Music on Earth

This post offers a broad view of humanity's musical customs. It explores the evidence for prehistoric music making, and it explains how music got passed down through the ages. The world's musical traditions are also explored, as are the earliest efforts to notate music.

The Frayed Ends of Schumann

This blog post is about the nineteenth-century Romantic composer/pianist named Robert Schumann (1810-1856). It focuses on Schumann's struggle with neurosyphilis and how this infirmary deformed his final musical compositions. One of these final compositions, an unusual piece known as Theme and Variation in E-flat Major, "Ghost Variations," is explored in this context.

Johann Sebastian Bach: The Apotheosis of Music

This blog post provides a summary of German organist and composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. It examines The Well-Tempered Clavier, one of his large-scale musical works, in some detail. This piece is one of the most important keyboard works ever written, this post explains why.

Musical Renovation of the Renaissance

This blog post is about the music of the Renaissance. It covers the intellectual trends and musical fashions that mark the period. The techniques of Renaissance vocal and instrumental music are summarized and explained, and a brief biography of French composer, Guillaume Dufay (c.1397–1474), is provided.

The Emergence of Polyphony

This blog post covers the rise of polyphonic chant during the Middle Ages. It focuses on the tradition's development in southern France and its coming of age in northern France. Two famous composers, Leonin and Perotin, who were liturgical musicians operating at the Notre Dame Cathedral School during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, are also covered.

Hallucinating Melismas with Hildegard of Bingen

This blog post covers the famous medieval composer and religious mystic known as Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179). Her strange musical creativity is explored as is the likely source of that creativity—migrainous hallucinations. Her most important work, Scivias, which is the source of her chant called Ordo virtutum, is analyzed and explained.

The Origin of Notation

This blog post describes the earliest efforts to notate music in medieval Western Europe. It explores the pressures that lead to the emergence of standard musical notation, and it analyzes the inchoate forms that marked the progress of the system. Important figures like Boethius (c. 477 – 524) and Guido of Arezzo ((992 – 1033) are covered.

What They Were Chanting

This blog post explores Gregorian chant and the psalms and hymns that comprise the Roman liturgy. It also describes variants of chant that evolved later in the tradition's history like tropes, sequences, and liturgical dramas.

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