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Historically, when did melodic minor replace natural minor?

Today I started working on Pat-a-pan with my 3rd graders, and was reminded that I usually prefer the natural, modal minors in "early" music.  We're using Merrill Staton's arrangement, copyright 1987 by Rockhaven Music, in the Macmillan/McGraw-Hill grade 3 textbook Spotlight on Music
The melody is in the aeolian mode, but with a sharped seventh: "Willie take your little drum, Robin bring your flute and come; Play a joy-ous tune today..."  The second syllable of "joy-ous" is the sharped seventh, and to my ears it sounds much better not sharped.
 
Pat-a-pan was written by Bernard de la Monnoye and published in France in 1720.  Does anyone know whether he wrote it with the sharped seventh?  Or could someone who knows more about this subject than I do, make an educated guess? 
 
My second, more general question relates to folk songs in the oral tradition, and to melodies in the old church modes that were later arranged and  reused.  When, or under what circumstances were these altered by sharping the seventh?  Was it only when later arrangements were made using newer harmonizations?  Was it done by scholars intent on "improving" or "correcting" the music from earlier times?  We can see how this process occurred during the evolution of American hymnals over the last two centuries, and during the transcription and harmonization of folk songs in the last century.  Or did there come a time when the harmonic milieu had developed to the point that there was a shift in what the general public liked and valued?  What was going on--melodically and modally--in the 16th century and earlier, in the world of simple songs? 
Replies (14): Threaded | Chronological
on October 21, 2015 4:54am
As far as I am aware, the Harmonic Minor scale is lifted from Middle and Far Eastern influences, as well as Hungarian cultural influences.   The history on such is not well documented or researched.  That is to say, the modes as layed down in c.880 do not include a function to RAISE a pitch; the only allowable alteration being the flat of B.  Even the expansion of the "modal system" in 1880 did not include an ability to raise a pitch.  1720 is still early enough to have used pure modal music, but late enough to have been influenced by firmly established diatonic harmonic practices going on in the 16th century.  If one reads any part song or folk song from the 16th century, I believe most of them will fall easily into any of the eight modes. 
 
There is some reading stating that the harmonic scale structure, with that of the melodic scale structure didn't really appear until the late 19th century.  Who knows.
 
I have personally never heard raised 7, but if I am singing the same tune you are writing about, then it all takes place in mode 1, diatonic natural minor, AND only on scale degrees 1,2,3,4 and 5. 
If one was to raise something it would be scale degree 4 in this instance (of the tune I'm thinking about), which would put it in.... MINOR Mode 5,  AKA Minor Lydian.   Although I HATE using these Psudo-Greek names, lets just stop that.
Minor Mode 5 would be something like D, E, F-natural, G-sharp, A.
 
And in fact, I believe if the tune I'm thinking of is correct, the actual seventh scale degree of the piece occurs on the word your, which in this case being either scale would be "raised" to be a leading tone.
 
Leading tones appeared in the early 14th century, and technically before that as a clasula vera must have a half step to be a true close.
 
 
Hope that helps.
on October 21, 2015 5:54am
This sounds like the subject of a dissertation or thesis.  If it hasn't already been done, maybe you should do it...
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on October 21, 2015 8:54am
The notions of "minor" and "major" were first introduced into music by Johann Sebastian Bach  (1685-1750). Before that all the music had numerous accords and harmonies (fretworks). Neither "pure minor" nor "pure major" existed in folk music.  (And in Gregorian etc. chorals). Quarts and quints dominated over "triads" of minor of major. Moreover minor is turned up side down major. However the lowest note in the harmony determines its destiny so minor changes its name being turned up side down according to the lowest note, distinct from that being now the highest.  Moreover unequal intervals between three notes in triad add to this paradox. Invention of sharps and flats helped somehow (They were absent in ancient music). 
So, if it is allowed to say, all the ancient music before Bach was Jazz (in modern terms).  Neither minor nor major nor 4/4 size by the Bach's default existed before.  Of course, Bach was great musician and innovator of music. He invented clavier. And black (flats and sharps) keys were added to the white ones.
 
