Progressing through the second part of the course, I continued my musical journey. The exploration this time led to new concepts of tone, tonality, scales and melody.
Some places I visited again. However, this time, they were a lot more colorful. The microtones I discovered in the Middle East added new flavor to my pitch perception. I also found new scale systems – Arabian maqamat and Indian raga, which showed that tonality is more than just an ascending or descending order of the pitches. All this led me to new musical forms, like the instrumental samai. However, I also began questioning the use of these systems in the Western classical music, often based on the misunderstanding of the Eastern concepts, resulting in new scales as the different forms of exoticism.
I was also shocked at how little I knew about the Greek system. The microtones, which I perceived to be only from the Middle East, ended up constituting a big part of their theory, especially in the musical practice of the Classical period, when the enharmonic genera was used. What I knew about Chinese music also changed, with pentatonic scale being utilized in more ways than I first thought it would be.
New places I visited include the ancient Christian world, where chanting became the predominant form of worship. There, I traced the origins and the development of musical notation – from neumes to the staff and the square notes, the seeds which will lead to the modern musical notation used today. Reading about the Gregorian chants, I learned about the technique of centonization. This style of chant in particular was what I perceived to be completely free – only to find out that there is indeed inner logic in its different responsorial and antiphonal genres. The different notion of rhythm and the church modes I came across, opened up a wide field for future research. But, I certainly didn’t think that there was a pentatonic framework – which I demonstrated in my chant for Project 7. Finally, although based on the nomenclature of the ancient Greek modes, the Church modes completely differ from them.
The Scottish traditional music was also one of the new things I encountered, and here, I found pentatonic scale outside of the context of the Far East, and how it sounds within a diatonic context, resulting in my fun, short Puirt a beul composition. By examining the new scales, especially the symmetrical ones given in the course material, I began to understand how the diatonicism began to break away in art music, on a road paved by chromaticism and mediant relationships. These had a huge role for the Russian composers who wanted to create a national music, distinct from the other European traditions. I also uncovered a new system – Metabolons, the transformations of the variable tetrachords, which Liszt invented.
More importantly, I had new companions – the woodwind instruments, which introduced new timbres and colors to my music. It is through their sound that all this new knowledge could be put into interesting, esoteric solo compositions for Project 7 with the mythical background, which I’ve organized into two series – Esquisses for the Four Elemental Beings and Two Mythical Places. With all that said, I can’t wait to see where the musical voyage will lead me in the next part of the course.