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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What's the earliest known example of music written for an electronic instrument?

The other day I stumbled upon Joseph Schillinger's First Airphonic Suite, a 1929 orchestral suite that includes a part for theremin. Since this was written 10 years after the invention of the theremin,...
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5 votes
1 answer
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When did drop voicings (e.g. drop, 2 drop 3 etc.) become codified for guitar?

Nowadays the Drop 2 and Drop 3 7th chord voicings for guitar are well-known, especially in Jazz circles. I don't remember hearing about these when I was reading Metal Solo You Can't Play Monthly back ...
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1 vote
0 answers
99 views

Did percussion instruments communicate spoken words in click languages?

There are a number of click languages in Africa where 'clicks' function as part of their language. It seems like it would be possible to communicate some words with percussion instruments (maybe a ...
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10 votes
1 answer
375 views

Why do notes have stems?

How is it that stems became a part of standard music notation? I was genuinely unable to find an answer to this anywhere on the internet - I couldn't even find an instance of anyone asking the ...
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2 votes
2 answers
480 views

Historical origin of the raised sixth scale degree in minor

The way I understand the melodic minor scale — with its raised 6 and 7 ascending and lowered 6 and 7 descending — is that it's representative of how composers operated when composing in minor. However,...
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-1 votes
1 answer
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Why was Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor (Bach) composed?

I'm doing an assignment on a baroque period composition, and I chose Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor by J.S. Bach. One of the things I need to do is explain why it was actually composed. I'm having a ...
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5 votes
1 answer
382 views

Why are band instruments built in flat keys?

Instruments in a military bands (and similar) are usually built in the keys of B-flat or E-flat. (Whether these instruments are treated as transposing instruments or not is irrelevant. The key that ...
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5 votes
2 answers
155 views

When could humans first measure pitch accurately?

This article suggests that accurate measurement of pitch wasn't possible until around 1870. Another source suggested that is was possible around the time of J.S. Bach. Does anyone have more info on ...
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1 vote
3 answers
166 views

what is a "rhythmic gesture"?

Per Wikipedia, taken originally from Winold, 1975, chapter 3, among the general characteristics of music from the common practice period is "rhythmic gestures of a limited number of rhythmic ...
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1 answer
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Did any pianist in history ever sight-read one of Liszt's Transcendental Études?

Liszt was known to be able to sight-read any piece, even Chopin's Etudes Opus 10 and Grieg's Piano Concerto, both Piano and Orchestral Part. Since Liszt also composed some Études himself, I was ...
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1 vote
0 answers
45 views

Who played the solos at the climax of Bill and Ted Face The Music? [closed]

I'm sure this information isn't hard to find if I searched for the right terms, but I have searched and come up with results for how they would have loved to have included Van Halen and about the ...
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  • 111
0 votes
1 answer
125 views

First guitar with fretboard inlays?

When did guitars first get fretboard inlays? Or were they a common feature on pre-guitar stringed instruments before the the guitar was formalised to the shape we now know and love? Was there a ...
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1 vote
3 answers
159 views

What makes a song a Christmas song? [closed]

Apart from lyrics, what features have been common to Christmas music in different traditions and eras of classical, folk and modern music? Have there been specific melodic intervals, structure, ...
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2 votes
1 answer
157 views

Personal / historical background regarding Chopin's Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55, No. 1

Chopin completed his Nocturne in F minor in 1843. During the time he was creating the piece, what was happening in his compositional or personal life that might influence one's interpretation of the ...
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3 votes
3 answers
214 views

Why is the usual clef for guitar G clef?

Analyzing by two parameters, polyphony and range, music written for guitar should use two clefs, G and F. Usually, solo guitar has a polyphonic expression. Writing two melodies in a single stave could ...
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9 votes
3 answers
158 views

Was a 13-line (6 over 7) staff system ever in wide use?

On the Wikipedia article for Passacaglia, there is an excerpt of a piece by 17th-century composer Bernardo Storace. It has a 6-line staff with both G and C clefs above a 7 line staff with both C and ...
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2 votes
0 answers
75 views

What was the first published "cutaway/cut-out" score?

