Thursday, October 09, 2008

Shape Note Singing

Just picked up the video from a friend on Facebook.

I thought I had a reasonable (though fairly general) grasp of traditional American musical styles. I had obviously missed this one!

There's a good article on shape note singing on Wikipedia here and on the Sacred Harp variety, which is a traditional Protestant version of the choral form.

If you don't want to click on the links, here is Shape Note Singing in a nutshell:
  • the music is written with shaped notes corresponding to the notes in the musical scale, enabling easier reading of the melody for those not trained in formal notation
  • there are four-note and seven-note systems of notation
  • it's been around in written form since the C18 but has its roots a century earlier in rural England
  • it's typically sung a-capella and is not written with a key signature. Song leaders select an appropriate pitch at the start of the song
  • songs are polyphonic in nature (with typically four melodic voices of equal importance)
  • Sacred Harp songs use a lot of pentatonic scales (octaves based on a five note progression rather than the traditional seven). Have a listen. These scales feature in a lot of traditional folk music across Europe and Asia.

There's a bunch of similar material on YouTube.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email or RSS.

No comments: