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Elements of Music

42 43 around thE World in four songs Every system of musical notation is essentially a set of instructions for the implemention of sounds through time. In each case they are a kind of timeline, tracking sonic events, and in the case of songs, their marriage to words. Lines, dashes, slashes, curves, numbers, letters, dots, and circles all are used to mirror the up and down inflections, gestures, and shapes of melodies. Earlier in history, music was an entirely oral tradition, much like storytelling, another narrative art form. As humanity spread and grew, new methods were needed to communicate music to more people. Eventually, notation helped bring music into the homes of everyday musicians, and preserve it for future generations to enjoy. This parallels the development of the printing press, with the same advantages facilitated by that invention. Since we all have basically the same set of musical and linguistic sounds available to us, these various notation systems four examples shown opposite have a great deal in common. They all indicate the placement of rhythms, the association of notes with syllables of language, and the melodic contours, as well as the overall form of the composition. In India, because of the complexities of tuning, there are 22 possible tones, allowing for purer acoustic relationships, with simple whole number ratios between them. Scales are derived from the overall set, depending upon the raga desired. Each 7note that or mela has a distinct flavour, not unlike the Western modes with its swaras Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da and Ni born from the twentytwo shrutis. Bhatkhande notation Indian Early 20th century This is used to indicate the rag, tal, and tempo, as well as melody and lyrics for Indian music. Song of Seikilos Greek c. 200 BC 100 AD Likely the oldest surviving music notation in the world, this example indicates the lyrics and the basic melodic outline. Jianpu Chinese 18th century This system uses numbers corresponding to pitches of the scale and dots and lines to indicate durations and rests, with lyrics streaming underneath. Medieval Europe 13th century A musical staff is used here, much like contemporary staves in Western music, with squares and lines to indicate pitch and rhythm, and lyrics streaming underneath.
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