23rd November 1585. Do, Re, Mi, Fa…..Do.

At the time when Thomas Tallis who died Today in 1585, church music was being complemented increasingly with the secular, which with its greater subtly and variety needed a more refined notation to express it.

Ten years before, Queen Elizabeth had granted to Tallis and (William Byrd), a monopoly for 21 years for polyphonic music, which involved two or more simultaneous lines of melody as opposed to just one voice (monophony).

On top of this they received patents to publish music and an exclusive right to print music in English and other languages along with the paper to do so.

Previously music was monopolized by the Church and a brake applied to natural progression when in the 7thc Pope Gregory decreed that only the human voice was suitable for the Glory of God.

Thus with Gregorian Chants we see the apex of a-Capella Monophony, with all singing the same note together, based on a tradition of story-telling Plainchant.

Plainchant. Dots, Checkmarks, Staff(Stave) on red line introduced by Guido.

Plainchant. Dots, Checkmarks, Staff (Stave) on red line. Introduced by Guido.

By 850 Gregorian Chant had led to Polyphony-two unrelated voices sung at once-melody and harmony, which became the 11thc music of choice, even after this was banned by the papacy.

By c1000 a Benedictine monk Guido D’Arezzo reworked the crude Neumatic music notation used for Gregorian Chant and designed his own musical staff.(see left).

This still used four lines of a Neumatic Staff but added a Time Signature making it easier to sing together.

Guido also devised a Solfege Vocal Scale System that replaced the Greek four tones, with six tones: ut (do) re, mi, fa, so, la. Later came ‘te’.(1)

From Plainchant by the Reformation, came Anglican Chant a way to sing un-metrical texts including psalms and canticles from the Bible by matching speech rhythms of words, to notes of a simple harmonized melody.

It is also a time when we see modern notation with Five-Line Staff, Clef, Time Signature and Bar Lines becoming  widespread for the growing ensemble performances.

Key-note chart

Modern Piano Key-Note Chart.

(1) Tonic sol-fa was popularized by John Curwen, a system based on the Movable ‘do’ solfege whereby every tone is given a name relative to other tones in the KEY. It is the TONIC (home note) whatever the KEY, so MOVABLE.

Ref: wikipedia.org/tonic-sol-fa.

Ref: wikipedia.org/solfege.

Ref: wikipedia.org/anglican chant.

Ref: Music Composition for Dummies. Scott Jarrett, Holly Day. 2008. Pic Images.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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