Friday, August 11, 2006

Modal Maddness!

A random picture from our Honeymoon that I like.

I have been spending my study time focused on 16th century counterpoint, Mass construction principles and Palestrina's "Pope Marcellus Mass". This has been very rewarding and interesting, in fact I am going to try and attend a Mass in Latin this weekend just to get a better understanding.

The thing that is really great though was a letter that I came across in the Norton Critical Score for the Marcellus Mass written by Bishop Bernardino Cirillo to Messer Ugolino Gualteruzzi in 1549. In this document he goes into a brief description of the "ancient meanings of the modes." I just love this, using specific organization of pitch material in order to influence people behavior. I can think of any number of totalitarian regiemes or advertising agencies that would love to utilize this info. While this is often illuded to as common knowledge, I have not come accross such an explicit bit of writing as this.

Now the subject is this-that music among the ancients was the most splendid of all the fine arts. With is the created powerful effects that we nowadays cannot produce either with rhetoric or with oratory in moving the passions and affections of the soul. With the power of song it was easy for them to drive a wise mind from the use of reason and bring it to a state of madness and willfulness. By this means it is said that the Lacedaemonians were incited to take up arms against the Cretans; and that Timotheus was roused against Alexander; that a young man of Taormina was induced to set fire to the house is which his beloved was concealed; that in the sacrifices of Bacchus people were roused to frenzy; and similar effects. And the mode or species that incited this state of mind was called Phrygian.

To this species there was opposed another, called Lydian, with which men could be easily withdrawn from teh condition of frenzy and maddness into which they had been plunged by the first kind of music.

The third was called Dorian, which attracted and moved the affections of the soul to gravity and modesty, and with so much strength and force that it was not only difficult, but almost impossible for anyone hearing it to bend his spirit toward a vicous or ignoble action. They say that Agememnn, on going to the Trojan Wars, left a Dorian musician with his wife Clytemnestra, whose task it was, by means of his music, to charm her away from infidelity; and Aegisthus could not corrupt her until he had the musician murdered. This kind of music was always highly valued and esteemed.

Then we have the fourth species, called Mixolydian, by which anyone hearing it was immeadiately moved to tears, cries and lamentations; this was used for sad and mornful occasions.

WOW!! Imagine what this guy would say about Rap music or that crazy music of Milton Babbitt etc... What I really like is that he takes the time to not only catalog what the music does, but then goes on to let us know that music that moves people "to tears, cries and lamentations" is to presricptively be used "for sad and mornful occasions." Now that would never have occured to me, but I more of a simpleton and have never been one for understanding such complex relationships.


Blogger christopher jette said...

Christine is quite enamored of her photograph.

8/12/2006 12:10:00 AM  

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