A project of ISME’s History Standing Committee
Guido d’Arezzo
Guidonian Hand
ISME Website History Standing Committee IHME Homepage HISTORY STANDING COMMITTEE SYMPOSIUM PRESENTED AT THE 28th ISME WORLD CONFERENCE (BOLOGNA), 2008 SYMPOSIUM 1  Symposium Title: Solmisation Past and Present: The Legacy of Guido D’Arezzo  Symposium Convenor: Robin Stevens (University of Melbourne, Australia) Symposium Abstract:One of the longest-standing problems in music education—particularly in present-day school music and community choral music settings—is the teaching of vocal music literacy. At its most fundamental level, the problem of teaching music literacy is the gap between possessing a knowledge of music theory and notation and the ability to sing a melody at sight and/or to audiate (hear mentally) melody and harmony from a musical score. The invention of the system to record music using symbolic representation (which we now call staff notation) is credited to the eleventh century Italian monk Guido d’Arezzo (c.995-c.1050); but Guido soon recognised the need to develop a method of teaching which could enable the boy choristers in his charge to sing at sight from music notation.Given this imperative, Guido developed a music teaching method which is now generally referred to as solmisation—the application of sol-fa syllables as a mnemonic or memory aid for reading pitch. The method he produced is based on syllables derived from the initial syllables of the first six musical phrases of the hymn to St John, Ut queant laxis, each line of which began on a successively higher note of the scale which resulted in the series of solmisation syllables ut (later doh), re, mi, sol and la (with te being added to complete the major scale much later in the history of music). This solmisation system was represented by Guido as the gamut. Solmisation was employed in Europe for several centuries before its basic principles were adapted in various ways. Nevertheless, the pedagogical soundness of the principles established by Guido led Miller (1973) to describe him as “a true pioneer and innovator of [music teaching] methodology”. Solmisation is not only the most ancient form of teaching the pitch dimension of vocal music but is now also the most widely used form of music pedagogy. In its various manifestations, solmisation is the mainstay of several universally-employed school music teaching methods including the Curwen, Dalcroze, Orff and Kodály approaches.This symposium will honour the pedagogical legacy bequeathed to music by Guido d’Arrezo through the presentation, by leading scholars in the field, of series of perspectives which will map the historical development of solmisation that has occurred over period of almost a millennium from the foundations established by Guido. In addition, presenters will contribute to a panel discussion which will aim to highlight the advantages of solmisation for teaching music literacy and sight singing as well as discuss and debate the relative merits of the solfège (fixed doh) and sol-fa (movable doh) systems. Presenters will also discuss the application of solmisation from several national and regional perspectives including Italian, English, British colonial (Australian, South African, Fijian), North American (Canadian), Latin American (Agentinian) and Eastern European (Hungarian). The symposium will aim to heighten awareness among music educators of the existing and potential applications of solmisation as a core aspect of an effective music education. Symposium Program: Introduction to the Symposium — Marie McCarthy (Chair of ISME History Standing Committee / University of Michigan, USA) Presentation 1 — Guidonian Solmisation: Music in Dialogue with the Mind (Alberto Odone, Conservatory of Como, Italy)Abstract: After a millennium of history, Guido appears to us as a musician happily combining theory, practice and pedagogy of music, appreciating and exploiting the musical tradition of his time but challenging it as well in the direction of new paths.Guido’s musical environment requires effective means for training musical skills. The traditional training of its age included the use of mnemonic devices, called “Tonaria”, reminding the singer about the main features of each mode. Guido’s pedagogical invents took the step from this kind of phenomenology of the chant forward his structure: the hexachord is a general pattern, not related to absolute pitches, working like a mental instrument by which the singer can check, in real time, the structural position of the half step and sing it correctly. The firm connection between solmisation syllables and this structure allows the singer to retrieve the sonic pattern from his own implicit memory, using it instinctively while singing, thus greatly improving personal reading skills.The coming of tonality marked the passing from the hexachordal solmisation to the one based on the octave. In this new context, solmisation is not yet referred only to a melodic structure but mainly to the interrelated system of tonal functions.Like human language, the use of solmisation is not only a helpful working tool, but a powerful mean for structuring and shaping the musical mind, and it is mainly for this pedagogical value that it can play, after a millennium, an important role in our educational activity. Presentation 2 — Guido d'Arezzo and the Foundation of a New Music Education (Angelo Rusconi, Pontificio Istituto Ambrosiano di Musica Sacra, Milano, Italy)Abstract: Starting from a new conception of the relationship between the theory and the practice of music, Guido claimed that it was essential to get away from the traditional method of learning based on imitation. He provided a rational system, one that allowed the singers to gain an awareness of what they are actually doing, so establishing a new concept of musical theory and of the relationship between theory and practice. In the field of music theory, Guido suggested a scale based on the octave, not more on the tetrachord, and developed the study of “pitch affinities”, useful for transposition. He also proposed a new notational system capable of accurately