Music from all over the world presents a range of musical theories. Some of these are documented in writing whilst others are transmitted orally. Discuss and give examples with reference to both Western and non-Western music.
Music Theory can be understood as chiefly the study of the structure of music. With the idea of both written and oral notation, it may be understood through recognized systems of indication, and used as systems of memorizing and transmitting the theories themselves. Western music theory is significant for its quantity and range whilst those of non-Western traditions are also notable in possessing major works of theoretical oration and literature. Melodies for texts of the liturgy of the early Western Church were learned by oral transmission. Chant was learned and sung from memory, entailing singers to preserve hundreds of melodies, of which many were sung once annually. Chants which were simple frequently sung, or considerably distinct and memorable may have been passed down with very few changes. Other chants could have been improvised or composed orally using strict standards, following a given melodic form and using ornamental methods fitting to a particular text or place in the liturgy. This technique bears resemblance to other oral traditions; for instance, epic singers from the Balkans performed long poems seemingly by memory but in actual fact, by procedures correlating themes, syntax, meters, line endings, and other elements. Evidence for such oral composition can be found in the chants themselves: by extracting the second phrases of the first four verses of the Tract ‘Deus, Deus meus’, it is observed that each phrase drifts around F which then descends to close with the same cadence in the middle of the verse. No two verses are alike, but each employs the same set of principles, which are also visible in many other Tracts. Because Tracts were initially performed by soloists, throughout the centuries singers developed a model, consisting of a broad melodic form and a compilation of formulas to describe the phrases in each verse, and altered it to suit the syllables and inflection of the particular text for each verse or chant. These variations were then preserved by writing down the melodies. Later on, when the melodies were notated, an attempt was made to guarantee that from then on, each melody would be sung in effectively the same way every time and everywhere it was performed. Therefore notation was both a product of striving for consistency and a means of maintaining that consistency. In 1903 Solesmes monks prepared modern editions of chant, which used a modernized form of chant notation intended for use in church. This can be seen in the Gradual ‘Viderunt omnes’, where the staff in chant notation has four lines, one of which is designated by a clef either represented by middle C or F below C. The neumes – notes or note-groups which usually carry only one syllable of text – are read from left to right, though when a note is below another, the lower note is sung first, as can be observed from the melody on “fines” is c’ – d’ – c’ – a. A sloping neume that signifies three notes can be seen; hence “terrae” begins c’ – a – c’. Rhombus-shaped notes are visible as descending patterns, such as on “omnes,” as a way to salvage space, but hold equal values as square ones. The small notes denote a somewhat closing of the mouth on an articulated consonant at the end of a syllable, such as on the “n” in “Viderunt” in the first staff. The curvilinear line in ascending figures, called quilisma - as in “omnis” in the third staff - may have demonstrated a vocal embellishment. Polyphony began as a way of performance and as a practice of oral composition, later being documented in writing. It is interesting to note, that the polyphonic music that was written down was only a small part of what was actually sung. Polyphonic works were possibly performed in multiple parts long before it was notated, such...
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