Fun_People Archive
6 May
Five Lines, Five Fingers - As if musical nomenclature and theory

Content-Type: text/plain
Mime-Version: 1.0 (NeXT Mail 3.3 v118.2)
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Sat,  6 May 100 16:40:01 -0700
To: Fun_People
Precedence: bulk
Subject: Five Lines, Five Fingers - As if musical nomenclature and theory
	weren't naive enough
References: <>

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-

[Background: In a Fresh Air interview from 5/11/99 (rebroadcast on 4/28),
 Steve Reich was lecturing on how the Greeks notated music with hand
 gestures, and said:  "This was a common way of notating music within
 cultures prior to our system of notation, which, by the way, evolved from
 the human hand.  There are five lines on the staff because there are five
 fingers on your hand."  To which Terry Gross (no slouch herself on musical
 matters) said disbelievingly "I didn't know that!"  Steve Reich, giving no
 ground: "Yeah, well, you know, live and learn."
From: Vanessa Layne

 Quoth _The Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music_:
  STAFF (stave). Five parallel horizontal lines, upon and between
  which musical notes are written, thus indicating their relative
  pitch and, in connection with a clef, their absolute notation (see
  under //notation//). The invention of the staff is attributed to
  Guido of Arezzo (c. 995-1050), who recommended the use of three or
  four lines, denoting f a c' or d f a c'.  Even before him,
  rudimentary staffs of two lines, a red one for f and a yellow one
  for c', were used.  The four-line staff was generally accepted, and
  is retained to this day for the notation of Gregorian chant.
  Five-line staffs, for polyphonic music, were used as early as 1200.
  In the 16th century staffs of up to seven and eight lines were
  employed for keyboard music, particularly for the lower staff (left
  hand) which otherwise would require numerous ledger lines.
From: Shya Scanlon

well, this makes sense, when we consider the evolutionary development of the
human hand.  the early staves were only four and three lines (as little as
two), because humans only had two, three, and four fingers back then.  the
hand then evolved to include up to seven and eight fingers, but was
happening so quickly, that the roman catholic church thought it demonic, and
began cutting off people's "excess" fingers (excess determined, in good
roman catholic tradition, by a democratic vote).  this of course was the
true intention of the inquisition.

prev [=] prev © 2000 Peter Langston []