Monkey Business - Music History & Theory Desnobified

Discussion in 'Music and Recordings' started by GuySmiley'sMonkey, Nov 11, 2022.

  1. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Text and translation
    I'm with @dasman66 in having a hard time translating the first one. Example B reads, "Blessed [literally: happy] is he who flees from the wicked, and the..." which, of course, is the first line of the first Psalm.

    Example A opens with the ornate woodcut letter Q and then "vi." It was common to use the letters v and u interchangeably in the early modern period since it made the printer's task easier (having one less letter to worry about). So example A begins "qui." The "n'a" seems to be a negative construction, in this case the subject of the sentence does not do whatever the verb is. I suspect "esté" is the past participle of être, with the circumflex accent of the modern orthography rendered here in the past as an "s" (much like "forêt" is "forest"). I wonder if the phrasing means "is not at." There's also a horizontal line that serves as a diacritic mark over the "o" in "coseil." That mark can represent an elongated sound of the letter underneath it but in this case it serves as a substitute for the letter "n." (This is something seen in other languages at that time). In other words, "coseil" is "conseil," as in council. I'd translate "des malins" as the "of the wicked". Here "malin" is a cognate of malign, from the Latin malignus, meaning tending to evil (and from "malus," as in "bad"). All this means that, speculatively, the text translates roughly as "who is not at the council of the wicked, who..."

    In both passages we see variations on the wording of the first Psalm, with different sequences to the phases: note that example A starts with "who," a relative pronoun, which means the subject of the sentence has yet to be identified. Example B, by contrast, begins with the subject: "Blessed is he who flees from the wicked." I'd wager that example A would read in translation something like "who is not at the council of the wicked, who... [he] is blessed." (We can tell that this is the beginning of the lyrics thanks to the musical notation, of course).


    Paper and Print and Markings
    Both pieces of paper seem to be in good condition. The first might be thinner paper, or the ink printed on it may have bled through the paper more. Thicker paper would imply better quality but then example A has the ornate woodcut initial letter, which would have been a more costly embellishment to the printed Psalter.

    I'm with @zottel about the use of movable type being clearly shown in the broken horizontal lines of example B. I suspect example A also uses movable type but that the printer has taken greater care to make the lines appear to be continuous. We already know that more care and expense was devoted to example A, thanks to inclusion of the fancy woodcut initial letter.


    Analysis
    The investment of time and expense in example A could tell us a few things. It would have either been commissioned by, or printed for, individuals of means or wealthy institutions, possibly the gentry, wealthy merchants, or priests. The simpler, less ornate example B may have been produced for a wider market - in other words, at a lower cost to enable more people of lesser means to buy it. This trend could be indicative of the time periods when the Psalters were produced.

    Another explanation might be the economic contexts in which the Psalters were printed, with example B being produced at a time of less affluence. It is well known that the seventeenth century was one of economic decline - and indeed crisis - in many parts of the world (thanks in part to the climate variations of the "little ice age," among other factors).

    I know from other parts of Europe that the sixteenth century tended to produce a good many books with the lovely, elaborate woodcut initial letters, which reflected a continuation of the embellishments of earlier hand-written and illuminated manuscripts. I'd date example A, then, to somewhere in the [edited to remove a mistake] mid-sixteenth century. Example B might well be from the seventeenth or the eighteenth century, especially as the orthography and printer's marks are closer in appearance to more modern texts. It may even be from the early nineteenth century.


    Conclusion
    Example A, with its less familiar language, with its complex marks (e.g. with diacritics), with its neater, solid lines of musical notation, and with its fancy initial letter, would have been printed in the sixteenth century in a limited run to be purchased by aristocrats or priests.

    Example B, with its rudimentary typeface, its more recognizable French (including orthography), and its relative simplicity, would have been produced for a larger market at a lower cost than example A. This is to say that example B was printed for a wider readership from among the literate, middle stratum of society, those higher status artisans and merchants as well as bankers, etc.. Their presence, as a market for buying such printed matter, speaks to a later period in European history. I'd date the second example to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

    That was fun - thanks @GuySmiley'sMonkey! And now you can tell me I'm full of shit and completely wrong.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 26, 2022
  2. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    I agree with your assessment based on the font used in PSAUME and the H. In typography, this font style is called "Modern" or Didone, which is characterized by high contrast between thick and thin lines and the perpendicular orientation of the stroke. A canonical example of this style is the Bodoni font, originally created around 1800.
    Screen Shot 2022-11-27 at 1.47.25 AM.png
    https://blog.spoongraphics.co.uk/articles/a-history-of-typeface-styles-type-classification
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didone_(typography)

    Something that fascinates me is how different parts of culture are interconnected. The Modern font style emerged during the industrial revolution. Its mechanical look, inspired by line and geometry rather than traditions of written letterforms, is a reflection what was happening in the world at the time.
     
