such as crotchet, minim, quaver, and so on. I'm aware though that those terms aren't used as much outside the UK, and that ...
9
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1answer
83 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Is Beethoven's 9th symphony the first piece that combined a chorus with an orchestra?

(a very good musicology question suggested by BenV, from the definition phase of the "Classical Music" area51 proposal). Beethoven's ninth Symphony (opus 125) is one of the most well-known works of ...
8
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3answers
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Is a violin's shape (particularly the f-holes) necessary or is it just for aesthetics?

Violins have a rather beautiful design. ... is such design necessary? Is a violin's natural sound only achieved when it has this specific shape? I have a particular interest in the f-holes. Are they ...
8
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3answers
219 views

History of screaming in music throughout the world

Screaming is a common technique in metal and other music genres but according to Wikipedia it has also been used in blues music and very few times in more classical Western works. Are there other ...
8
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3answers
1k views

Origin of the asymmetrical keyboard layout of a piano

The piano keyboard has white keys based on the C Diatonic scale plus black keys, which add the remaining notes used in western music. The asymmetrical way in which the black and white keys are placed ...
8
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2answers
100 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 ...
8
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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 ...
8
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1answer
288 views

When was the deceptive cadence introduced?

Bach used the Deceptive Cadence as early as his Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, which dates to the early 18th century. Are there earlier uses? A definitive answer may be impossible, but I ...
8
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1answer
178 views

Did Rostropovich ever play his Humoresque himself?

"Humoresque" op.5 for cello and piano is the only piece composed by Mstislav Rostropovich himself. Did he ever play Humoresque himself? From some sources I know that he didn't, whereas other sources ...
7
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4answers
2k views

What types of guitars are used for spanish music?

I am fascinated by Spanish guitar music, and I have started exploring it. I have heard classical music like Gypsy Kings, Taranta, Romance, etc. Does anyone here know what types of guitars are used in ...
7
votes
1answer
212 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
180 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
628 views

When was the first recorded usage of a musical score?

Music is quite universal in the sense that you can hand a musician almost anywhere in the world a piece of sheet music and they will be able to understand it. I've been wondering this for a while now; ...
7
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2answers
2k views

Why is the guitar tuned E A D G B E? [duplicate]

Why is the standard tuning for the guitar E A D G B E, from the lowest string to the highest? The interval between strings is a perfect 4th, except for the interval between the G and B strings, ...
7
votes
2answers
254 views

Physiological basis for note durations?

For some reason (probably read something like this a long time ago), I have it in my head that there was some sort of physiological basis for some note durations. This may have been something like, a ...
6
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1answer
92 views

Fux counterpoint: why is it in the modal system?

Assuming Fux's counterpoint was written in 1752, why are there some references to the modal system and none to tonality? I mean... 1752 is way beyond the end of modality! Composers already had the ...
6
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2answers
419 views

What is the earliest known use or indication of “col legno”

col legno or col legno battuto meaning : strike (the string) with the wood (of the bow) is commonly found in 20th century chamber music. But I have heard it might have been used earlier (at least 18th ...
6
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1answer
396 views

The History of Southern Gospel and Spirituals

I am interested in the history of Southern Gospels and Spirituals. How did these styles begin? What are the history's behind them? Can you suggest an article concerning the history? Are there ...
6
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1answer
922 views

Influences of Mozart

Wikipedia article only mentions Hummel from Mozart's childhood but gives no further information. I will appreciate if someone could shed more light here, in particular which composers have had an ...
5
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1answer
192 views

Was the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras the first one who referred to a musical scale?

I' ve read that the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras was the first one who scientifically proved the theory of music. Also it is refered that he invented the Pythagorean musical scale. Was the ...