September 11, 1997
A Few things about MODES. Medieval church modes and their
ancient Greek names; the confusion resulting in old names for "new" modes.
In antiquity, the concept of mode involved:
Diatonic, chromatic and enharmonic modes (tetrachords). The enharmonic
type involved intervals different/smaller then the semitone. The tuning
- a scale
- an ethos (mood) attached to it
- a collection of melodic formulae typical for a certain mode
Pope Gregory the Great organized/systematized the Western liturgy and chant
following the Byzantine model. That model has survived in the Eastern
Orthodox liturgy and influenced to some extent the folk music of Eastern
Europe. Bartok as one of the first composers to study as an
ethnomusicolog the folklore of that region.
General characteristics of the East European folklore.
- Pitch materials
- Diatonic modes similar to Western church modes and to Byzantine modes
- Chromatic alterations possible
- some sounds can appear both altered and not altered
- same sound can have different alterations in different
- The more recent the music, the better chance to be in major or
minor (under the influence of Western culture)
- Pentatonic layer
- Pre-pentatonic scales
- Rhythmic materials
- Three rhythmic systems:
- Divisionary (same as Western music, newer melodies).
Divides a larger value into fractions.
- Additive or aksak or Bulgarian rhythms (e.g. 2+3+2).
Groups together fast pulsations into larger units.
Frequent in dance music.
- Parlando-rubato. Recitation, free flowing ~like.
Encountered in lyric laments.
- Textures different from traditional Western music
- heterophony: the simultaneous presentation of two or more variants
of the same line (also used extensively by Enescu and Boulez)
- ison or pedal tone under a unwiding melody.
Most of these characteristics are going to be used by Bartok, Stravinsky
and by composers of more recent music. Three Pieces for String Quartet
(first piece) by Stravinsky (on reserve) used as an example.
The work involves: ison, pre-pentatonic scales and an aksak type
meter. Based on four ostinati of unequal length, it creates a "static",
non-developmental type of music, extremely original for the year 1914 when
it was composed.
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