  3. Muse Wanderer

    Muse Wanderer Friend

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    I clicked it by mistake without realising :(. Keep up the great work @GuySmiley'sMonkey and happy to contribute further in the intro thread!
     
  4. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey Almost "Made"

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    That was an epic post @Tchoupitoulas . I'm not going to choose a winner randomly, but just award this to you. I don't think anyone else will mind. Please send me your PP address and I'll send you $10 for coffee, beer or music. The other observations were relevant and useful, especially that by @Metro .

    Having a bad time at the moment, but if and when I continue we'll have more to say about printing methodology, text revisions, musical notation and fonts.
     
  5. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Thank you for the kind words. It was a pleasure to consider the two Psalters - that was reward enough, thank you. Please feel free to donate the $10 to SBAF.

    I hope things get better and the bad time passes soon. As and when you feel like it, do please continue to post. I'm enjoying your contributions a great deal and am learning a great deal from them. Take care.
     
  6. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    When you're ready. Take care!
     
  7. GuySmiley'sMonkey

    GuySmiley'sMonkey Almost "Made"

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    For those who've been following this thread, let's have some closure on the dating of the old music book. For those who haven't, I've been trying to determine the age of a seemingly old copy of the Genevan Psalter (GP). This is a translation of the Book of Psalms into French and set to music by followers of John Calvin in the sixteenth century.

    Today we'll briefly consider four pieces of evidence: The style/age of French used in the translation, the method used in printing, the fonts used and a rather basic error in musical notation.

    1. The French translation

    In a previous post I presented two versions of the first line of Psalm 1:
    Text 1: Qui au coseil des malins n'a este He who has not been in the council of the evil ones*
    Text 2: Heureux celui qui fuit des vicieux Happy is he who flees from the vicious*
    * translated by Google translate, modified by GSM to make better sense in English
    NASB English translation: Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

    Both @dasman66 and @Tchoupitoulas pointed out that the French in the first example is more antiquated and difficult to understand than in the second. I can reveal now that the first translation comes from the original version of the GP and was made in the mid sixteenth century. The second example uses a revised translation made over a century later and officially adopted by the Genevan Church in 1698.

    The text of my copy of the GP uses the revised edition, which means that it must have been published some time after 1698.

    2. The method of printing

    @zottel and @Tchoupitoulas have both pointed out that the music was printed using moveable type. It also seems to me that this was done on a budget: There are clear gaps between each block of type, the lines of the musical stave vary in boldness and they do not align perfectly.

    Line 1.JPG

    The earliest surviving evidence of this style of printing, using moveable type in a single impression, takes the form of a book of French songs published by Pierre Ataignant in 1528. Later in the same century, though, this style of printing found a competitor in the form of music printed from engraved blocks of metal (initially copper, later pewter). This allowed for greater flexibility and detail and had more or less replaced moveable type by the end of the seventeenth century.

    Does this mean that my GP was published before 1700? No, unfortunately. The simple music of the Genevan Psalter didn't require the freedom of engraved printing and could be adequately and cheaply produced using the out-dated moveable type method. We see many examples of this well into the nineteenth century.

    3. The fonts used

    This is the eureka moment and I've been entirely preempted by @Metro in his earlier post. He says, "In typography, this font style [ed. shown in the example above] is called "Modern" or Didone, which is characterized by high contrast between thick and thin lines and the perpendicular orientation of the stroke. A canonical example of this style is the Bodoni font, originally created around 1800."

    Bodoni bold.png

    The example below from my copy of the introduces a new, more decorative font for the word "Psaumes", which I'm not enough of an expert to name, let alone date. At my guess it seems to be consistent with printed examples from the mid-nineteenth century. Perhaps @Metro could she more light on it for us.

