Writing about music is much like writing about (say) painting, in that we take as our objective (a) introducing a performance and (b) sharing our insight into the artfulness of that performance, in language that is as direct and as concrete as we can make it. Those characteristics of the music usually considered include melodic range, level, direction, and contour; melodic intervals and interval patterns; ornamentation and melodic de-vices; melodic meter and rhythm; durational values; formal structure; scale, mode, duration tone, and (subjective) tonic; meter and rhythm; tempo; and vocal style.
New England psalmody, African American work songs, country fiddling based on traditional folk dancing tunes, patriotic songs on military themes, and the sentimental songs of talented songwriters such as Stephen Foster entered a mainstream of popular music whose worth was judged largely by its entertainment value and rarely, if ever, as high artistry.
Composers of the Renaissance built on a centuries-long tradition of sacred music that had its roots in the plainsong chants and Masses of the early Middle Ages But whereas a single line of unaccompanied melody, improvised or committed to memory, had once sufficed for the chanting of the Catholic Mass, the psalms, and other sacred music, the late Middle Ages had seen a flowering of polyphonic (multipart) music and written compositions, and the emergence of professional composers.
For another philosopher-mathematician, the German Gottfried von Leibniz (1646-1716), music reflected a universal rhythm and mirrored a reality that was fundamentally mathematical, to be experienced in the mind as a subconscious apprehension of numerical relationships.
CCM’s Thinking About Music Series is sponsored by the Joseph and Frances Jones Poetker Fund of the Cambridge Charitable Foundation, Ritter & Randolph, LLC, Corporate Counsel; along with support from Interim Dean mcclung’s Office, the Graduate Student Association and the Division of Composition, Musicology and Theory at CCM.