expressing the pitch of any sound: after first attempts with the alphabetical notation, sought a more efficient form by inserting the traditional neumes into a system of lines and key-letters. Furthermore, a new learning method substituted memory and monochord. Now the singer could by himself intone an unknown melody written according the new system. To train his pupils Guido made use of a special method, which is generally identified with solmisation. This word is not to be found in any of his works and probably its complex formulation, as described in late Mediaeval and Renaissance treatises, does not arise directly from him. Nevertheless, the basic mechanism is perfectly in line with Guido’s theory of the pitch affinities and the few words he says about its practical application. Presentation 3 — The Pedagogical Lineage of Solmisation: From Guido to Hullah (Gordon Cox, University of Reading, United Kingdom)Abstract: This presentation will aim to outline developments in music pedagogical practice in Europe from the time of Guido d’Arrezo, who may rightly be considered as “the father of the solmisation”, through to the work of prominent early nineteenth century singing masters such as G.L. Bocquillon Wilhem in Paris, Joseph Mainzer, initially in Paris and later in London, and also John Hullah in London. All used the fixed doh method of solmisation with varying degrees of success as part of a community-based choral music movement which, in England, Scholes (1947) has described as being “a most extraordinary mania”. The presentation will draw largely on the work of the late Bernarr Rainbow in his The Land without Music (1967) but will also refer to more recent sources of data to trace the development of solmisation and other tonic-based approaches to teaching vocal music literacy, particularly “the art of sight singing”. The objective of this presentation will be to bridge the gap in time and pedagogical development between Guido (the Middle Ages) and the work of advocates of tonic-based solmisation such as Glover and Curwen in England during the mid nineteenth century. This overview will hopefully provide an appropriate context for later presentations which will discuss developments in solmisation that build on this long period of music teaching practice.  Presentation 4 — Sarah Glover's Reforms to English Solmisation (Jane Southcott, Monash University, Australia) Abstract: Music education pioneer, Sarah Anna Glover (1786-1867) developed an innovative and influential system of solmisation built on English antecedents. She used the established gamut with its heptachordal and tetrachordal underpinnings in her solution to the contemporary problem of mass instruction in singing to support congregational psalmody and class music in the fledgling schools. Glover perceived at least four major problems with the established traditional or ‘pointed’ notation: the inadequate representation of the scale on the staff that made no visual difference between tones and semitones, the necessity of non-accidental sharps and flats (particularly in minor keys), the range of clefs (more numerous then than now) that permitted different representations of the same sounds, and the needless complexity of symbols used to represent the same note in different octaves. Glover employed the established solmisation syllables, converting their spelling to match English pronunciation: Doh, Ray, Me, Fah, Sole, and Lah. She replaced the European Si with Te to enable abbreviation to a single letter to avoid confusion. Glover added Bah and Ne to represent the sharpened 6th and 7th in the ascending minor mode respectively. Glover developed a modulator that could encompass all chromatic notes and covered all keys to seven sharps and seven flats. Glover’s notation could be printed without recourse to expensive music engraving, only requiring printers marks for both tune and time. She produced cheap music for use in schools and churches and offered a practical, theoretically sound and carefully sequenced music pedagogy that cleverly used solmisation to accomplish all she intended. Presentation 5 — John Curwen and Tonic Sol-fa at Home and Abroad (Robin Stevens, The University of Melbourne, Australia)Abstract: Drawing largely on Sarah Glover’s Norwich Sol-fa system and earlier European methods, the Methodist minister Rev John Curwen (1816-1880) developed the Tonic Sol-fa method of teaching choral singing from the 1840s. Tonic Sol-fa was propagated throughout the British Isles as a means of both enhancing Christian worship and achieving social reform. It was also introduced to countries in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region by Christian missionaries who sought to exploit the attraction of hymn singing as a means of evangelizing the indigenous populations. In particular, Tonic Sol-fa gained a significant foothold in British colonies such as South Africa and in Pacific Island countries such as Fiji where it continues to be a major exogenous aspect of the indigenous musical culture. This presentation will discuss the theoretical and pedagogical principles underpinning the Tonic Sol-fa method and its notation as well as outlining the dissemination of the method at home and abroad. There will also be a consideration of the contemporary uses and applications of the method in the United Kingdom through The New Curwen Method and in South Africa and Fiji where the 1872 adaptation of the method is still in use today. It will be argued that where the Tonic Sol-fa method and notation have become the norm, external pressure to transfer the approach to music teaching away from Tonic Sol-fa to staff notation teaching methods merely for the sake of conformity should be strongly resisted. Rather Tonic Sol-fa should be retained and recognized as an enviable social and cultural asset. Presentation 6 — The Influence of John Curwen's Tonic Sol-fa on the Development of Music Education in Canada (Nancy F. Vogan, Mount Allison University, Canada)Abstract:This presentation will discuss the introduction of Curwen's Tonic Sol-fa system in several English-speaking regions of the land that is now