    Page 1.jpeg

    4. An error in musical notation

    In an earlier post I pointed out a basic mistake made in musical notation of my old book, repeated at the start of every verse of the Psalm. The type setters have used the wrong clef, and they've used it incorrectly. it looks like an antiquated form of the "F" clef printed upside down on the wrong line. The setting of the notes actually requires the rarely used "alto clef", surviving today in viola music.

    Long story short, the type setters and proof readers were musically illiterate. Let me repeat that. The people responsible for the publishing of my old music book didn't know how to read music.

    Google Books has many historical editions and historical printings of the Genevan Psalter and I've been comparing a few in preparing this series of articles. My copy of the GP reproduces this clef clanger from a superior printed edition from 1841: The same mistake exactly copied across in a case of "monkey see, monkey do". Given that my copy is inferior in the quality and setting of the type, I've hypothesised that the 1841 publication was the model for my own copy, parrotting the musical error without understanding.

    Conclusion

    I'm just going to come out and say it. My prized possession, the Genevan Psalter passed down to me by my grandfather, a treasure that I hoped to pass on to my own grandchildren, has turned out to be nothing more than this:

    Pirated DVDs.jpg

    Yep. My Genevan Psalter is a cheap knock-off churned out by a back-yard printing press for the use of (mostly) musically illiterate French-speaking protestants. A blossom that was brought to bloom in the Renaissance now takes on the appearance of a colour-faded daisy imperfectly pressed between the leaves of a half-forgotten book. Not really an heirloom, right? Well, maybe I can come up with a convincing "alternative history". I've always fancied myself as an author of fiction.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2023
  8. Lunk_Wray

    Lunk_Wray Obsessed with Headstage

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    Well this fascinating thread sent me down an internet rabbit hole, thank you. I couldn't quite make out the name of the publisher on the title page. Chez de (House of) . . . Peyrie? Peyric? But definitely from Avignon. Which is interesting. Avignon was a papal state until after the French revolution, not controlled by France. Which made it a centre of 18th century pirate publishing, undercutting the prices of Parisian publishers, and printing books banned in France, everything from porn to Rousseau and Voltaire. Competition amongst the pirate publishers was fierce and business failure due to a mountain of unsold stock common, given the lack of copyright protection, so it would make sense that they would be keen to keep costs low and skimp on quality control.

    https://www.historytoday.com/archive/review/business-books

    As @GuySmiley'sMonkey has already established by other means, it would also make it unlikely that your book was published pre-revolution. Publishing a Calvinist book in a Papal state, then smuggling it into a France where all but a handful of Protestants (Huguenots) had been forcibly converted, killed or expelled would have been a fraught undertaking. But in the 19th century, after Protestantism had been legalised in an Avignon now absorbed into France, it might have made sense, exported to the Huguenot diaspora in Switzerland, Holland, or further afield. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huguenots

    So, perhaps there's a romantic story there after all. A Samizdat publisher of porn or Voltaire or revolutionary pamphlets, fallen on hard times post revolution, forced to compete with the Parisian publishing houses, perhaps of Huguenot sympathies, making ends meet by knocking out hymnals for the diaspora. You didn't say how your relative came to own the book, but perhaps there's some family history there. There was a sizable Huguenot population in colonial Australia, largely assimilated now.

    You won't be retiring to a beach though, sorry. https://www.addall.com/used/ aggregates results from all the main antiquarian book sites, including a number of non-english European sites. Searching for "psaumes de david" with the keyword "avignon" returns a handful of early nineteenth century results, none a precise match to your book, but none will set you back more than US$100 plus shipping. The price is the least interesting aspect of this book though.
     
  9. GuySmiley'sMonkey

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    Music Theory
    The Hemiola: A Rhythmic Hiccup

    I've embedded below two very different pieces of music. The first comes from the earliest surviving opera, L'Orfeo written by Claudio Monteverdi and first performed in 1607. The second song is part of Leonard Bernstein's musical West Side Story. Aside from both being staged musical productions, what do they have in common?

    Monteverdi - Vi Ricorda, O Boschi Ombrosi



    Bernstein - America (starting at 1:08)




    These two pieces are divided by over 350 years but united in their use of a rhythmic device called a "hemiola". Basically, this relies on the fact that 6 can be divided by both two and three. Let me give you an illustration.