So Bart Brush says about "sharped seventh" instead of "octave" (eight). Jay Young adds: "If one reads any part song or folk song from the 16th century, I believe most of them will fall easily into any of the eight modes".
Then Jay Young adds:" 
There is some reading stating that the harmonic scale structure, with that of the melodic scale structure didn't really appear until the late 19th century.  Who knows.
I have personally never heard raised 7, but if I am singing the same tune you are writing about, then it all takes place in mode 1, diatonic natural minor, AND only on scale degrees 1,2,3,4 and 5."  He is bright! Because no "scale degrees" existed before Bach. Several natural frets existed before (neither "pure" minor nor "pure" major).
 
Let us give credits to Bach. But let us also give some respect to Georg Gershwin (1898-1937) and Modest Mussorgski (1839-1881) who first introduced jazz into "academic music". They broke the rules. And also they gave us the way to understand better the folk music.
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on October 22, 2015 7:32am
Andrey, this is simply not true - almost any of it! The development of modern tonality is a rather complicated history, but please do not confuse people by putting out blatantly false information. To say that "no scale degrees existed before Bach" is non-sensical, and would be a great surprise to folks as early as Guido, who was labeling something of which people were already well aware. 
As for the modes, there is considerable misunderstanding here about how they operated, though there is abundant information available for those who will seek it out. Calling mode 1 the "natural diatonic minor" is a misrepresentation, except for the fact that in mode 1 the sixth scale degree was often flatted if it occured as an upper neighboring tone, rendering essentially what we now call the natural minor - see the famous Palestrina offertories in each mode for good examples. Modes were essentially formulas for assembling conherent melodic ideas. Altered tones, especially the raised seventh, are almost ubiquitous, depending on the melodic context. The idea taught in many theory classes that modes are just intervallic displacements of a diatonic scale is not based on historic practice until the late nineteenth century (for example, Glazounov's Interludium in modo antico.) A composer does not just sit down and write a piece in a particular form of the minor mode, except perhaps, in a theory class. Melodic and harmonic alterations suit the musical requirements of the context. 
And I will be fascinated to see your examples of how Mussorgsky used jazz in "academic" music, whatever that is supposed to be.
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on October 22, 2015 8:20am
Thank you, Keith, for writing something that make sense. Jay and Andrey's responses were trippy! I kept saying to myself "Huh?" as I read them.
 
I really think the best resources for you, Bart, would be some theory books and some quality college music history resources. Even so, much of this we are still guessing at.
 
I think English is a second language for Andrey, so at times he may not have typed in English what he really meant. 
 
Paul Carey
www.paulcarey.net
on October 22, 2015 9:04am
Thank you, Keith, for providing some musicological sense to this topic.  As Keith wrote, this is a complicated story, with many twists and turns.  My understanding is that the evolution toward what we now call major/minor tonality began as far back Guido of Arezzo and Perotin. The natural, harmonic, and melodic minor designations are modern; however, the rising, sharped 6 and 7 and flatted, descending 7, 6 in a minor mode resulted from the use of musica ficta to avoid intervals such as tritones and augmented seconds especially approaching cadences. Guido's hexachord system (ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la--note that there is no "ti") helped singers to read melodies using a system of interlocking hexachords.  There was no such thing as an octave; that concept didn't come until later.  Thus, interpretive rules such as "una voce super la semper es cantando fa" (a voice on "la" is always sung like "fa," or flatted) and "raise the note below ut (sub semitoneum) to create a M6 - octave cadence" were freely used to illicit more pleasing results.  Bart, I would suggest you look up articles on hexachords and musica ficta to learn more.  It is a fascinating story.  
on October 22, 2015 9:30am
Keith is right. A couple of things to keep in mind. To begin with, in music as in all the arts, the music came first and the analysis, labels, and "rules" follwed later, and are essentially descriptive (though not always usefully so). Such concepts as the theory of inversion (a chord retains its identity no matter in what vertical order the pitches are stacked) and harmonic progression by descending root movement of a fifth weren't formulated until the 18th century, even though they had been in use for some time. The distinctive qualities  of the modes as in Gregorian chant melodies comes chiefly from the placement of the two half-steps relative to the tonic. The growth of polyphony over the centuries led to harmony as a concept and the loss of most of the modal distinctions except for major and minor. And that depends only on whether the 3rd scale degree is a majormor minor 3rd above the tonic. The 6th and 7th degrees are raised or not depending essentially on harmonic considerations.
 
