Questions tagged [history]

For questions about how music has developed and changed over time or for questions about concepts and ideas of a historic period of music. Do not use just because the subject of the question is a historic figure or piece.

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Who decides how a historic piece is adjusted (if at all) for modern instruments?

Here we have a video of a historically-informed (or period) performance of Moonlight Sonata's first movement. Wikipedia notes: Some critics contest the methodology of the HIP movement, contending ...
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Latin voice denotations in Renaissance vocal music

I see that in the original printings of renaissance vocal music, the voices are labeled with Latin words like cantus, triplex, medius, etc... Assuming that these words denote the ranges of their ...
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What is the origin and original meaning of “tonic”, “supertonic”, “mediant”, etc.?

Each of the pitches in the diatonic scale has a "name": tonic supertonic mediant subdominant dominant submediant subtonic I was first introduced to tonic, dominant, and subdominant in the ...
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60's pop music. How well known was theory, e.g. the pentatonic scale?

Many years ago, at school some friends and I played versions of instrumental guitar pieces by the Shadows and other bands. Our method was to slow down the vinyl record and listen to what was played ...
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Are there folk music families, analogous to language families?

A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestral language or parental language, called the proto-language of that family. The term "family" reflects ...
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Music that comes before its time [closed]

I was discussing a time travel premise, where someone from our time finds themselves say in 1980, and how they would manage. Some people seem to think it obvious that such a traveler could, if they ...
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What are the primary historical piano training methods, and what are their defining characteristics?

There are various historically important or well-known piano training methods or schools (“schools of thought” as opposed to institutions, which are not the focus here): • The Leschetizky method • The ...
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Does Schoenberg or Glenn Gould have a point? Does a great deal of music remain to be written in C major?

There's a great interview online where Glenn Gould talks about Stravinsky and Schoenberg (circa 1960). His comments about Stravinsky certainly haven't aged well but nonetheless, he does make some ...
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Which tempo indications have changed meaning over time, and how so?

I recall a piano teacher once telling me that the tempo marking in a piece I was learning (andante, if memory serves) meant different things in different eras. (Maybe slower in the Baroque than in the ...
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How did the ancient Greeks notate their music?

Ancient Greece had a sophisticated musical system that allowed for transposable modes and flexible instrument tunings. Known as the Greater Perfect System, it is discussed in detail in What are the ...
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Did Beethoven “invent” ragtime with Piano Sonata No 32 Op 111?

I had an interesting question. It is common knowledge that ragtime came about as a genre with Scott Joplin. However, I am curious if anyone has any information about Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32 in ...
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Come to think of it, who did put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?

There have been "la la la"s and nonsense lyrics in music since ... well, since a long time back. Why, who could forget that sixteenth-century classic "Nos Galan"? And Nigunim have ...
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1answer
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Schubert G flat impromptu harmony

In my score, during the repetition of the opening theme, bar 5, the G flat major chord changes directly to an E flat minor chord, as is played in this performance. However, the performances by Kissin ...
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Why are notes created the way they are today? [duplicate]

The main question I have is admittedly broad. I'd like to know why the notes we use today are the way they are. By that I mean how is it that we have converged upon the specific discrete set of ...
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What is the meaning of the “chiaroscuro” sound that was considered ideal in Classical and early-Romantic Italian opera?

Apparently, in Classical and early-Romantic Italian opera (the "bel canto" opera repertoire), the ideal kind of vocal colour was a so-called chiaroscuro sound. The chiaro- part translates as ...
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How do our music and music technology compare with those of Francis Bacon in 1627? [closed]

In The New Atlantis a European ship, lost in the Pacific somewhere west of Peru, comes upon the mythical island of Bensalem: Bacon's vision of a utopia. The Father of its state-sponsored scientific ...
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Where did Scriabin define his note to color mapping?

I'm searching for the root source of Alexander Scriabin's note color mapping. Wikipedia states in: Clavier à lumières that it is located in the score of Prometheus: Poem of Fire. But, but, but in ...
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How seriously did romantic composers take key characterizations?

I just came across this list of key characterizations by Christian Schubart in 1806. I was aware of this phenomenon, and also know that it predated Schubart, e.g. influencing some choices in Handel's &...
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Where did “The Real Book” originally come from?

I saw my first copy of The Real Book when I was 15. The coolest, hippest, jazziest trumpet player I knew (he was 17 and knew who Miles Davis was) had a copy of this spiral-bound badge of savvy: a ...
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Etymology of crotchet [duplicate]

A crotchet in British English is one beat - a quarter in American English. In French, the very similar word croche means a quaver (eighth note), just half the value of a crotchet. The two words are ...
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Why is the Proper Sarum mode notated differently than it sounds (in the Yattendon hymnal)?

For context, image 1 is where I found this tune in another hymnal, and it looks like a sort of free-flowing attempt at notating (in standard notation) how a choir or congregation would sing. Images 2 ...
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What is it precisely in the music that makes you a 'Neoclassical' Composer?

I'm a little confused by what is meant we when say the 'Neoclassicism ' movement. Particularly this phrase from the official Wiki page. Neoclassicism was an aesthetic trend rather than an organized ...
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What are these medieval musical instruments called? [closed]

What are the medieval musical instruments used in La Bouree Ballet des Sorciers Ballet / Ballet des Bacchanales / Ballet des Matelotz /...
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2answers
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How to incorporate a chorus sheet?

I'm in the process of re-producing some sheet music from the Civil War. My question involves the 'chorus sheet' found at the end of nearly every piece. For example, in this song: Save Our Flag, the ...
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1answer
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Good sources on the history of western music theory? [closed]

I have learned a lot of music theory history piecemeal and I’m looking for a book that covers the topic in a chronological, narrative way. Ideally, the book should cover the historical progress of ...
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1answer
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Wind instruments: why is the left hand on top?

