Friday, May 8, 2009

Guido d'Arezzo

I think I have mentioned earlier the high school principal that mentally abused a former student of mine by blatting on at her about how if Maryland had been founded by Catholics, in the early 17th century, how come it was on the side of the South and its slavery policy in the Civil War? At the time she mentioned this to me I did not own that most excellent of publications, the Appleton Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910, and could not tell her that by 1861 Maryland was no longer demographically Catholic. It was not until the spring of 1965 that an off-loading of surpluses from the library at Notre Dame University of Nelson made it possible for me bring home to my household library the invaluable resource of those fifteen volumes, and I have mined them ever since whenever I suspect I have the ravenous jaws of error gnawing at my boots.
And now, in 2009, what a lot of dogs, what a lot of teeth, but actually, what a lot of effing boredom threatens the music students of the old ancestral province of Ontario. A few hours ago I googled up the grade seven test priorities for that jurisdiction's music programme. On the one hand I was sorry for the kids, on the other relieved to find that the labour of 82 posts is by no means wasted. One really must commit to a lot of hammering before the walls of ignorance and sloth are battered down. And, moreover, I suspect one must admit to fear that the Catholic part of the education system, is actually going to co-operate with the intellectual slavery, meaning that that poor high school principal of an earlier era, thick and vicious though he was about Maryland, may be dead on about Catholic education in Ontario. Even a considerable number of Catholics may now be finding their way back to Gregorian, but I doubt their ability to make the music of it a straightforward affair, as it should be, to young students.
Who was it talked about those with ears to hear with'?
It seems that Guido had a lot of the same resistance from the general whatever that I feel that I'm getting. Now that was a comfort. I do not enjoy being original. As there really is nothing new under the sun, at least not since Mary and Jesus, a little 'ho hum here we go again' is a great comfort. So that part of his history is actually useful.
But the rest of his history was actually the more significant. It was a great help in providing the missing pieces of the puzzle, which is all about how did we get into such a confused and so often discouraging situation in the first place?
The answer lies in the old adage about there being no scientific blessing which did not also bring a curse.

Once upon a time, you see, there was no sol-fah, or solfege as some texts have it and maybe I'll use from now on. At least this will provide me with a chuckle, always useful when the subject I have to write about puts me in a temper. These next words, as you might already have guessed are from later musings, and following a conversation with a talented check-out clerk at the grocery depot. She is well trained, as I know from her recent album, but she had not heard of Guido of Arezzo, and had come away from her music school thinking that the chap who invented solfege had it named after him.
And I even may be able to stop getting riled at government! The dance show I was briefly reviewing a year ago staged itself again, and last night, just before the music started, I spotted a lad who grew up with my musician son, and has since become an internationally known composer of film scores, yet still lives in Nelson. The old body recovering from two days in the yard shot out of its seat like Tris Speaker going up for a long ball trying to escape the diamond, and I extracted a promise of interest. Donny had been on my mind as a target a while ago, but I had not yet anchored myself, especially on the guitar, in the modes, nor had the fantastic experience in that morning's music class with Hayley, or hearing her discover, on her own, as we
settled into the G mode, the simple joy of exercising her hard palate simply on the O's. Soh, Doh, Soh again. Then the Fah and the Lah, the Me and the Te. We left Re for another day, on which she will also get a lecture on how not to murder that vowel as the Irish are so fond of doing. Later on, Abba, in 'Dancing Queen' was somewhat harsh with their 'EEs', and as Hayley was actually sitting beside me there too, I pointed it out.
Is there anyone in L.A. who can guarantee that this scene could have happened at a Beverly Hills high school performance?
Yes, there is something about going home to the modes that has cleared up certain puzzles I was left with in the voice studies.
Now for Guido.
Somehow I can't believe that the rational Greeks had no such thing as drills for individual vowels. But it would seem that if they did have such, they never wrote them down. It also seems hard to believe that such drill was not present in the Hebrew synagogues, which had chant, nor in the Christian communities, and eventually in the monasteries before Guido - he died in 1050, when the Benedictines had been around much longer than most empires have lasted. And it may be that the Greeks did write them down after all, because they used the first fifteen letters of the Greek alphabet, which meant a nice assortment of mostly two or even three syllable utterances over the course of two octaves, and there are even some oo's, with mu and nu, that were not included in Guido's list for his vocal hexachord. Thus doh, re, me, fah, soh, lah. The si, or ti, was added later. It seems that Guido was content with six because there were no Gregorian runs, ascending or descending, larger than six notes.

Napoleon is still picking up potential allies. The great McDaniel has been working on our provincial election campaign. Apparently he's very good with signs. But he's also been rather vocal about our music studies, with the man who could be our next MLA. It's rather nice to think of being able to relax on the political front.
And after Tim's lesson, analyzing the numerical and alphbetical basis of authentic and plagal modes, , plus a little more wee small hours meditation, I now have the next question for the check-out clerk. When she was taking her instruction in modes, did they show her how you can do them all on one guitar string? And then add a drone to make it all a genuine musical event?
I'll be very surprised if I get a yes.
But one of these days any properly instructed grade fiver, let alone a seven, will be able to do it.
Will it happen in BC before it happens in Ontario?


cabbage ears said...

Well music and its execution is nice. But.

the kootenay ranger said...

Should I dare you to bring me a couple of five-year-olds?