Sometimes scores are formatted so that silent measures are completely omitted—not just left empty, but left blank, including the staff. The oldest score in this style that I have seen is Lutosławski's ...
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-4 votes
1 answer
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Where does the nick-name for Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 come from? [duplicate]

It is commonly said in music spheres that Beethoven did not give the Sonata the title of Moonlight. That leads me to wonder what is the source of the unofficial name then if not from the composer?
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1 vote
1 answer
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How did the ancient greek Ionic dialect become the name of the first mode of the diatonic major scale?

How did the ancient greek Ionic dialect become the name of the first mode of the diatonic major scale?...being Ionic. Similarly, how did the ancient greek Aeolic dialect become the name of the first ...
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1 vote
1 answer
55 views

How would one research standards for English tempo descriptions in BPM ca. 1900?

I am transcribing a songbook of Celtic folk tunes compiled in 1928 and generating MIDI from the transcription so that I can learn them by ear. The book is filled with tempos like: Flowing and not too ...
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3 votes
1 answer
110 views

When did trumpet mutes come into use?

My casual understanding is that mutes began to be invented and developed amongst jazz musicians looking to create unique sounds. Certainly I've encountered mutes primarily in jazz playing and also in ...
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7 votes
1 answer
145 views

Which came first: the dot or the tie?

In considering the question of the benefits of dots versus ties for extending note values, I got to wondering about the origins of those two notations. Did one emerge before the other? For what ...
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4 votes
2 answers
153 views

When did Stradivarius become "Stradivarius!"

Instruments built by the Stradivarius family are popularly thought of amongst the pantheon of "greatest ever".1 But have they always been considered this way? Were they held in similarly ...
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1 vote
2 answers
122 views

What are the Deciding Factors as to Consonance/Dissonance?

Spawned by a previous question/answer. It seems that consonance/dissonance in intervals and harmonies have varied over time. So how would a decision be made to change one interval from one to the ...
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5 votes
1 answer
113 views

Did Rachmaninoff make his pieces hard to perform to challenge the pianist?

I'm not sure if this question belongs here, so I apologise if it doesn't. When when I was in high school, I was really into Rachmaninoff's pieces. My teacher once heard me trying to learn one of his ...
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7 votes
2 answers
166 views

Did Bach name his pieces?

I was listening "Brandenburg Concerto N° 4" and "Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C minor, BWV 1062", and wondered: aside from the catalog number (that came later), did Bach name his ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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How did Glenn Gould know, in 1955, the proper ornamentation for Bach's "Goldberg Variations"?

This question has its origin in Why does the Open Goldberg score have a G rather than A in bar 9 of variation 25?. See that Q&A for background information. At what time, and on what basis, was ...
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6 votes
4 answers
943 views

Outside of Equal Temperament, what decides the spelling of notes in a major scale?

I've been reading up on the history of temperament, and how enharmonic notes are more of a limitation of the modern piano (only one black key), and also mathematically they are the same if you use ...
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1 vote
0 answers
34 views

Identify song name and artist [closed]

I think it was in 70s or 80s a young woman from U.S. went to work for awhile on an island, maybe Jamaica. When she was ready to return I believe there was a problem taking her earnings with her so she ...
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5 votes
1 answer
152 views

Where can I find related materials in connection with Johann Joseph Fux's The Study of Counterpoint?

Allegedly, Beethoven condensed Fux's work into a "cheat sheet" version for ready reference (from the back cover of the Alfred Mann translation), and Mozart apparently annotated his own copy (...
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13 votes
4 answers
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Why didn't more composers who composed violin concertos compose viola concertos?

Wouldn't the glut of violin and cello concertos from the Baroque and Classical eras motivate composers to compose Viola Concertos? Isn't adding to the deluge of violin and cello concertos more ...
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4 votes
0 answers
59 views

How was mixolidian mode introduced in Northeastern Brazilian Music?

Northeastern region of Brazil has a great variety of traditional and folkloric music genres. The most well-known genre is forró, followed also by baião and xaxado. These music genres are usually ...
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6 votes
3 answers
234 views

Has such an anti-musical tune ever been composed?

The following part from chapter 84 of the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fanfic describes a tune that appears to be designed to be unnerving. The humming started as a simple children's ...
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3 votes
4 answers
1k views

Why did it take a millennium to use harmony/polyphony (900 AD) when Pythagoras discovered perfect fourth and fifth around 500 BC?

Considering the fact that Pythagoras formulated the properties of Perfect Fifth and Fourth around 500 BC, why did it take so long to include them in Music?. The first instance of using the Fifth in ...
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9 votes
2 answers
143 views

When was the concept of a "triad chord" first introduced?

Chiara Bertoglio, “A Perfect Chord: Trinity in Music, Music in the Trinity,” Religions 4, no. 4 (December 2013): 485–501, §6. A “Harmonious” God, p. 493, claims: It was not before the 16th century, ...
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-2 votes
6 answers
267 views

Why does guitar have so much more shape/tone variety than all other instruments?

For acoustic guitars, we have dreadnaught, auditorium, classical, jumbo, mini, grand concert, arch top, parlor (then there are new shapes coming from Taylor) Even if I count the whole orchestra family ...
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1 vote
4 answers
183 views

Accidentals - what's that?

We are aware that an accidental is a sign which changes the pitch of a note usually stated in the key signature, like a natural sign before a C in key D makes that into C♮, etc. Sometimes even the key ...
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3 votes
2 answers
119 views

What are the trends that led to fizzling of ars antiqua and rising of ars nova?

What is the trends that led to the fizzling of ars antique and to the rising of ars nova?
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8 votes
2 answers
1k views

Who decides chord details in published songs?

I like to make lead sheets of songs like this to learn to improvise from, condensing the published sheet music down to a single page with no turns. In working from my two copies of It's Only A Paper ...
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1 vote
1 answer
217 views

History of "strumming" the piano (Rhythmic repeated chords)

In many songs, a particular chord gets played over and over on a piano, very similar to how you might strum a chord on a guitar. Examples: ...
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2 votes
1 answer
162 views

Did the first piano use an equal-tempered or natural scale?

Both the piano and the equal-tempered scale were invented in the 1700s (according to Wikipedia, at least). But what I'm wondering is whether the first piano constructed used an equal-tempered scale, ...
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2 votes
1 answer
147 views

What is the origin of the notation A4, B3, F5, etc. (i.e. <letter><number>)

Long before I started to play an instrument I used to tune my young son's guitar for him using a device which told me how close the strings were to the correct notes of E2, A2, D3, G3, B3 and E4. When ...
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5 votes
2 answers
99 views

Chants in Renaissance vocal music

In notice that in some vocal works composed during the Renaissance, especially masses, long chunks of music (sometimes the whole piece) are preceded by a monophonic, often short chant which is ...
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4 votes
2 answers
175 views

What are the earliest examples of using the circle of fifths in western music

While reading about Vavilov's "Ave Maria" previously attributed to Caccini, I met an interesting argument, that probably nobody in the USSR and maybe later in the western countries noticed ...
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3 votes
1 answer
91 views

Is there literal correlation between sounds and the words to describe them?

In English, we describe pitches as "high" and "low", as being "sharp" or "flat". A timbre can be "fat". At least one study suggests that there is a ...
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6 votes
5 answers
1k views

Do the world-renowned classical composers ever seriously modify their compositions after their works got published by publishers?

Do the world-renowned classical composers ever seriously or in minor ways modify their music compositions after their works got published by publishers and after their works are already openly ...
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  • 499
3 votes
1 answer
162 views

Was Nina Simone really refused admission to Julliard on racial grounds even though she passed the audition? [closed]

I recently watched the movie 'Green Book'. While I was watching it I was reminded of someone who once told me that Nina Simone was refused entry to Julliard on racial grounds. Is this accurate and if ...
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19 votes
4 answers
3k views

Who was listening to Bach's compositions in his lifetime?

Who ever encountered his work? Was his music played somewhere else in Europe, or only where he lived? What strata of society had any chance of coming into contact with his music? What might be the ...
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6 votes
1 answer
108 views

What was the amount of repertoire learned as an adult professional musician in various time periods?

As an adult professional musician (church organist), I discovered that, once I became a mother (a year ago), I had less time to practice (from approx 4 hrs a day to about 1.5 hrs a day), but--now I am ...
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5 votes
4 answers
1k views

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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