ATONIAL MUSIC OF THE MIDDLE AGES
The notion of atonality is usually associated with modern music. None of the composers of the twentieth century, even those who denied its significance, could simply ignore, “not notice” it.
Usually the “invention” of atonality is attributed to Arnold Schoenberg. The Italian composer Alfredo Casella, for example, even called Schoenberg its first and only creator.
Meanwhile, Schoenberg himself never considered his works to be atonal and was very offended when others did it. The term “atonality” was coined by his enemies in order to discredit his music. Nevertheless, he took root; I will use it to avoid confusion, and I. Schoenberg himself preferred the term “extra-tonal music”; he also did not proclaim himself the first, rightly indicating that he borrowed all the techniques from the composers of the Middle Ages. Of course, at the beginning of the twentieth century, such statements seemed nonsense; they saw either the desire to shock the public, or, conversely, to justify themselves before it. However, at the same time that the critics poured mud on Schoenberg, the public in fact proved him right: it was then that the “resurrection” of forgotten works of the Middle Ages, written outside of tonality, began. Obviously, the mood in Europe before the First World War could no longer be expressed only by tonal means.
Recall what tonality is. This is the organization of a musical work that relies on one, the most stable sound; if the composer wants to create the impression of unsteadiness, uncertainty, it is enough for him to finish the work (or better – every phrase) with some other sound – the impressionists often used this technique for such purposes. Usually in tonal works there is harmony, designed to emphasize the stability or, conversely, the instability of individual sounds.
Fans of light music or classics of the XVIII – XIX centuries take tonality for granted. However, it is not; it arose far , and the “naturalness” of its perception is the result of the centuries-old education of Europeans on strictly defined, mythological in origin norms.
Pythagoras It began in the ancient world when Pythagoras, whom we know from the famous theorem, although in the first place he was not a mathematician, but an astronomer, astrologer and musician, discovered the overtone system. In other words, he found that when dividing the strings into 2, 3, 4, etc. parts there are overtones that affect the coloring of the main sound.
The timbre of sound depends on these overtones, which were later called overtones. (Now this principle underlies the creation of computer timbre programs.) Pythagoras associated the main sound and the first three overtones with the four elements and called them consonances, and all the rest – dissonances. The seven steps of the fret, according to Pythagoras, symbolized the seven celestial spheres. When Christians needed the symbol of the Holy Trinity, they, after much discussion, finally settled on the first three sounds of the fret. Of course, its designation could not be a discord. However, the distance between the first and third sounds of the fret (third) did not quite coincide with the overtone fret; therefore, the third was called the “imperfect” consonance, in contrast to the four “perfect” consonances of Pythagoras. These intervals subsequently became the basis of tonality.
All this did not happen immediately and was the result of studying music at medieval universities, where it was not considered from an artistic, but from a mathematical and symbolic point of view. Music was considered one of the most important means of knowing God after the spiritual (faith) and abstract (mathematics); it was considered, as it were, “material” evidence of harmony between the higher and the lower. Naturally, with such a world view, the role of consonances was paramount and they were preferred over other intervals – precisely from a theological point of view.
Initially, the music of Europe was monophonic, and no sound was given preference over others. True, later Europeans began to consider the first, lowest sound of the fret to be the most stable; but this was not true and most likely was a projection of tonality onto atonality. There are at least two arguments against this. The first is that in ancient Greece, before Pythagoras, the modes could be either seven- or eight-sound, that is, the lower sound was repeated at the top; it is unclear which of these same sounds was the “most-most”? The second, more effective, argument is musical practice. When in the twentieth century, composers needed to achieve absolute equal stability of sounds, they turned to monophony, completely avoiding harmony and polyphony (for example, A. Webern in “Variations” for piano).
One-voiced church tunes were brought into the system at the end of the VI century under Pope Gregory I, nicknamed the Great. From now on, they were strictly distributed according to the annual cycle. When two voices arose, Gregorian chants were the basis of musical works.