Canada. During the second half of the nineteenth century the influence of this method was felt from St. John's, Newfoundland, in the east, to Victoria, British Columbia, in the west, as well as in several other regions. However, Tonic Sol-fa teaching in each of these regions developed in different ways and quite independently with little or no influence from activities in other regions of the country. These developments will be discussed with particular emphasis being placed on those in Ontario and in the Maritime provinces, two areas where this method had a lasting effect upon the development of music education. Presentation 7 — Luther Whiting Mason and Solmisation in Japan (Sondra Howe, Independent Scholar, USA)Abstract: Luther Whiting Mason worked on the Music Study Committee in Japan developing textbooks for schools and introducing his ideas on note reading and solmisation. Mason’s National Music Course, based on Hohmann’s Praktischer Lehrgang, included letter names, number notation, and solfège syllables (do re mi fa sol la si) in a moveable do system with step diagrams and musical ladders. Mason was familiar with Curwen’s Tonic Sol-fa system, the Galin-Paris-Chevé method, and French solfège books in fixed do. Since Isawa Shuji, Chairman of the Music Study Committee, was interested in combining Japanese and Western methods of teaching scales, he used kana from the Japanese syllabary (ha, ni, ho, he, to, i, ro, ha) to correspond to the Western scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C). The textbooks of the 1880s include numbers and the Japanese syllables in step diagrams and musical ladders, plus a chart of Curwen’s hand symbols. The 1986 Japanese textbook series Ongaku includes kana on the keyboard and staff to show do, re, mi, fa, so, ra, shi, do and uses moveable do. The kana for the relative minor are ra, shi, do, re mi, fa, so, ra. Ongaku is a song method with an emphasis on using instruments to learn music. Japanese music educators were introduced to European methods of solmisation through Mason and other traveling European musicians. They adapted the solfège syllables to fit the Japanese language and use syllables in teaching music today. Presentation 8 — Latin American Traditions in the Application of Fixed Doh Solmisation: Why and how? (Ana Lucia Frega, U.CAECE, Academia Nacional de Educacion, Argentina) Abstract: The influence of two European colonial countries—Spain and Portugal—has been paramount in Latin America. Reflecting this influence, solfège may be identified as the method almost universally employed to train people to read music throughout the region. Known variously as solfège, solfeggio and solfeo, this method is based on the fixed doh principle so that, in sight singing, the notes of the particular melody are sung with solmisation syllables that correspond to the absolute pitch. However, letter names are not used to indicate the tonality; rather the tonality is referred to as do mayor and do menor (C major and C minor) for the seven tonalities do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si. Even the considerable influence of Orff Schulwerk and the lesser influence of the Kodály approach has not resulted in any change to this situation. Accordingly, aural training is almost never based on the “movable doh” approach and almost all conservatories in Latin America utlise pedagogical methods developed by Eslava (a Spanish composer and author of textbooks on solfeo) and by Lemoine and Lavignac (French composers who produced textbooks on solfège). The origins of the fixed doh approach are that, during the nineteenth century, many local composers were sent to France to undertake advanced studies at the National Conservatory. After World War II, however, a renewed interest in music teaching resulted in the emergence of a new trend in aural training. This presentation will review all of the major past developments in the application of solmisation in Latin America and discuss likely future directions. Presentation 9 — The Hungarian Adaptation of Relative Sol-fa According to the Kodály Concept: Its Practical Application in Music Teaching and Theory of Music (Klara Nemes, Kodály Institute, Kecskemét, Hungary)Abstract:Kodály became acquainted with the practice of Tonic-Sol-fa in England during the 1920s. He decided to adapt and modify it for use in Hungarian music teaching which was based on singing and Hungarian folk songs. Kodály introduced sol-fa principles into Hungarian pedagogical practice through his Bicinia Hungarica, Vol. 1 in 1937. He emphasized that the tonal function of notes is better represented symbolically by relative names rather than by letter names or the fixed doh system. He firmly believed that fluency in music reading could better and faster be developed through relative sol-fa than through other ways. Kodály published four booklets of Pentatonic Music with sol-fa letters and stick-notation. Schoolbooks (1944-1948) by Ádám and Kodály introduced this system into the general school curriculum. In the volumes of his Singing Exercises Kodály also suggested its use up to the highest levels of musical training. Sol-fa syllables are used for accidentals as well, and modulations are expressed by changes of position of doh.Relative solmisation as a generic approach to music teaching is very useful both in the training of different musical skills as well as in musical analysis. It was introduced in teaching classical harmony by - among others – Lajos Bárdos and György Ligeti. Relative sol-fa has also been applied in folk song analysis (modes and tonal relations). In addition, Bárdos adapted it for the harmonic analysis of Renaissance and Romantic modal music. Erno Lendvai also used it in theoretical and aesthetic analysis of compositions of Romantic masters. Relevant aspects of theory and practice will be demonstrated through visual and sound examples. Panel Discussion — Marie McCarthy (Moderator) ISME Website History Standing Committee IHME Homepage Return to HSC Symposia Menu Return to HSC Symposia Menu Copyright © 2014 History Standing Committee, International Society for Music Education (ISME)