the good deed behind musical notes

the good deed behind musical notes

A thousand years ago, 999 to be exact, an Italian monk called Guido di Arezzo noticed how young musicians were struggling to decipher the squiggly lines, or neumes, above liturgical music that were rough indications of the tune. The lines indicated whether the singer should raise or lower their tone, basically giving the contour of the melody rather than specific notes or the length of time a note should be held. It’s mystifying to me how anyone could possibly interpret a song in the same way.

Guido decided to develop a system to help the young singers. He organized pitches into scales, or hexachords, came up with do-re-mi-fa, or solfege, and created a four-line staff, so anyone could sing along even if they had never heard the music before.

In the photo, you can see actual musical notes written a hundred years ago by Pietro, the main character in my historical novel, From Ashes to Song. The notes also appear on the front cover of the novel.

Pietro composed his music on the five-line staff, and probably used notations such as barlines, stylized clefs, dynamic markings, ties and slurs that have been added to Guido’s system over time.

It warms my heart to think that the language Pietro used to create his music only exists because a millennia ago, a monk decided to be helpful to the people around him.

I’m sure you spend part of your day being helpful to others, whether at work or at home. But what if everyone around the world took the art of being helpful to another level, spending active time every day figuring out ways to make things easier for others? Just think, what would the world look like then?






From Ashes to Song

When a young Italian coal miner experiences a profound awakening of his musical gift any time he is near his best friend's wife, he must navigate the delicate balance between his passion for music, his longing for forbidden love, and the unbearable weight of the possible consequences.

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