Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monochord - notes

--- Whipple Museum Cambridge University

The monochord was used as a musical teaching tool in the 11th century by Guido of Arezzo (c. 990-1050), the musician who invented the first useful form of musical notation. By laying out the notes of a scale on a monochord, he was able to teach choir boys how to sing chant and also to detect incorrect chanting. A monochord-like instrument called the Tromba Marina was used for practical music making between the 15th and 18th centuries. The monochord was also used for tuning instruments and was still in use in the 19th century for tuning organs. More commonly, the monochord was, and still is, used for demonstration purposes.

Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge


Google Books

Universal harmony and the Scientific Revolution:
Books concerning music in the Whipple collection

Relationships between music, mathematics and science have strongly influenced the thinking of music theorists and philosophers since ancient times when it was found that music's natural consonances and scales were the product of simple whole-number ratios.

In Greece followers of the philosopher Pythagoras (c. 570–c. 495 BC) identified musical intervals with the ratios of lengths of strings. The difference in length between two strings sounding music's most pleasing interval, the octave, was found to be in the ratio 2:1. Similarly, music's second most pleasing interval, the 5th, equated with the ratio 3:2, whilst the 4th equated with 4:3.


Tim Eggington

pix: A monochord: This is a musical instrument for measuring relationships between musical intervals. Since antiquity monochords have been used to demonstrate the mathematical principles underlying music. In this illustration from Robert Fludd's Utriusque cosmin, a monochord is mathematically divided to achieve a two-octave scale. Interval names indicated in Greek and Latin.

============ The LoveToKnow Free Online Encyclopedia is based on what many consider to be the best encyclopedia ever written: the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published in 1911. ...

MONOCHORD (Gr. µovSXopOov,;caw :o p µovaucos) : med. Lat.

monochordum), an instrument having a single string, used by the ancient Greeks for tuning purposes and for measuring the scale arithmetically. The monochord, as it travelled westwards during the middle ages, consisted of a long board, or narrow rectangular box, over which was stretched the single string; along the edge of the sound-board was drawn a line divided according to simple mathematical ratios to show all the intervals of the scale. A movable bridge was so contrived as to slide along over the string and stop it at will at any of the points marked. The vibrating length of string, being thus determined as on the guitar, lute, violin, &c., yielded a note of absolutely correct pitch on being twanged by fingers or plectrum. In order the better to seize the relation of various intervals, a second string tuned to the same note, but out of reach of the bridge, was sometimes added to give the fundamental. (K. S.)

Valdis Muktupāvels
"Musical Instruments in the Baltic Region: Historiography and Traditions" (excerpt)

An instrument whose origins are strongly linked to musical practices in northern Protestant countries is the monochord (moldpill, laulupill, laulukannel, harmoonik EE, ģīga, ģingas, džindžas, manihorka, meldiņu spēle, akerdonis LV, manikarka LT). It is said to have been reinvented by the Swedish Lutheran pastor Johannes Dillner in 1829 based on the Greek monochord. Swedish authorities approved the monochord’s use as a simple and easy-to-make instrument in parishes that did not possess their own church organ. Since it aided the learning and accompaniment of sung psalms, it was named “psalmodicon.” The instrument was actively propagated from the 1830s to the 1860s, and it spread, in addition to Scandinavia and Finland, throughout Estonia, the Lutheran regions of Latvia and the western Lutheran region of Lithuania. The psalmodicon was above all a church musical instrument, but apart from that context, it also turned out to be good for use in secular musical activities such as choral singing, music education and even to produce dance music.


Harald Herresthal [review of ...?] Toomas Siitan: Die Choralreform in den Ostseeprovinzen in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des protestantischen Kirchengesangs in Estland und Livland. Diss. (Edition IME. Reihe I: Schriften. Hrsg. im Auftrag des Instituts für deutsche Kultur im östlichen Europa e.v., Bonn.) Sinzig: Studio Verlag,

Avhandlingen tar for seg russifiseringsprosessen i årene mellom 1832 og 1847, og hvordan den lutherske kirke forsøkte å stå i mot propagandaen fra den russisk-ortodokse kirke. Siitan gir videre en detaljert skildring av sangundervisningen i skolene og arbeidet med å kvalifisere lærere som kunne utbre de riktige melodiformene og utrydde de mer ornamenterte folkelige sangformer. Forskjellige instrumenter som dreielire, fiolin og psalmodikon ble trukket inn som hjelpeinstrumenter. Melodiene ble notert i sifferskrift. Orglet, som ble betraktet som et mindre egnet instrument i reformprosessen, er omtalt, og Siitan har laget en historisk oversikt over orglets utbredelse i de østersjøiske provinsene.
En oversikt og vurdering av trykte og [140-141] STM Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning

Svenska samfundet för musikforskning

================== FAQ page of the blog The Celestial Monochord: Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues

pix of Robert Fludd's monochord (1618) and link to blogger Kurt Gegenhuber - re permissions, etc.


The Harvard dictionary of music By Don Michael Randel = google books
ment. clavichord - In the Middle Ages, it was used for theoretical demonstations, for the training of singers, and for tuning instruments ... As late as the 19th century, a metal-stringed monochord was still in common use by organ tuners, and was still in common use by organ tuners, and it was used by acousticians and ethnomusicologists into the 20th. See also Tromba marina.

The Whipple Museum's collection includes a 19th-century example from the Wheatstone laboratory, King's College London

Adkins, Cecil D. The Theory and Practice of the Monochord. (Ph.D. diss., State University of Iowa,. 1963).

bio The Curt Sachs Award 1999 Händel-Haus in Halle (Saale) The clavichord, documented as from 1404­, goes back to the monochord, a mathematical instrument used in the times of the ancient Greeks.

Michel, Andreas. “Scheitholt und frühe Formen der Kratzzither.” Studia Instrumentorum Musicae. Musikinstrumenten-Museum der Universität Leipzig 2001.

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