|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
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 or flute.
Now to an historical survey of the
accumulation of humanity's music making.
B.C. 4th Millennium
temple ritual - hymns chanted within a poetical form
B.C. 3005 - 2776
Middle Kingdom. Tambourine used for rhythm and
& Sesheshem (2 different sistra) in rituals of
a Goddess. (Note the name Sesheshem which is
onomatopoetic, suggesting the sound of the sistrum.)
B.C. c. 2100
temple ritual - antiphonal chanting.
(harp with lower sounding chest)
(harp with upper sounding chest)
B.C. c. 1590
temple. Singing by women - body movements
( 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
Cosmic correspondences demonstrated by
harmonic divisions of a stretched string.
4 intervals: 1:1 (unison); 1:2 (octave); 2:3
ratios corresponded to the four seasons (vide
brought these sciences back to
B.C. 6th - 5th centuries
Scenes from sacred epics form sacred musical dance
tradition surviving today in the Kathakali
the south. (vide Mahabharata & B.C. 6th - 5th
(water organ) invented by the Egyptian
Ctesibius of Alexandria (246 B.C. - 221 B.C.)
A.D. 1st century
temple. Chorus of Levites with 9 lyres, 2 harps, 1
and 2 Halilim (double oboes) on festival
Megrepha in use - a small organ which
like a syrinx.
Earliest Christian precentors had been brought up in
Jewish houses of worship, therefore early Christian music
is traced to that of the Hebrew Temple.
A.D. 4th century ..
Start of synagogues. Rabbis discouraged contact
music - banning instruments from worship.
First Christians were Jews and therefore had no need
music for the cult.
old melodic formulas adaptable to the 3
of the new cult - Magnificat, Nunc
Benedictus. Psalm singing retained
responsorial by a soloist with choral
A.D. c. 350
Psalms sung antiphonally by alternate choruses of
men and women. St. Ambrose introduced this
to the west in 387.
Each psalm ended with the “Gloria
A.D. end of 6th century
Pope Gregory reformed melodies & hymns and
liturgy which was followed by the Catholic
thereafter. Lutherans and Anglicans
Gregorian chant after the
Music essentially ‘monody’.
A.D. c. 9th century
Tenors and basses started to sing the
chants at their own pitch.
Sometimes the bass held a ‘pedal’ note or
drone. From this primitive
device sprang ‘organum’ or
‘diaphony’. In time it was noted that
the voices need not proceed in parallel
A.D. c. 1000
Contemporary folk music influence entered but was curbed
later when in:---
Pope Pius 4th commissioned 8 cardinals, the most
active of whom were Cardinals Borromeo & Vitellozzi, to
reform church music. They in turn
commissioned Palestrina to compose 3
masses and the favourite chosen
was 'Missa Papae Marcelli' - an example
for future composition by all composers of church music. This Papal
decree ensured that the "restrained
purity" of music be retained.
Musical development, therefore,
received a restraint that was to hold back its natural vitality for some 500 years as all folk
idiom was banned.
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 Ancient