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40 votes
Accepted

Why does Brahms stand next to Bach and Beethoven?

First, a history lesson: Peter Cornelius originally claimed that these "Three Bs" were Bach, Beethoven, and Berlioz. It was Hans von Bülow that then replaced Berlioz with Brahms, and Bülow did it ...
Richard's user avatar
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38 votes

Why does a 97 / 92 key piano exist by Bösendorfer?

replete's answer is correct that the original reason was to have a bigger range, as needed for some organ music. However, I don't think that's the reason those Imperial models are so sought-for over ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
37 votes
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Why did we never simplify key signatures?

Actually, it seems to me that designating the key by a letter instead of the arrangement of sharps or flats is not simplifying the process. Simply stating the intended key by letter and accidental ...
skinny peacock's user avatar
29 votes
Accepted

What happened to Jazz in 1980?

It's a reasonable thought that Metheny was referring to Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis was highly controversial — "polarizing" might be a better word — in the early 1980s. In particular, Marsalis ...
Aaron's user avatar
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28 votes
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"The intervals considered dissonant have changed since the 'Middle Ages'"; How so?

OK, so first a clarification of the contexts: The quoted materials are mostly concerned with Western European music. The music of the Middle Ages almost certainly refers to the liturgical music of ...
Pat Muchmore's user avatar
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28 votes
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What was the motivation for the invention of electric pianos?

A lot of instruments from the analog era were supposed to sound like other "real" instruments, and were as good as technology allowed then, which is not very. But over time, some have become popular ...
Your Uncle Bob's user avatar
27 votes
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Why is Debussy's remark brilliant (on going out and smoking, at the start of Beethoven's developments)?

In short, the German musical tradition (largely based upon Beethoven's towering presence) is one that prioritizes thematic development. Beethoven was known, for instances, for sometimes introducing ...
Richard's user avatar
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26 votes
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Why is the lowest note on the piano an A?

Early pianos started out with the existing range of harpsichords, having between four and five octaves, usually starting at low C. This stands to reason, because Bartolomeo Cristofori, generally ...
BobRodes's user avatar
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26 votes

Aldous Huxley and 5/4 Meter in Music Predating "Take 5"

Brubeck's exploration of 5-beat and other asymmetrical meters was revolutionary for jazz, but it had been going on for decades in classical music, largely inspired in the late 19th century by the ...
phoog's user avatar
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25 votes
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What is the oldest instrument ever?

It's probably not possible to tell. Wood and bone can often be inherently musical when struck, so some kind of proto-claves likely existed before recorded history. Rocks may have also been used for ...
Todd Wilcox's user avatar
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24 votes

What is the rationale of electronic keyboards having the voices that they do?

Yes, MIDI is primarily a communications protocol. But it also includes specifications for the General MIDI sound set. 128 sounds. Here they are, with their Program Change numbers. https://en....
Laurence's user avatar
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23 votes
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Why is a 440 Hz frequency considered the "standard" pitch for musical instruments?

440 Hz is the standard that has been adopted. Before it was, an instrument tuned in one country or even city was out of tune in another; confusion reigned. The short version of it is that ...
BenoitLussier's user avatar
23 votes
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How did composers "test" their music?

Not all composers nowadays write using computers. Many still write by hand using ink or pencil. Multi-instrument works (chamber, orchestra, etc) were written as either what's known as "piano-score" ...
jjmusicnotes's user avatar
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22 votes
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Why didn't more composers who composed violin concertos compose viola concertos?

Various reasons. The viola is acoustically less well-designed than the violin. It sounds a fifth below the violin and has the same proportions, so it would have to be 50% larger; but because you ...
Kilian Foth's user avatar
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21 votes
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Is counterpoint still used today?

Counterpoint is simply the relationship between multiple musical lines. As such, any excerpt of music with more than one line is displaying some sense of counterpoint, whether intentional or not. ...
Richard's user avatar
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20 votes
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Unusual keyboard in a picture

Let's apply some perspective warping here. You'll see that the black keys, viewed from the front, come in alternating groups of 2 and 3 after all. Their arrangement does not correspond all that well ...
user33993's user avatar
  • 216
20 votes
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Why is reverb typically called "wet' or "drippy"?

Reverb is actually the effect of playing in confined, walled spaces - the sound bounces off the walls giving a diffused sort of echo. In a wide open space there is zero reverb. (The original, now ...
Laurence's user avatar
  • 92k
19 votes

How did students remember what to practise between lessons without any sheet music?

Besides the copyist mentioned in the other answer, students could simply write on their own! No need to have someone copy it for them. Also it was not uncommon for teachers to write stuff down for ...
Shevliaskovic's user avatar
19 votes
Accepted

How hard would it have been for a small band to make and sell CDs in the early 90s?

There are two scenarios here, a DIY one, and a semi-pro one, which would have been affordable for a band with saturday jobs or middle class parents. The DIY scenario is: they record and mix their ...
Tapey McTapeface's user avatar
18 votes
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At what point in history did the relationship between pitch and frequency become well-known among musicians?

If you have access to a good academic library, then the following article appears to be on point regarding the Western tradition: S. Dostrovsky, Early Vibration Theory: Physics and Music in the ...
Michael Seifert's user avatar
18 votes
Accepted

Why is ra lower than re while la is higher than le?

That's because the solfege syllables for the non-chromatic notes (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si/Ti) were first. They were thoroughly historically anchored in music theory, long before someone thought ...
Tim H's user avatar
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18 votes

Did Beethoven "invent" ragtime with Piano Sonata No 32 Op 111?

No, I think the similarity to ragtime is coincidental, and I believe the principal evidence is in the way Beethoven notated this passage. Beethoven has notated this section of the piece in 12/32, ...
Peter's user avatar
  • 6,486
18 votes

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

According to Wikipedia: From 1703 he was back in Thuringia, working as a musician for Protestant churches in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen and, for longer stretches of time, at courts in Weimar, where he ...
Brian Towers's user avatar
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17 votes

Why did we never simplify key signatures?

I believe it's not simplified for some reasons: 1st: Music notation is an orthodox practice which has kept its standardization globally for common understanding. The Boethian notation (alphabet notes ...
Emerson's user avatar
  • 335
17 votes
Accepted

How seriously did romantic composers take key characterizations?

In many cases, these key characteristics were the byproduct of various historical tuning systems. Many of these systems were out of date by the time the Romantic era rolled around, and in that sense ...
Richard's user avatar
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16 votes
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What 1968 Moog synthesizer was used in the Movie Apollo 11?

It's a Moog modular Synthesizer IIIc From Matt Morton - Apollo 11 Matt wrote, orchestrated, performed, recorded, and mixed all of the original music for the film, as well as the teaser trailer ...
Tetsujin's user avatar
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