So what about "Pat-a-Pan?" Two things come to mind: 1. We are thoroughly accustomed to the raised 7th leading tone going up to the tonic. 2. Yes, unaccompanied or unharminized, it could be sung with the natural 7th, but to my ears anyway that would sound like a transition to the relative major with the last two notes ("to-day" in your text) being a pretty strong leading-tone to tonic cadence, which in turn would suggest starting the following 5-note upwards scale fingure on the new tonic.  Hmm -- I may just try that.
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on October 24, 2015 12:11pm
I think Nick Page's broad statement that the Council of Trent "outlawed polyphony" lacks any basis in historical evidence.  This statement is either shorthand for a complex topic or an unintentional straw man born of a lack of knowledge of the historical evidence.  Of the many sources available that contradict his sweeping statement, here is one, the relevant portion beginning on p. 83: https://books.google.com/books?id=r8SnT6aa5yAC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=council+of+trent+music+reforms&source=bl&ots=nBu2ZXk_Kg&sig=iGSxg5XGHoLpCt7GIVxcQF3r894&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CFkQ6AEwCGoVChMI0ZSD7OXbyAIVkaWICh0s7wH6#v=onepage&q=council%20of%20trent%20music%20reforms&f=false
 
on October 22, 2015 3:03pm
Thank you to all who have responded.  Other interests and commitments prevent me from doing extensive study and reading--and my college courses are 45 years in the past--so I was hoping someone could provide a concise recapitulation.  My understanding of music history and theory is identical to what Anthony wrote.  (Regarding Pat-a-pan, though---- to my ear, stepping down after "to-day" to the first note of the ascending 5 note scale figure ("tu-re-lu-re-lu") immediately reinforces the minor key, because that figure is the minor scale.)
 
The essential part of Anthony's account is  "...the music came first.....and 'rules' followed later, and are essentially descriptive (though not always usefully so)."  To which I would add that along with the rules, the changing and "correcting" of other people's music followed!  I'll return to Pat-a-pan, but my more general question is how do we know when a plain old song has been tampered with?  As with Pat-a-pan, everytime I hear Greensleeves I wonder if that's the way it originally sounded in the oral tradition, or if the 7th was sharped by some arranger or harmonizer who came later and thought he was "improving" the tune, or needed to change notes to be "correct" according to someone else's rules.  To me, Greensleeves sounds much better in straight dorian mode (the white keys on the piano, starting with D), no accidentals.  
 
When I use the term "plain old song," I mean it literally--old songs from before the modern era of harmony and rules; songs which were sung unaccompanied or--at most--with one instrument doubling the melody or alternating with the singing of the verses.  Adding a harmonic accompaniment to such melodies frequently adds pitches that are not part of the original melodic set, AND--as some have mentioned here--can necessitate changing some of those original melody pitches. 
 
Let me hasten to add that I love works--like Copland's Old American Songs--that adapt and rework old melodies.  But when I want to sing a simple, classic, historic, unison song (with or without my elementary students), why am I often given a re-arrangment--made for another purpose--instead of the original song as it was sung in the culture from which it came?  And how do I know what I'm getting?  We read in other forums about copyright, integrity, intent of the composer, etc.; where is the concern for the original sources and versions of plain old songs?  Why is it not expected that arrangers will provide the original source of their material--as best it can be determined--and the changes they have made or accepted?
 
I was hoping someone could provide this information about Pat-a-pan, since it is a composed song published in 1720, and that's an original written source.  (Or is it?  Perhaps Bernard de La Monnoye used--and changed?--an extant folk melody of the time.)  Anthony writes, "We are thoroughly accustomed to the raised 7th leading tone going up to the tonic."  I would amend that to read "Most of us...."  It might not apply to those who work in some areas of early music and traditional folk song.  In my case, my primary personal musical interests for many years have been English, Scottish and American ballads, and Appalachian dulcimer and banjo music, so unraised 7ths sound fine to me.
on October 23, 2015 4:50am
Listen to Schubert's "Der Leiermann" from his Winterreise (D 911) Song Cycle.   He wrote it is a folk style with a minor mode and raised 7th.   It's truly haunting and one of the great masterpieces of the classical song.
 
