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PICK OF THE WEEK: Howard Goodall’s Story of Music, Saturday, BBC2, 9.30pm.
ROM Bach to Bowie and Beethoven to the Beatles a new series starts on BBC2 tonight charing the development of western music.
It’s a big remit, but Howard Goodall is an accomplished performer, arranger, composer and conductor will perform the various techniques and movements which changed the history of music and will also reflect on the impact of historical and social developments.
Abandoning the traditional categories of ‘baroque’, ‘classical’, ‘romantic’, Goodall instead reshapes the chronology into distinct ages, following the way music has shocked, challenged and entranced audiences across the centuries. So tonight we will begin by with the age of discovery and when the six week series draws to an end with the popular age, it will also have taken in the age of elegance and sensibility and the age of rebellion.
A firm believer that the apparent gap between popular and classical music is mostly an artificial one, the programme will also feature specially recorded excerpts by violinist Nicola Bendetti. The Sacconi Quartet and the Maria Fidelis Convent School Gospel Choir.
“Music is around 40,000 years old,” says Goodall. “It’s never ceased to be crucial for humankind and may have even come before speech. Since Upper Palaeolithic times music has played a profound part in our lives, both public and private.
“The premise behind this series was to look at the key developments in music’s extraordinary journey. The purposes for which it was used, who paid for it, and why, developments within musical structure, and the arrival of instruments and techniques we now take for granted. All of which evolved over centuries.”
In this first episode, Goodall begins in the Stone Age, looking at how the development of pitch awareness was a matter of life and death.
“Once we began to live in settled communities, music became a crucial element in religion and ritual – which it still is,” he says. “Music competitions arrived with the Greeks – and then the development of professional musicians. But not composers. Sadly, the music of the ancient world is lost to us, and that’s because no-one found a satisfactory way of writing music down. But around 1000AD an Italian monk called Guido did find a workable method. This was applied to the only form of music most people in Europe would have heard on anything like a regular basis – church music.”
So-called Gregorian Chant developed painstakingly over several centuries. Then, armed with Guido’s notation, a new breed of musician wrote ever more complex pieces of music.
“Instrumental music began to develop into familiar patterns too in the 12th-century with the arrival of the troubadour – singing songs of courtly love derived from Arabic originals,” adds Goodall.
“After many centuries of slow development, things began to move apace as the Middle Ages started to give way to the Renaissance. Chords, the bread and butter of all subsequent western music, only arrived in the 14thcentury. Around this time, the tune in most pieces of music migrated to the top of the harmony, where it still lives today.
“After a century or more of religious wars, secular music swept across western Europe. The love song came into its own in England around 1600, just as opera began in Italy. A thousand years of musical development were realised with the great works of Monteverdi, proving that music’s tools were now capable of expressing complicated, even conflicting emotions.”