Authenticity, sources

Brett Williams brettwi at
Thu Sep 14 23:49:20 PDT 1995

You wrote: 
>I have a new tangent here; I keep hearing about Dorian and Lydian
>scale/mode; what scales were used in period, and how are they defined 
>(Where are the half-steps?) That would help us keep things in period.  
Rhythms are
>also important, as is instrumentation and accompaniment.
>-Lark, searching constantly for more music.
Pardon for all the snipping...

Modes are a specific pattern of whole and half steps. As it was 
explained to me, Pythagoras set the intervals used for Western music at 
specific mathmatic ratios for reasons beknownst only unto him. He used 
an instrument later named a monochord (one string, movable bridges).  
The initial pattern of whole and half steps, the Mixolydian mode, goes 
like this:

1 1 1/2 1 1 1/2 1     and so on.  Apparently the Dorian Greeks, of 
which Pythagoras was one, thought three whole steps in a row sounded 
too weird to live.

As a consequence, Ionian mode, our modern major scale, is farther down 
the list.  In full, they are:

Mixolydian          (open or unstopped string)  G to G
Aeolian             (first space)               A to A
Locrian             (second space)              B to B
Ionian              (third space)               C to C
Dorian              (fourth space)              D to D
Lydian              (fifth space)               E to E
Phrygian            (sixth space)               F to F

In order to hear each mode correctly using a monochord, one would shift 
the tonic to the *space* on the fretboard corresponding to that mode. 
In other words, if your tonic note was C, one would tune the string to 
place the C on the first *space* of the fretboard to obtain Aeolian 

It's more easily explained using a harp with no sharping levers 
employed, or a keyboard.  Using the notes listed above, play all the 
white keys in sequence and you'll hear what the modes sound like.  
Aeolian mode is now called the natural minor scale, I believe, but I've 
had no formal theory study so don't quote me.  :)

I've also read somewhere that each mode was assigned a planet (those 
known to the Greeks) but I've not been able to find a primary source 
for that information yet.


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