Ever since the dawn of humanity,
music, even in a rudimentary form, has
accompanied mankind's development. The
earliest form of music probably had its origins
in the vocal efforts of the human, whether the
cries of lamentation for a departed relative,
the soothing hum of a mother's voice to her
child or the rhythmic shouts heard in the battle
cry of warriors.
Other sounds must have come by chance
to the human ear, e.g. the beating of a stout
stick or branch upon a stone to frighten off a
threatening beast or a similar striking upon a
hollow tree trunk which would have given a
completely different timbre to the sound, all to
the early man's delight and precursor to rhythm.
When the first humans ventured forth
to a mist-clad swamp whence came the strange
sound of ghostly spirits and realised that the
sound came from wind blowing across reeds at the
waters' margin, the blown instrument was
suggested by nature to humanity.
We also find a hunter making a bow for
use in the following day's hunt applying the
string to the wood. By now he had accepted
that the tension of the string governed the pace
and distance of the arrow. This day,
however, when tightening the string and testing
the tension by plucking, he was to discover that
the bow-string produced a sound. Much
later his mind was to discover that the tighter
and consequently shorter the string, the higher
was the sound.
Blowing across and through an animal
horn must also have been gifted by nature to
suggest a more forceful sound than a blown reed
Now to an historical survey of the
accumulation of humanity's music making.
B.C. 4th Millennium
Sumerian temple ritual - hymns chanted
within a poetical form of liturgy.
B.C. 3005 - 2776
Egyptian Middle Kingdom.
Tambourine used for rhythm and the
& Sesheshem (2 different sistra) in rituals
Goddess. (Note the name Sesheshem which is
suggesting the sound of the sistrum.)
B.C. c. 2100
Sumerian temple ritual - antiphonal
(harp with lower sounding chest)
(harp with upper sounding chest)
B.C. c. 1590
Jewish temple. Singing by women
- body movements inseparable.
( bells on priests’ robes for protection - (vide
of Miriam in Exodus).
B.C. 973 - 933
Solomon’s temple. Psalms sung by
priests and accompanied by:
(10 stringed harp)
(cymbals to show pauses in the psalms)
(trumpet) in pairs
trumpets & 248 singers (vide Chronicles)
B.C. c. 700
Musical theory linked with mathematics and
demonstrated by harmonic divisions of a
intervals: 1:1 (unison); 1:2 (octave); 2:3
(fifth) 3:4 (fourth).
ratios corresponded to the four seasons (vide
these sciences back to Greece.
B.C. 6th - 5th centuries
from sacred epics form sacred musical dance
surviving today in the Kathakali of Kerala in
Mahabharata & B.C. 6th - 5th centuries
(water organ) invented by the Egyptian Ctesibius of
(246 B.C. - 221 B.C.)
A.D. 1st century
temple. Chorus of Levites with 9 lyres, 2
harps, 1 pair of cymbals
2 Halilim (double oboes) on festival days.
Megrepha in use - a small
which was more like a syrinx.
Earliest Christian precentors had been brought up
in Jewish houses of
therefore early Christian music is traced to
that of the
A.D. 4th century ..
Rabbis discouraged contact with secular music -
instruments from worship.
Jews and therefore had no need to invent a new
for the cult.
old melodic formulas adaptable to the 3
canticles of the new faith -
Nunc Dimitis and Benedictus. Psalm singing
by a soloist with choral refrain.
A.D. c. 350
Psalms sung antiphonally by alternate choruses
of men and
St. Ambrose introduced this method to the west
psalm ended with the “Gloria Patri”.
A.D. end of 6th century
melodies & hymns and established a musical
which was followed by the Catholic Church
Anglicans preserved the Gregorian chant after
A.D. c. 9th century
and basses started to sing the chants at their
the bass held a ‘pedal’ note or drone.
From this primitive
sprang ‘organum’ or ‘diaphony’. In time it
was noted that
voices need not proceed in parallel parts.
A.D. c. 1000
influence entered but was curbed later when
commissioned 8 cardinals, the most active of
If, as has been suggested on many
occasions by various sources, ancient Egypt had
been settled by survivors of the Atlantean
cataclysm, then Western music indeed may have its
rudimentary origins in the musical art forms of
Borromeo & Vitellozzi, to reform church
music. They in turn
Palestrina to compose 3 masses and the favourite
'Missa Papae Marcelli' - an example for future
composition by all
of church music. This Papal decree ensured that
of music be retained.
development, therefore, received a restraint that was to hold
back its natural vitality for some 280 years as all folk
idiom was banned.