The Council of Trent, in the 1550's was an attempt to unify the church.   One of it's many decrees was the unifying of modality.   It is believed by many (not all) that there were many modes used in church music.   We still hear these modes in Eastern Europe where the Holy Roman Empire did not rule.   These include minor modes with raised 4ths, major scales with flatted 2nds, a rich array of modality.   From the 1550's on, the major and minor modes were the accepted modality in Western Europe.   I'm sure there will be some on Choralnet who will counter this.   It is not a unified theory.   Another aspect of music that was unified by the council were the meters.   In Eastern Europe we hear 2+2+2+3 (Niska Banja) and 3+2+3 and many other wonderful meters.   These were no longer allowed in Western Europe.
 
Of course, the Council of Trent also outlawed polyphony, but Palestrina had something to say about that.
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on October 23, 2015 6:11am
Not sure about the origin, but am sure that the minor scale you are referring to is actualy termed the harmonic minor scale.  The melodic minor scale actually sharps the 6th and 7th tone of the scale.  While it was more of a tradition than a rule, it is typically performed only this way in the ascending scale.  When descending, the scale is usually the natural minor, or the aeolian mode.  Thus, in a melodic minor scale, the 6th and 7th tone is sharped ascending and played according to the key signature descending.  Hope this helps.  As
 
As for your question above on the syllable "ous" (joy-ous), the reason the leading tone of the scale is sharped is the underlying harmony of a major dominant chord.   For simplicity sake, let's assume a minor as the key.  The syllable "ous" would be a g# and the chord underneath the melody is an E major chord; thus an e-g#-b.  The g (7th scale degree) is sharped or there would be a dissonance with the underlying harmony. Since this is not Boulez, Webern, or Babbitt, that would be the reason for the raised 7th.  And in this case, the leap is a descending one.  
on October 23, 2015 8:57am
Thank you Jay.  You are correct, but I used the term "melodic" minor to emphasize that I was thinking about the song melody itself, unadulterated by harmony.  This would be the case with folksongs from the unaccompanied singing tradition, and may or may not have been the case with the original Pat-a-pan.  In your second paragraph,the result is the introduction of a g#, which is not part of the a minor scale.  This is exactly my point:  Who makes these choices and decrees that a note should be altered because the underlying harmony is calling for it?  This is not Boulez, etc, but these songs are also not originally--in many case--harmonized songs.
on October 23, 2015 2:44pm
P.S.  And----whose ear gets to hear a certain underlying harmony and proclaim that that is the underlying harmony?
on October 23, 2015 9:01am
Nick, I too am fond of asymmetric meters, especially 7/8, grouped 3-2-2. I've used it in a few orchestral works; it keeps the rhythm going. Jay, the dominant harmony could be minor, which I think is where Bart was going with this, As for Greensleeves, a "pure" modal version would, I think, work best in Dorian mode (white key scale on D) -- minor with raised 6th degree. 
 
But there's another twist to all this. If we go back to the time of our old friend Guido, we find that the scale basis was not the octave but the hexachord, six adjacent notes with the middle interval being a half-step. The tones took their names from the first syllable of each line of the hymn "Ut queant laxis," which begin successively on C, D, E, F, G, and A. Hexachords could start on C ("natural"), F ("soft"), or G ("hard"). Both the soft and hard hexachords included B, but lowered in the soft (B-flat) and raised in the hard (B-natural). Put another way, B-flat was Fa in the soft hexachord and Mi in the hard. A basic principle was expressen in a bit of Latin doggerel: Una nota super La semper est canendum Fa." -- A single note above La [A in the natural hexachord} is always to be sung as Fa [in the soft hexachord; B-flat]. All of this was of course to avoid the tritone. So in Gregorian tone 1 (Dorian), B is flatted most of the time. Examples: Kyrie XI "Orbis factor, introit "Gaudeamus."
 
Of course we still use the Guidonian syllables. The source hymn, by the way, is the reason why the fifth degree is spelled with the seemingly unnecessary final L: it's the first syllable of solvere. Eventually the syllable Si was added for the 7th degree by taking the first lettters of the last line of the hymn: Sancte Ioanne (Saint John the Baptist). In some languages they're used as is instead of letter names. For solfege purposes, most of us use Do (more euphonous for singing than Ut) and Ti. And of course the reason that our modern flat sign looks like a lower-case B is because tha's exactly what it is, in the soft or rounded form. In its hard or square form it's the natural sign (originally without the descending stem on the right side) and ultimately the sharp, which started as another way of writing (hastily, I suspect) the natural. 
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