Do Re Mi (The Beginning Of Modern Music)
Let’s start at the very beginning… Well, maybe not that far back. Music has been part of the life of human beings since the dawn of the human race. But capturing music and having the means to write it down and remember it took a little more time.
Let’s meet a musical Monk named Guido De Arezzo. At a young age, Guido was sent to a monastery for an education. This was a thousand years ago. Most specifics about Guido’s life are lost to time, but we know through surviving documents that he is the father of musical notation.
Music a thousand years ago was not what we know it as today. Music was mainly the property of the Catholic Church. And it didn’t have a melody the way music has today. It was performed in a chanting style. In a way, this was the first rap music. Music as we know it will happen, but not just yet.
Guido loved the church’s music and became quite adept at teaching it, but it was frustrating. Learning music meant listening and repeating it over and over until you got it down, ultimately. If harmonies were involved, it could take days to memorize a single piece as each section had to work separately and then be brought together as a whole. This frustrated our young music lover.
What could be done to make the teaching and learning of music simpler? Slowly, an idea came to Brother Guido’s mind. First, he came up with musical notations by using lines and spaces. What we now call a staff. He used the lines on the staff to separate the notes. He Called the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. We now call this the natural minor scale; Guido called it the mode.
Quido then assigned a sound to go with each of the notes. For singers to learn his sounds, he wrote a hymn where the first note on each line was a musical note in succession. Rodgers and Hammerstein would do this a thousand years later when they wrote Do, Re, Me for The Sound of Music. Guido’s original sound for these notes was Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La. Music was taught using this method for 600 years, and then Giovanni Battista Doni suggested that Ut be changed to Do and added Si as the last note in the scale. In 1845, A Music teacher from England made a change of her own. She changed Si to Ti. She did this so that each note sound would begin with a different letter. The music teacher’s name was Sarah Ann Glover.
The story of our musical monk isn’t over. It seems his method of teaching music spread far and wide, and eventually, the news of his revolutionary work reached the ears of Pope John XIX. Pope John summoned Guido to Rome and studied music under our friend. The Pope, we know, requested that Guido stay in Rome permanently, but Guido declined the generous offer. He wanted to go home. Some believe that this was because of ill health.
Guido’s system of teaching music is called Solfege and is used worldwide. It is one of the reasons we can call music the universal language. Those seven notes are, as Maria puts it in The Sound of Music, “the tools we use to build a song. Once you have these notes, you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up.” And for the last thousand years, composers have been mixing those notes to create symphonies, operas, pop music, rock music, ballets, and musical comedies or plays. Without Guido de Arezzo, no music we know today would have happened.
It is hard to believe that music education is slowly being eroded from our schools. Some public schools are losing funding for music programs, which is sad. Learning music helps in other subjects, specifically math and English. Also, learning music gives students a glimpse into other cultures as they are exposed to music from around the world.
Music in school also exposes students to the wide range of music that is out there. I remember being young and not caring for symphonic music or ballet. Still, as I got older, because I was exposed to them in elementary school, I began to appreciate them and became a fan. That can’t be said of Opera yet. But I intend to take that plunge soon.
We must keep music and the rest of the arts in schools and free of charge whenever possible. I heard recently of a school show choir who had to buy their sheet music. The students had to buy the music. That was unheard of in my time, and I feel it’s an unfair burden on the parents to add an extra expense. Also, students who can’t pay will then not be eligible to sing, and that in itself makes this very sad.
Whatever music education future is in the schools and the world, we have Brother Guido, The Musical Monk, to thank for the gift of Do, Re, Me.