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Author Topic: Anglo Saxon musical instruments  (Read 47016 times)

Wulfric

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #15 on: August 16, 2011, 11:22:56 AM »
This thread had me realising I didn't know enough about specifics of music theory or the history of music to really comment especially with the different possibilities of the definition of harmony.

So I watched all for episodes of How Music Works with Howard Goodall on Youtube, one of which is dedicated to harmony and the "official" story of it's evolution. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_UuATEqL7g

I can't personally challenge or defend any of this but thought it put context to the story of evolution of western harmony for future discussion.

peter horn

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2011, 09:28:50 PM »
This thread had me realising I didn't know enough about specifics of music theory or the history of music to really comment especially with the different possibilities of the definition of harmony.

So I watched all for episodes of How Music Works with Howard Goodall on Youtube, one of which is dedicated to harmony and the "official" story of it's evolution. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_UuATEqL7g

I can't personally challenge or defend any of this but thought it put context to the story of evolution of western harmony for future discussion.

But those items seem to deal with techniques developed over the last 300 years, whereas the origins of harmony, which is the bone of contention, goes back to the Greeks .
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Wulfric

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #17 on: August 17, 2011, 01:59:42 AM »
Right I've done a little more research and re-watched the beginning of the harmony episode I previously mentioned. Sorry I'm about to go on a bit but I hope it gives some answers to the question of harmony.

Ancient Greeks... Indeed it seems that Pythagoras of Somos (~570 to ~495BC) did demonstrate a mathematical understanding of the laws of music and scale structures.

By ~424 to 347 BC Plato is complaining about people naturally talented musicians ignoring the established laws of music in favour of what sounds good. This has been taken by some to indicate that people were not limiting themselves to the classical modes (scales) in their mathematical structures or ignoring the attributed moods or "ethos" associated with the modes. Other of Plato's works describe the lyre accompanying a singing poet in the "correct" way and yet it is still understood by others that while more than one note would sound at the same time in a complimentary way this is not western harmony.

So I am lead to believe that the Classical Greeks understood scales and were happy for two notes to form a harmony.

Now back to the video, please excuse the direct quoting...

"At its most basic harmony is the intentional coming together of two or more sounds for pleasant effect. All the world's musical cultures share this idea..."

This conforms with what I managed to find in my reading about the Classical Greeks.

"...but harmony in western music is doing something else all together, turning the the collision of notes into a deliberate and complex structure of its own... ...Western harmony began separating off from all other world musics in around the 12th Century."

Howard Goodall then continues to demonstrate how the traditional English round "Summer is icumen in" first put to paper in 1225 is the earliest example of "Western Harmony", as it is understood today, as the combination of cyclic round and moving drone with an overlaid melody result in the formation of a THREE note chord. The rest of the program discusses how the rules of scales enable a pleasing chord progression and how this developed.

Also key was that this style of harmony had apparently not evolved elsewhere but had been blended with nearly all musical cultures once introduced.

So if we can trust the accepted wisdom at all then the Anglo Saxons would have been happy playing their harps in accompaniment to sung lyrics forming basic TWO note harmonies as the Ancient Greeks apparently did and with as much musical proficiency as apparently all the other world cultures.

Daring a little creative thinking, one could suggest that in fact the defining 3 note chord that occurs in Summer is icumen in, was common place throughout folk music of far earlier medieval periods, including the AS period, but that not being church music, had not been recorded until 1225. This doesn't explain though why from this point onwards, and not before, development of western harmony really takes off.

Thanks to anyone who read all that, I hope you found it interesting.

P.s. I'm sorry to do this but I don't particularly like my threads being dismissed out of hand,

But those items seem to deal with techniques developed over the last 300 years, whereas the origins of harmony, which is the bone of contention, goes back to the Greeks .

In what way is 1225 within the last 300 years? My calculations put it closer to 800

peter horn

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #18 on: August 17, 2011, 08:24:12 AM »
I was referring to the video to which you directed us and not dismissing anything but merely making an observation about that video. your further comments about harmony being over a longer period came after my comment and therefore how could I be dismissing it? I broadly agree with your final conclusions, which if correct would mean that harmony was used some time prior to the introduction of the hurdy-gurdy.
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Wulfric

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #19 on: August 17, 2011, 05:59:38 PM »
My apologies to everyone and especially Peter. Perhaps I was a little quick to take offence.

I must have misunderstood your meaning. I see what you mean about much of the programme dealing with developments in the last 300 hundred years. If this is when harmony, as modern musicians understand it, developed this is what we would expect from the programme and therefore it helps to answer the questions about what "harmony" is and whether AS musicians used it.

I suppose I felt as though some people would have been put off watching the video by your comment, which would have been a shame, especially as my comments about harmony developing over a longer time all came from the video, with the exception of the brief notes on classical Greece.

peter horn

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2011, 12:49:15 PM »
My apologies to everyone and especially Peter. Perhaps I was a little quick to take offence.

I must have misunderstood your meaning. I see what you mean about much of the programme dealing with developments in the last 300 hundred years. If this is when harmony, as modern musicians understand it, developed this is what we would expect from the programme and therefore it helps to answer the questions about what "harmony" is and whether AS musicians used it.

I suppose I felt as though some people would have been put off watching the video by your comment, which would have been a shame, especially as my comments about harmony developing over a longer time all came from the video, with the exception of the brief notes on classical Greece.

That's ok.
I think my comment wasn't precise enough. Of course, all views are welcome, and I for one have learnt a great deal from them over the years.
Peter
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Horsa

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2011, 09:14:44 PM »
This thread is excellent!

Thanks so much Wulfric for posting the video. I intended only to watch the first one to see what you were talking about but got sucked in. I had no idea that music was so complicated. The bit about suspension when Howard changed the chords to the Mariah Carey song to tonic chords was very illuminating. Also, thanks so much for the extra research. I have learnt a lot from these past few posts.

I've been playing guitar for 20 years, I think it might be time to learn about some theory.


If we accept a definition of harmony as this:
"turning the the collision of notes into a deliberate and complex structure of its own... ...Western harmony began separating off from all other world musics in around the 12th Century."


Which is how I've always instinctively defined it, then I would say that I would align myself somewhat with the establishment view. The Anglo-saxons, along with all musical cultures around the world would have had music where 2 or more notes played together at the same time - pluck a figure on the harp then sing. They almost definitely had music with a drone - the bagpipe (incidentally, that's all the hurdy gurdy offers harmony - a drone). And I would be surprised if they didn't sing rounds. With regards to the above definition of harmony, I would call this proto harmony.

Its very hard for me to imagine 400,000 years of human existence without all this harmony, but then again I've been brought up with it, surrounded by it. Yet, despite having heard it all my life, it is extremely difficult to sing harmonies. I was in a choir for a short time and all of us not singing the main melody but harmonies had to focus all our energies into not getting sucked up into the main melody. We failed often. The brain instinctively wants to sing the melody.

It's a lot easier to play harmonies on a guitar, but then you're relying on the design of the instrument to help you and the fact that you've heard harmonies all your life. Rounds are a lot easier to sing, but are still tricky in their own way. I remember singing them in primary school and the atmosphere was less like a sing-a-long and had more of a game aspect to it "let's see if you can do this?" And, once again, this is happening in a culture where complex use of harmony has been going on for hundreds of years. Imagine being the first person to suggest doing a round.

Peter points out that the ancient Greeks came up with mathematical rules for harmony long before the conscious use of harmony was supposed to have started. However, just because the ancient greeks described the mathematical relationships between notes and the corresponding feelings that they evoked, and called it harmony, that doesn't mean that they were necessarily playing melodies with harmonies. If I understand it correctly, melodies work the same way as chords. The Greeks may have noticed that a melody wants to return back to a certain note - the tonic: the key of the melody - and a melody favoured certain notes - the dominant and the subdominant.


leofwin

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2011, 10:37:13 PM »
with a six-stringed Anglo-Saxon lyre, the smallest amount of experimentation - blocking two or three of the strings and strumming the rest - produces really pleasant harmonies, which can be further varied by strumming in the opposite direction. I'm pretty sure that if it COULD be done, it WAS done.

I've managed to work all this stuff out on my lyre with no knowledge or training whatsoever in musical theory. You just play about until a pleasant sound happens!

Graegwulf

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #23 on: August 21, 2011, 08:19:13 PM »
That's the difficult thing about reconstruction of past knowledge; it is virtually impossible to unknow stuff you are familiar with.  You can't imagine not knowing it, which is one thing, but then it's easy to assume that everyone must have seen it.

I regularly try to draw animal ornament in Germanic styles.  I can copy existing works, no problem, but inventing new designs in their style, that's a whole different story.  I know about geometric and harmonic rules that weren't dreamed of 1500 or so years ago, and I can't stop knowing them.  The results might be quite pleasing, but they clearly aren't "authentic".  I'm not alone in this, you see the same thing daily in the proliferation of "Celtic" and Maori designs and tattoos.

Paul

Horsa

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #24 on: August 23, 2011, 12:05:50 AM »
- blocking two or three of the strings and strumming the rest - produces really pleasant harmonies, which can be further varied by strumming in the opposite direction.

You've got 6 strings there - six notes. The guitar has six strings too. And 22 frets, allowing you to play notes within 4 octaves - 48 notes. You're going to be playing just the one chord. The film that Wulfric posted says: "At its most basic, harmony is the intentional coming together of two or more sounds for pleasant effect. All the world's musical cultures share this idea." whereas western harmony turns "the collision of notes into a deliberate and complex structure of its own."

Later on in the film, it says that chord progressions are the lifeblood of western harmony. This makes more sense to me. When I hear bagpipe music, I don't consider that harmonies even though every note in the melody is played at the same time as the drone.

The film is well worth watching. There is an example of choral music with a moveable drone, where the harmonising notes are maintain the same distance from the melody notes. This sounds very different and far less complex musically and emotionally to the other examples of choral music with harmonies, especially the first song 'Rivers of Babylon", but also the tudor music and the baroque music.

I will reiterate my opinion:
The AS almost definitely had music with a drone, very probably sang in the round and absolutely without a shadow of a doubt had music where more than one note was played at the same time.

They did not have music where knowledge of harmony was used to create effects.

...

Though I could very well be wrong.


Jayson

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #25 on: August 25, 2011, 03:19:10 PM »
----Wow!   I certainly started things off, something I certainly didn't expect!!! :)
Wessex Woman

leofwin

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2011, 08:28:30 PM »
you clearly struck a chord with lots of people!

peter horn

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #27 on: August 26, 2011, 01:57:29 PM »
The AS hearpe tuned to the minor pentatonic scale gives 15  two-note chords
ie: 1 perfect octave
    3 major 2nd
    2 minor 3rd
    1 maj 3rd
    3 perfect 4th
    3 perf 5th
    1 maj 2nd
    1 min 7th

there are thus 15  two note chords - some more pleasing to the modern ear than others.

then there are the 3 note chords   I use three of these, and find only one 4 note chord useful
Peter
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PeterOSullivan

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #28 on: August 27, 2011, 09:54:30 AM »
I wonder if I could take theiberty to extend and hopefully enrich Jason's quest
I am seeking a recording of sacred music that would have been used in a church in Anglo Saxon times.
Is anybody able to help me with my quest?
Thanks & Regards
Peter O’Sullivan

leofwin

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Re: Anglo Saxon musical instruments
« Reply #29 on: August 27, 2011, 10:40:29 AM »
I wish I could help with that one, Peter - but if there is such a recording, i'd like to have a copy myself!