Every wind instrument which require the two hands to press keys (saxophone, clarinet, oboe…) have the left hand of the player being the top one. This consistency makes it easier to switch from one ...
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Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104

While reading my Italian edition of Petrarch's sonnets, I noticed that Sonnet 104, one of the three Liszt took inspiration from for the pieces in Années de pèlerinage, is not the famous one that is ...
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Why did baroque music use percussion abundantly, but classical stopped?

Classical music evolved from baroque music, which in turn evolved from Renaissance music. Both baroque and even more so Renaissance make extensive use of percussion. It is certainly not new to ...
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Did continuo players consider figured bass as “interval symbols” or “chord symbols”?

The "modern" idea of chords and their inversions being functionally equivalent is generally credited to Jean-Philippe Rameau's 1722 Treatise on Harmony. However, figured bass was already in ...
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2answers
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Where did the term 'Tone' originate?

We use 'tone' and consequently 'semitone' a lot in music - in Western music, the semitone is the smallest possible difference between two notes. (Not including guitar bends etc!). However, the word '...
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1answer
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reference pitch before the invention of the tuning fork [duplicate]

What was the reference pitch before the invention of the tuning fork in 1711? Was it somewhat a task to try and get within the ballpark of referenced pitch? Like for instance, maybe they knew what ...
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History of self-duets

The lockdowns associated with current coronavirus pandemic have sparked production of self-duets. The Austrian-German concert violinist Augustin Hadelich has released a lot of piano-violin self-duets ...
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Nancarrow piano studies collections: why are they ordered that way?

The bulk of Conlon Nancarrow's musical output has been collected in the series Conlon Nancarrow: Studies for Player Piano (vol.s 1-5). My question is about the ordering of songs in this collection. ...
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Why is 'Narrative Music' not considered 'complete/absolute'?

I have recently become obsessed with HECTOR BERLIOZ. His Symphonie Fantastique is tremendous. This made me research him further when I was disturbed to find out the following: ...
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Why does Rachmaninoff Symphony 2 mvmt. 3 sound so similar to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet love theme?

I get that they were both meant to convey love, but to me it sounds too similar to be a coincidence that Rach and Tchaik both hear love as the same (especially that rising line in the violins). Why is ...
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Does the piano really originate as a combination between drumming and guitar?

I heard this concept from one my friends, who is a guitar player, that first the guitar and the drum were created, and then somebody decided to drum on guitar and so was the piano born. I really ...
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How is the Santur (Santour / Santoor) usually tuned (in pure intonation)?

From what I've read the Persian Santur is usually tuned to the Phyrgian mode, but what are the actual frequencies or ratios of the notes? How would I tune one by ear? e.g. a piano tuner might count ...
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3answers
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Is there a term in English to characterize the male/female bipolarity of major and minor tonality?

Is there any association of dur and moll with male and female like in European compositions to define the polarity of major and minor tonalities in orchestral works like symphonies? Edit: To avoid ...
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How come modern modes are based on the same set of intervals?

I couldn't find any answer regarding this specifically, so I assume there's some basic concept behind this that I missed. So, as far as I know: Modern modes are based on the same set of intervals, ...
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Why the F clef and G clef? [duplicate]

We understand that the bass clef is called the F clef, while the treble is called the G clef. It's to do with where the strange signs are on each staff. But why those notes in particular?
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What is the rationale of electronic keyboards having the voices that they do?

It inevitably starts with a piano voice, then electric piano voices. Chromatically pitched percussion, guitars, strings, and so on, ending with drums. Even the most limited of keyboards have this ...
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How was sheet music printed before the advent of computers?

Computers have made the process of creating printed music incredibly easy and accessible. But how did publishers create nice-looking printed music before the advent of computers? It's hard for me to ...
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4answers
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How often do we see the likes of Alexandra Dovgan in history?

I'm not all that up to snuff on classical music history but as far as I know the last time we saw a child play like Alexandra Dovgan was Clara Schuman. Does anyone else know any other child ...
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Why is the numbering scheme of the Telemann-Werke-Verzeichnis (TWV) not adopted more universally?

Telemann's works are numbered first according to genre, then, where applicable, by key (with minor keys in lowercase and major keys in uppercase), and finally (if possible) chronologically or else at ...
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Is there symbolism in Brahms No. 1? How does this, and the “struggle between major and minor,” square with his views about absolute music?

I've been learning about the War of the Romantics, and I'm trying to understand Brahms's symphony. I've long seen what I recognize as literary techniques in Brahms's music. For example, in mvt. IV of ...
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What is a **Ruggiero** in music?

I have once heard this term Ruggiero in a discussion about a Baroque composition on the radio. I thought it could be this walking bass line of 4 notes we know so well from Bach's concertos: "so la ...
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1answer
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Celtic modes, what modes are these?

I know the ancient Greek modes and the Gregorian modes of the medieval era. Reading in a comment the term Celtic modes I wonder is there something different or special that I have missed until today?
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What kind of musical scales did the ancient “pagan” tribes use before Roman/Greek contact?

As far as I know, the "western musical scale" is a greek invention. In Indian and Arabic music you find other scales (and time signatures as well). What sort of scales and time signatures did the ...
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Who Were Art Tatum's Influences?

Art Tatum is one of the most influential figures in the history of jazz piano. He propelled the music forward perhaps more than any other jazz pianist. Specifically, Art was known for his ...
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Identifying a musical system [closed]

Several years ago I was browsing about history of computers and old day computers, and downloaded various images, from Google, maybe from a blog or websites on older generation computers. One of ...

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