    Let's start with a group of a six nonsense syllables: "HEY and a HO and a". Please feel free to say this out loud, especially if you're at work in shared office space. Madness is a prerequisite for understanding music. With that achieved, we'll split our nonsense phrase into two halves by substituting "Heys" and "Hoes" with numbers, so we get this: "ONE and a TWO and a". Again, it works best if you say it out loud.

    Our six syllable silliness can be modified slightly by dividing it into three groups of two syllables: "ONE and TWO and THREE and".

    Now this is where things get interesting. What happens when you alternate? What does it sound like when you switch between two groups of three on the one hand and three groups of two on the other?

    "ONE and a TWO and a ONE and TWO and THREE and ONE and a TWO and a ONE and TWO and THREE and"

    You mustn't pause for a breath between any of the syllables as this would disrupt the rhythmic flow. Do you notice a syncopated effect, a bit like a musical hiccup?

    Congratulations! You've just performed a hemiola. Think of each syllable as a rhythmic pulse. Your "performance" is alternating between different subdivision of the pulses. Initially the first and third pulses are emphasised (or "accented") and then the first, third and fifth pulses are emphasised. If you're feeling adventurous you can replay the excerpt from West Side Story while chanting "ONE and a TWO and a ONE and TWO and THREE and" at the same time.

    On a different note....

    For those of you who can read music I've included below some printed music from the 1609 edition of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, performed in the first video embedded in this post. Beneath that is my transcription using more familiar musical notation:


    Orfeo - Vi Ricorda.jpg

    Vi Ricorda Transcription.jpg


    In much the same way as my copy of the Genevan Psalter (referred to in earlier posts) this used moveable type. It had mostly fallen out of fashion during the seventeenth century in favour of metal plate engraving.

    It's also fascinating to observe the differences in musical notation between the 1609 original and the same piece represented using more familiar modern notation.

    1. An unusual clef

    The melody here is for a vocal tenor and the tenor clef is used, designating the second top line of the stave as middle C. This was used in order to avoid ledger lines. You won't see it very often these days, although it sometimes pops up in music for the trombone, cello, bassoon, again to avoid excessive ledger lines.

    2. A missing accidental

    You'll notice that my transcription has an F# in the second full measure that's absent from original. This is an example of Musica Ficta. Composers and music publishers regularly omitted certain sharps and flats but were confident that they would be performed with the relevant modification. Most performers of the time understood musical conventions well enough to know when to apply the required accidental.

    Postscript - The type of hemiola we've been discussing today is of the horizontal variety. There's also a vertical hemiola, which is a subject for another time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2023
  10. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Everything's Fine in America!

    From this end of this continent, let me say thakitha thakitha tharikithataka spoken continuously of course.

    The beats come thakitha thakitha tharikithataka right?

    For non-musicians only (musicians won't find any of this challenging) another way to look crazy in your office would be to listen to this and clap the 1 2 3 accurately. The 1 and 3 are easy enough

    The fact that musicians take all this and far, far, far more, in their stride, is part of the reason that I think they are amazing human beings!

    Wonderful music. I've only seem the film once: too sad! And annoying! But the music is super. I love that period of musicals.

    Now I come to think of it, I'm not sure I've seen Romeo and Juliet. Or which I watched first.

    Here's another pattern...

    Tha
    natha Dhinatha Dhina

    Whilst I learnt this is mridangam class, I soon realised that this 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 twist on 8 happens quite a lot in western music too.

    I didn't get far: I only learnt a bit --- but this is my only "lens" for understanding* rhythm, as I didn't learn any western music


    *attempting to
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2023
  11. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    speaking of hemiola, i came across this, not sure if this is the right thread to post it, but sharing is caring?

    1-e-&-a GO!

     
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  12. LetMeBeFrank

    LetMeBeFrank Won't tell anyone my name is actually Francis

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    Matt is an incredible drummer, and I LOVE Animals as Leaders. Their latest album is great but The Madness of Many is still my favorite.
     
  13. zottel

    zottel Almost "Made"

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    One interesting thing I learned in a Djembe course with an African drummer:

    Not sure about English, but in German, when triplets are played simultaneously with duplets (i.e. one voice/hand/foot plays two notes while another plays three notes during the same time), that’s called “zwei gegen drei”, which translates to “two against three”, or even “two versus three”.

    In the drummer’s mother tongue, though, they say “two with three”. No wonder—African music uses such elements a lot.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2023

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